God of New Beginnings

Gratitude and pride. Anticipation and worry. Excitement and hope. These were just some of the feelings I experienced in the days leading up to moving our older daughter to college last month. Throughout the summer, we shopped for the essentials and packed all the boxes. She chose her classes and FaceTimed her roommate. As move-in day drew closer, the preparation seemed complete—at least the physical preparation. We didn’t know how to prepare emotionally for the day when we’d arrive on campus with four of us in a packed car and then leave with only three in an empty one.

But arrive we did, and Abigail settled in quickly. The rest of us were busy too, helping to arrange the room, plug in the fans, unroll the rug, and hang up the clothes. The whirlwind of activity kept ourselves—and our minds—occupied, until we finally paused late in the afternoon and took a seat for Mass, just outside the college chapel, and reality hit. We’d be saying good-bye in less than an hour.

Fighting a range of emotions, I made myself focus on the entrance hymn, but it was the words of the chaplain’s prayer that caught my attention: “God of new beginnings, as we open this academic year, we ask that You bestow on these students . . .” This truly was a new beginning for all the young people, a beginning to be celebrated, even for the parents about to leave and return to their routines, minus one. And who better to leave them with than God?

As Mass continued, my mind wandered back to the chaplain’s words, and I remembered how God had been with Abigail during all her other “new beginnings.” He walked beside her on the first day of school. He swam and played with her during the weeks at sleepaway camp. He was in the backseat of the car during her first excursion on the highway. He sat next to her on the airplane when she first flew alone. Even when we couldn’t be there to protect her, God was, and I knew He would continue to be.

That is what I held onto as Mass continued. Still, I wondered where she would go and what she would do once we were back home. We couldn’t imagine all the excitement and challenges she would experience in the next days, weeks, or months, only God could, for He said, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Following Communion, families stood, and the chaplain conferred a blessing on members of this incoming class. As the three of us placed our hands on Abigail’s shoulders, I knew that we would miss her, but I also knew that we were leaving her in the right place and in the presence of her God of new beginnings.