On a retreat this last November, in a small group session, the leader asked that we share how our relationship with God is. We went around in the circle and it came time for me to speak. For the first time that semester I decided to be honest about how I was feeling: “I think I am having the opposite problem to most of you. God doesn’t feel distant. I feel like he won’t leave me alone.”
I came to college to study education and really do have a passion for it. However, it can be impossible to focus on a passion when someone is incessantly knocking on the door. And if that someone is God …
Perhaps it sounds selfish, but I really want to open the door. I have been discerning religious life since third grade, and I am finally old enough that most orders will allow me to come and visit. I have to be practical though. Until God clears a path to a certain order, I need to focus on the here and now; I need to get an education. I know this isn’t me putting other pursuits before God; my priest, parents, siblings, vocation director, and every religious sister I have spoken to in the past two years have told me the same thing. I must focus on school.
But knowing that, and knowing it is God’s will for me, doesn’t make the call any quieter or put my soul at peace. It is a paradox, as I feel him both knocking at my door, courting me, if you will, and yet simultaneously insisting that I wait before I can give my life to him.
It is, I suppose, something couples face often — the practicalities of life that seem pesky when the promise of communion is just over the horizon.
Sometimes I feel such a strong longing in my heart that I can’t do homework. Or the reality of how far away my total union with God is will suddenly strike, and then I can’t help but cry. I spend a lot of time being upset with God, feeling abandoned, and thinking that no one understands my struggle.
Of course talking about my problem at the retreat didn’t fix it, and actually made it a little worse. Many of the people in the group were amazed. They had no idea I had a struggle of any kind.
But, my fellow retreatants also told me that I made them want to love God more, and that seeing my readiness to wait through the pain was inspiring. People who had completely different problems benefited from my struggle.
I know I am not much to gawk at, but if sharing my story somehow inspired others to dive more into their faith, then maybe I should do more of that. We all should. My retreat experience taught me that just because God gives us burdens to carry, individually, that doesn’t mean we have to carry them in the dark. Sometimes, it is good for other people to see our struggles. I once heard it said that in suffering we are brought closer to Christ; sometimes it is good to reveal how closely we walk with God.
I am well aware that most everyone has a larger cross than mine. But whatever our cross, we have no idea how much we impact those around us. So don’t ever think that your cross is only for you to bear.