Hi Everyone, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve written, but I haven’t felt inspired by the Holy Spirit and I don’t want to write simply for writing sake. This site is Our Lady’s so my posts must be meritorious of the task to which she has assigned me.
Years ago when I was in college I seemed to revisit repeating themes in my life. My battle with depression at one stage, my understanding of God and how I relate to Him at another and so forth. I realized that our lives play out like chapters of a book in which we encounter critical experiences over and over, but at different stages of our development as we age and grow. These experience have defined and continue to redefine who we are as children of God. Unlike a typical book which we read once or twice and then move on, The Book of Our Life’s chapters are our experiences. I’d like to share one of my chapters through different stages of my life in the hope that you too can recognize you journey to Jesus more fully and see these experiences as pitons, if you will in your climb to grow ever closer to Our Lord.
Chapter 6: Conversion (Age 8)
It was the summer of 1973 and I remember the Gospel Fr. LaVan read, “And he said to all: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” [Luke 9:23]. That was a turning point in my young life and the first time I considered religious life. For me, it was the start of the age of reason. I began to think and live more seriously for Jesus. He was and is all I ever sought and the One with whom I longed to be and be like.
Chapter 6: Conversion (Age 14)
Life was difficult during these years as a debilitating depression had come over me. It clouded everything and I felt as if I had entered a dream from which I could not emerge. I felt like I was half asleep all the time seeing the world through a fog. In the 40 years since, that fog has never fully lifted.
Like many young people today, I was also bullied which drove me more deeply into depression. I remember all these persecutions, but one has come to me more recently and I remember how helpless and exasperated I felt. I was delivering papers on my route and one of my tormentors threw rocks at me. Out of despair, I pushed him up against a garage door and shouted “leave me alone!” He laughed at me; he mocked me. I ached to be delivered from these difficult times, but also asked Jesus to help me always remember, that I could someday help others on their journey. This promise He fulfilled.
I didn’t believe in violence then anymore than I do now. Although painful, these experiences formed my deep compassion for others – too see their hurts and console them in their trials and sorrows.
Back then we just dealt with these traumas the best we could and kept quiet. Talking about it only confirmed how awful it was and there was no support from the school staff; I think we were tougher then, but perhaps not? Regardless, I tried to go unnoticed among the cruel kids and also ignore this heavy weight I now carried with me – a sorrowful and difficult burden. I didn’t know how to live with it and still be the me I knew. The little boy I was, was buried deep within me for protection and I was just sad all the time. I knew Jesus loved me and I loved Him so much. He and my mom were my safety nets and I clutched them for my very life.
Chapter 6: Conversion (Age 20)
In college, I revisited my conversion in relationship to the greater world which was opening to me and questioned if my beliefs were based on my or my parents faith foundation. I had to rebuild my faith which proved exceedingly difficult and I left the church for a time. As I grew into my late 20’s and into 30, I still contemplated religious life and at 30 entered a Conventual Franciscan house of formation in St. Louis, Missouri. It was one of the best and worst years of my life (I’ll discuss this more in another post). After that year I left the community.
Chapter 6: Conversion (Age 32)
After leaving the Franciscans, I was bewildered at best. I questioned why God would guide me to religious life only for it to not be my calling. I was angry and told myself I didn’t want anything to do with God, but deep in my heart, I longed to find my place with Him – where I belonged and where I could best fulfill His will for my life; I was lost. Did God wish for me to marry or be a celibate single? I considered the permanent deaconate as a single man. I told myself I would no longer focus on my relationship with women romantically, but discern this possible vocation over the next year. Had I not met someone within that year, I would consider it God will that I enter the permanent deaconate. It was within months of that decision that I met my now wife of nearly 14 years – Praise God! In these times before my marriage, God’s joy for me became more clear and He shared this with me. Me: “Lord, I thought you wanted me to be a priest?” God: “I do, but it’s not what you want. Go and find what you want and invite me into it.”
Chapter 6: Conversion (Age 43)
With great joy, my wife and I adopted our son, Matthew in 2008. As he slowly developed, my wife, a Speech Therapist and Brain Injury Specialist said, “Something is wrong. He is missing significant milestones in his development.” We would discover our son had an in utero stroke in the first trimester of his life. Over the years we would learn the extent of his challenges. Despite our unconditional love for Matthew, it is agonizing to see him suffer in ways that other children do not. We celebrate what others may see as trivial – learning to drink from a straw for example was HUGE! He longs for friendships, but has few; he longs to be understood, but most people just don’t get him. His challenges have become our challenges.
Of the hundreds of chapters in this, My Book of Life, my faith for some time would stand still until I realized that without God, I cannot journey farther either rationally nor emotionally, nor intellectually. I need Him so I can best care for my son; I need Him to grow in holiness; I need Him in everything at every moment, at every crossroads, at every tear, at every blink of my eyes, at every breath, at every hope.
Chapter 6 (Age 54 – present day)
One breath at a time, one moment to know, love and serve God fully, truly, completely.
Where are you? Are you experiencing Chapter 1 or 5 or 40? Perhaps you’re revisiting several chapters. Regardless of where you are in your Book of Life, God must be your everything. He must be your first love. It doesn’t matter so much how your life plays out, but more that you invite God as your companion through it all.
If you wish to reach me outside of this blog, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
God Love You,