This past Easter marked ten years since I was baptized and received into the Catholic Church. This anniversary, combined with my recent wedding and the beginning of a new stage of life, has certainly been cause for a great deal of reflection.
A lot happens in life in the span of ten years.
Ten years ago, I was barely twenty-five years old, just two years past my college graduation, and barely knew what I was doing with my life. Working in retail, just starting to get my writing mojo back after a post-college slump, helping to care for my father as he fought with colon cancer. I don’t think I was consciously looking for God, I certainly wasn’t looking for a church or religion per se, but I was looking for a purpose to everything. I was looking for meaning.
I’m not going to go in to my whole conversion story right now; that story is still ongoing and I’m still making sense of even the earliest elements of it. There is a lot about how God has worked on my soul that I may never fully understand or appreciate this side of heaven, but I know that He has been working on me throughout my whole life. I’ve felt His presence even when I didn’t understand what that presence meant.
During Lent, I began re-reading Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ. This is the book that Mother Teresa of Calcutta always kept with her, along with her Bible and her rosary. It’s the book that I think has brought me closest to Jesus, to knowing Him in a personal way rather than just having a theoretical concept of “God.” I love to read about Jesus’ time on earth, to learn more about the times that He lived in and the people that surrounded Him.
I’m always especially intrigued by learning about the Apostles, those men that Christ chose in particular to be by His side and do His work. St. Peter has been a particular favorite of mine for years now. Fulton Sheen describes Peter as starting out as fickle, impulsive, and unreliable, yet also courageous with naturally great qualities of leadership, and that “through the power of his Divine Master this impetuous man, as fluid as water, was turned into the rock on which Christ built His Church.” The Apostles were twelve very ordinary men, working men, flawed and unremarkable before Christ called them. Yet for two thousand years now their influence continues to be felt throughout the world. These ordinary, working class men, who were closest to Christ while He was on earth, also watched Him die the most shameful of deaths and then dedicated their own lives to spreading His message. They believed in Him so much that every one of them, except for John (and not for lack of trying), was martyred.
Over the last ten years, I’ve asked myself many times what exactly my faith means to me. Would I die for it? Would I give up everything I have for it? Is it truly more precious than gold to me? I believe that it’s C.S. Lewis somewhere who talks about how Christianity is not a religion of comfort; Christ calls us to sacrifice, even to suffer. He promises us rewards not in this life, but in the next. You only have to read about the lives of any of the saints, God’s most beloved and dedicated, to see how a comfortable life is not something God promises in this world. Yet, He does give comfort.
As I watched my father struggle in pain during his last few years, as I struggled myself in uncertainty over where my life was leading, as I watched unexpected roadblocks and twists spring up in the lives of so many people around me, I actually found my faith continually being strengthened. God’s ways are not our ways, His plans are not our plans; yet His ways and plans are infinitely and ultimately better than any that we could come up with on our own, if we are willing to surrender and follow where they lead.
I had very few plans for my life after I graduated college, and the few that I did have definitely have not happened, yet God’s path for me has proven more fulfilling than anything I would have dared to ask for. He lead me to my husband. He gifted us with amazing family and friends. He continues to inspire my writing and allows me opportunities to share my words with others. Who knows where this path will lead me next?