This month’s blog series is “Uniquely Created” Last month we spoke about Gathering the graces. God graces us with all we need to be the person God uniquely created us to be. If we internalize and believe and trust that we are in fact uniquely created, uniquely gifted, uniquely formed, and uniquely called…we can more easily move into the person God created us to be.
I am awestruck by the miracle of faith. My faith came to me not from some demand made by my parents, although they brought me to church and spoke of their faith, but simply put, my faith came from God .
I can hardly count all those whose lives inspired me along the way. The most effective witnesses were those who lived joyful lives like my friend and colleague, Marie Julie Reineke, SND. Sister Julie had a beautiful smile and gentle ways. I met her in 2007 when I accepted my first teaching position. I had come to teaching late in life. I was 52 years old, had recently completed a bachelor’s degree in English and a Master’s in Education (grades 8-12), and held a naïve image of what my teaching career would look like. I imagined bringing the wisdom of my years as a human resource specialist to my students, inspiring them to become good writers and verbal communicators, and they would be motivated by my dedication and my enthusiasm. They would hang eagerly on my every word, obey my rules, and produce excellent work of which both they and I could be proud.
Then school started and reality set in. I was teaching sophomore English and Theology, as well as junior English. Frustration was the order of my days and nights. I struggled to keep ahead of my students as I prepped three courses for the seven classes I taught, and counseled, graded, and commented on students’ efforts all while keeping up with an endless stream of faculty duties.
In the midst of these struggles I met Julie. She taught Theology across the hall from me. Her calm demeanor and quiet encouragement inspired me. She never commented on my frustration. She never gave suggestions on how I could manage my classroom better. She did not give advice on how to perform more efficiently. She accompanied me. I knew she was with me, on my side, available, and her presence was enough. I accepted my limitations. I grew more patient. I tried to follow her example. I tried to smile. I tried to love. I tried to let go of perfectionism. Julie accompanied me the way Jesus accompanies us.
Jesus is with us, beside us, available. His presence is enough. I was drawn to follow Jesus by her example. With Jesus I can accept my limitations and be more patient with myself and others. I can smile. I can love. I can let go of perfectionism.
I look back and see exactly how God worked through Julie to reach me. Which brings me back to the miracle of faith. The miracle that someone else’s faith affects mine. My faith affects the faith of another. That knowledge is almost too much for me, so I write about it and talk about it with others.
I also know that we need someone to talk to who understands this miraculous concept. For me, that has meant sharing my faith with a spiritual director. While Sister Julie accompanied me one way, my spiritual directors came alongside me in a different way to nurture the miracle of faith.
In their book, Spiritual Direction: A Guide for Sharing the Father’s Love, Thomas Acklin, OSB and Boniface Hicks, OSB write:
Spiritual direction is an opportunity to open one’s heart totally to another person, sharing the most intimate memories and experiences, all the way to the foundation of one’s being: the relationship with God. […] Through spiritual direction, a person can develop [a]one-on-one relationship with God and at the same time discover new depths in [their]own soul. [They]can also allow love to heal and transform those depths.
In the twenty years that I have met with a spiritual director, I have come to know God intimately, and as Acklin and Hicks suggest, love has healed the depths of my soul. As my relationship with God grew deeper, my most transformative discovery was that God chose me. I was chosen and affirmed in a new call as a spiritual director — to accompany others, to be beside them, to be available, and to be truly present to them. It is a mission that brings me great joy, and my joy is magnified by the sure knowledge that my friend, Julie, is witnessing that joy from her place in heaven.
In John’s Gospel, we read, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit” (John 15:16).
God chose me. God chose you. Where did your journey begin? When did you become aware that God was stirring your heart? Whose faith awakened a desire in your heart?
- Interested in learning more about spiritual direction? You can read about why others make time for it here.
- Consider praying with John 15
Photo by This is Engineering RAEing on Unsplash.