It's not me, it's Him
If I had to trace it back, I’d say it all began on January 8, 2010. It was a Friday. It was the first week of my second semester as a college freshman. I had one semester under my belt, four months of making friends and learning the ropes and somewhat settling into this wildly new way of life. And while I was fairly happy with things as they were, with my schedule and priorities and friendships, there was a curiosity deep in my heart that I couldn’t shake. Not far into the year, I had learned that at least a dozen other girls on my floor were also Catholic, a welcome discovery that brought me a sense of comfort. We soon began attending Sunday Mass as a group, walking the half mile from Tower B on campus to the magnificent St. Paul Cathedral just down the street. Though my faith was a mere compartmentalized part of my life at that point, attending Mass with company, as I’d always done, was a balm to my soul. But it wasn’t far into the year that our Mass-going group got smaller and smaller, my friends choosing to stay behind to nurse hangovers or study or sleep instead. And while my faith didn’t mean much to me yet, and while I mostly relegated God to a manageable corner of my week, my peers’ choice didn’t sit right with me. It troubled me. Though I couldn’t explain why, exactly, it was so vitally important that I go to Mass every Sunday, aside from tradition and habit, I knew deep down that it did matter greatly.
So it was this perplexing twinge of my heart that led me to the Newman Center that Friday in January. After 5:15 Mass, I was shepherded downstairs to a room full of dozens of people I’d never seen before—and I felt as if I were home. I met Ruth, a FOCUS missionary, who, during a conversation about my hometown and major and the other typical small talk topics, looked at me with love. I met Meg, who would soon become my best friend, with whom I still share such a great closeness these nine years later, despite the nearly 3,000 miles that now separate us. I met people whose names and faces I can’t recall, but whose joy and hospitality sparked a desire in me I had to investigate: Why do I feel at home in a place I’ve never been? What makes these people different? How can I live like them? Investigate I did, and a semester later the Newman Center was my home away from home, and my sole desire after graduating was to be a FOCUS missionary.
I say it all began that day. My journey of coming to know and love Jesus, desiring to live my life entirely for Him, my choice, ultimately, to give away my possessions and independence and plans for the future and to enter the convent. But it wasn’t as if I was knocked off my horse, blinded by a sudden flash of light in the sky, with the voice of Jesus in my ear that day. No, it was a new, fragile spark, one that would fan into a flame, then a blaze, in the weeks and months and years to follow. It was the first yes of countless yeses to come. It was a new openness of heart, a fresh sense of direction, a subtle invitation to come and see. And it was the Lord who beckoned, who put those dozen girls in my floor, who originated that twinge in my heart, who guided my steps to 4450 Bayard Street, who led Ruth and Meg over to me, and who has led and shaped and invited me ever since.
And those years of leading and shaping and inviting have led me to this very moment. These waning days before I enter are precious, wild, overwhelming. I am in awe of the outpouring of love, support, affirmation, encouragement, and grace in conversations with dearest friends, emails from strangers across the globe, and everything in between. There is great human consolation in the toasts and comments and celebrations. But there is this growing, gnawing truth I feel: it’s not me. It’s not me, and it’s not about me! I love because He first loved me. While we were still sinners, pushing Him to the side in order to live for ourselves, He died for us. For me. Any good—any good—in me has Him as its source. The endless joy, the thriving Bible study, the blog posts, the welcoming heart, the overflowing love—it is from Him. I have opened myself to it, said yes, and received. It’s altogether humbling, and it’s empowering, too. To be an open vessel, a willing instrument in His hand, an eager recipient of His extravagant grace and mercy—all a profound, undeserved gift. It’s a challenge to see the supernatural truth sometimes, the realest of reality, because it is beyond our human comprehension. But it echoes throughout the story of creation and salvation, throughout my life from that day nine years ago and the day I received the news I was accepted to the convent, and in the hidden heart of every man and woman who sees with the eyes of faith: all is a gift. All that we have, are, hope, is firstly and finally His. We have only to return it to Him.