Trust Walk With God

Trust Walk With God

Back in August I helped lead a retreat for a select group of high school students in the Worcester Diocese who want to spend this year going deeper into their faith. This was my first time on the Discipleship Leadership Team so there were parts of the retreat that the other leaders tried to describe to me but that I really just had to experience for myself. One of those things was the trust walk.

For this walk, the students were broken up into their small groups, blindfolded, and led in a single file line by one of their small group leaders. The students were then taken outside and led around the grounds, occasionally stopping to hear a Bible passage that correlated with the life of Jesus and His Passion (journey to the Cross). Why am I sharing this? Because I was chosen to lead my small group and I had a profound moment of realization about halfway through the experience. I had four students behind me, each holding the shoulders of the one in front of them with the first in line holding onto mine as I slowly led them along the grounds.

As I was silently directing the students with only my movements, I found myself watching for ditches, slopes, rocks, branches, roots, curbs, narrow paths, and railings- basically anything that could cause them harm or send one member of the group off in the wrong direction. Sometimes I would kick the twigs out of the way, sometimes I would leave them trusting they wouldn’t cause much confusion or harm. Sometimes I would redirect the group, even if it meant not going in a straight line, just to avoid a slight ditch that could twist their ankle. Sometimes, when something really big was coming up like a curb, I would actually use my words to warn them, but still in a soft, gentle voice so as to not startle them or make them more anxious than they needed to be.

It was halfway through all this that I realized, I was “standing in the position of God”- as in, this is exactly what He does with us. He is constantly looking out for us by removing obstacles and barriers that we don’t even realize are there, redirecting us even if it’s slightly confusing in order to lessen the potential pain, or making sure we feel comfortable trusting Him and can feel His movements or hear His voice.

It’s also true that He lets us walk through some pretty rough terrain at times too. But even in those instances, because of our clouded vision, we have no idea the even bigger obstacles He’s helping us to avoid. His redirecting may feel disorienting, out of the way, or like a long unnecessary pause but in reality, it’s getting us to the right destination not just a destination that seems right.

Something else that caught my attention throughout this trust walk was that the students behind me who were furthest from me were often swinging out to the side in what seemed like in an unnecessary and unprovoked fashion. You could sense their discomfort and disorientation too. In response, I would try to go slower to help keep them from crashing into anything but the further away they were from me, the harder it was to do. However, it was very different for those closest to me because they could feel my exact movements. They were relying solely on me, not on others’ good yet still flawed/distracted/imperfect movements. The movements of those closest to me were not perfect either because it does take a lot to trust 100% when you can’t see anything. This meant that they still tried to demonstrate some kind of control of their own at moments. However, it was definitely the easiest and best position in the line to be in.

As I continue to reflect on this experience, I realize it’s again the same way it works with our relationship with God. The further away we are from Him, the easier it is to find ourselves swinging all over the path, feeling anxious, and really struggling to trust those in front of us. Hopefully we still hang on throughout this turmoil, realizing that if we let go we’ll have absolutely no direction to follow except a blind guess. However, when we’re closer to God the movements and changes in direction feel much more fluid and easy to follow. Again, that’s not to say it is easy because once we feel like we’ve got a handle on His movements He might change direction quickly to avoid something we can’t see, or we might end up on new terrain that makes it more challenging to follow Him. We will never not face these kinds of changes, so what this exercise taught me was that as long as we keep our hands on His shoulders and stay as close as possible to Him, we’ll be just fine- actually we’ll be more than fine because we may even start to enjoy the journey and embrace it like a fun ride, following the one we love and trust more than anything with a big smile on our face no matter which direction we head in or hidden roots we hit along the way. He sees it all and it’s a whole lot easier for Him to keep us from falling when we’re already holding onto Him!

It’s also important to note that we stopped at certain spots along the way to hear Bible passages before ending at the unknown destination (the chapel with Jesus in the Eucharist exposed for Adoration). These stops helped keep us focused on the purpose of the trust walk in the first place. It’s not merely about the destination but the journey of getting to know God along the way so that the ultimate destination (Heaven) can be understood in its fullness when we do, God willing, arrive there.

Why would we want the end result, Heaven, if we don’t want a relationship along the way with the God who created it, encompasses it, and invites us to join Him there? It seems quite foolish to desire a place with Him for all eternity if we aren’t desiring to know and love Him now and even more deeply every day. So that begs the question… 

How can we inch ourselves closer to Him so that our hands are firmly planted on His shoulders and our hearts are full of joy as we embrace this exciting trust walk together?

P.S. These blog posts are one way for me to process my own experiences and struggles so don’t think for a second that I have all of this figured out, I trust perfectly, or I find it to be a joyful and exciting adventure all the time. I’m just as much on my own journey as each of you reading this are. ❤

 

I Surrender: A Year In The Making

I have a bunch of scribbled notes in various places with ideas for blog posts but nothing really inspired me enough to sit down and write. Then I realized something- I have been praying the Surrender Novena for a full year now. Let me put that into perspective for you. A novena is a 9 day prayer that you usually pray for a bigger intention. While the specifics of my intention changed and transformed and molded into something new over the year it really all came back to wanting to deeply surrender my entire life (every single aspect of it- every desire, every hurt, every question, every doubt, every joy, every gift- everything) to Jesus and His most Sacred Heart. Now 365+ days later I have prayed that novena over 40 times. I have never prayed for something so consistently before in my entire life.

And let me tell you. It worked.

There is a new perspective, a new lens that I’m viewing this life through, and it is hands down the most freeing feeling I’ve ever felt. I’m no longer afraid to dream and trust that the King of the Universe sees those dreams and knows exactly how to give them to me in a way that will not only fulfill the desires in my heart but also touch the hearts of so many others in His kingdom.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suddenly able to give every single thing over to God with a big smile, open hands, and a heart full of unbreakable trust. Hardly. But there is one dream that God placed on my heart many years ago that He brought to the surface again in a big way. Over the years I always looked at it as my own random concoction, such a pipe dream and so unattainable. But now, now I look at it as something God planted there knowing full well how HE would deliver on it. “Reason” would tell me what I’m asking for is impossible, too much, or bound to fail. But with this new found freedom in surrendering it God is saying to me- this is possible with Me, keep asking Me big things because I’m the only one who can give them to you, and even if this fails in the eyes of the world if you’re following My will  it will not be a failure. In that knowledge, I have literally never felt more free to surrender something and really  go for it before.

So after a year of praying for, fighting through, and slowly releasing my grip, there are a few things I learned that may inspire you to begin your own surrender journey.

I’m a self-proclaimed perfectionist and have been called controlling by some. So when I began this novena I was well aware that I had a long journey ahead of me. Surrender and release are synonymous. As we think about this it’s important to remember that while God asks us to release everything to Him, doing so can lead to many different outcomes. Here are some lessons learned about surrender and release:

 

  1. Release and surrender = less anxiety, less worry, less confusion, less chains & more freedom.
    We stop clinging and start receiving.
     
  2. He asks us to release it to HIM. Not to anyone else, no matter how well intentioned they may be. Others can help us discern but they cannot decide for God  what you need to release. Ultimately, the stronger your relationship with God the more you’ll be able to recognize what God is asking for and when someone else is asking things of you that God is not.
     
  3. He might not actually take what you release- shocker! He is a generous God and gives us what we have which means He doesn’t want to take it all away. He just wants to make sure we’re rightly ordering our lives and putting Him first before all else that He is giving us.
     
  4. If he does take something, you better keep those hands open and ready to receive whatever it is He’s planning to give you in return. He doesn’t leave us empty handed, and if it seems like He has then He has actually given you an opportunity to hold Him so incredibly close because this is a moment where there is nothing else in between you and Him. So build up your strength and surrendering skills as you wait, and cling so utterly close to His Heart that you feel it beat next to yours.
    “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 
     
  5. Embrace the joy in the uncertainty. A year ago I would have scoffed in your face had you told me that. Uncertainty was quite literally sucking the life out of me. Now, I look at it a little bit differently. I still feel the pains and hurts and wounds, the boredom and monotony and frustrations, the trepidation with excitements and hopes and joys. But even in feeling those things I’m choosing to view God BIG. Big enough to bring beauty out of the ashes of what was, bring miracles out of graves long buried, and bring uncontainable love out of hardened hearts.

It took me a full year to reach this place, and  still this confidence in surrendering only fully surrounds one particular area of my life. It will take me a lifetime to hand over the rest as I’m sure I’ll fall and find myself clinging once again. So my advice to you- start now. Stop waiting. Stop making excuses. All it takes is one small yes. Once small prayer and a determination to keep praying it over and over and over and over and over no matter what obstacles you come up against. You CAN do this. You CAN invite Him in and let that still small seed begin to grow and bloom.

Miracles are waiting, friend. Miracles are waiting.

Practical advice- print out the Surrender Novena or get it in pamphlet form. Use a sticky note to mark your spot and set a reminder in your phone to go off every morning. Before you even get out of bed pray it and let your day begin with this first act of surrender. 

O Jesus, I surrender myself to You, take care of everything.

Mother, I am yours now and forever. Through you and with you I always want to belong completely to Jesus.

 

The Joyful Banana

Last year, around this time, I found myself in the throes of depression yet again. It has been a fog that has followed me for many years now, limiting my capacity to feel, receive, and express joy in more ways than I like to admit. The cross of this is a truly defeating and exhausting one, no matter the reasoning for its presence in the first place. Well, last year someone posted a video of a little girl receiving a banana for a Christmas gift. And her reaction made me break down in tears. “A banana! A banana!” rang from her lips as she joyfully proclaimed what her gift was and how excited she was to receive it. I expressed that, that joy was what I wanted for Christmas. I wanted my heart and mind to become overwhelmed by the little blessings and gifts in life no matter how “common” or “ordinary” they seemed.

Well, when Christmas came, the last gift I opened was just that, a banana. Yet, joy was not my initial reaction. In fact, confusion was. To the gift giver’s disappointment, I had to be reminded of the video. Only then did I break down into tears with the biggest smile on my face.

Now, with that banana long gone, I reflect on the moment and realize how often that has been the case in my life. I pray for something that I so deeply desire, and then I promptly get distracted by other things in life and forget the prayer was ever said in the first place. Even with the answered prayer right in front of me, I remain clueless and a little embarrassed knowing I’m missing something… Only after the gift is explained to me do I even remember the prayer was said at all!

Through this process I can picture the face of my Lord, so excited to hear my prayer, the wheels turning in His mind as to how He will (not can, but will) fulfill this longing of my heart, and the anticipation He feels as He begins to reveal the gift to me. Then, I can see the sting in His eyes as I look puzzled at the gift in my hands and then back at Him (or on my worst days when I outright reject the gift). However, the sting only lasts a moment because His mercy is beyond my human comprehension. I ask Him, or beg Him, to explain the gift to me and He gently and with a new twinkle in His eye begins to remind me of my initial request and show me how He managed to fulfill it. My goodness is it a humbling moment when the lightbulb turns on and I realize how I forgot the longings of my own heart, yet He did not.

Sometimes, in all honesty, I still reject the gift because it doesn’t come in the package that I want. My pride is a selfish beast that I long to tame so that I never cause that look of pain on my Lord’s face ever again. Yet, I know I will hurt Him more times than I can bear to fathom. But I also know that I can change that pain back into love and joy simply by staying present with Him in that moment and asking Him to explain the love He is offering to me. It is when I pretend to understand and simply brush the gift aside afterwards that I cause more pain. But it is when I humble myself and ask the questions, that I enter more deeply into the most life-giving relationship I could ever dream of.

This year my depression still lingers, and new wounds only fuel its presence. With those new wounds have also come many prayers, many that I am sure I have promptly forgotten as well but that the Lord in His goodness has not. Some have already been answered- most received in packages I did not want, some in packages I have yet to understand, and some with a joy that could only be the answer to a prayer about a banana. As I continue to sit with the Lord and He explains to me His master plan of hunting down and fighting to give me each of my heart’s desires, I find myself fully present, gazing into His eyes, and learning to trust His every word so that each gift results in a joy in me like that little girl had for a banana.

So, as we approach Christmas this year, what is your joyful banana? And how will you respond when the Lord in His unceasing generosity inevitably gives it to you, regardless of what the package it comes in looks like?