Friday, May 25, 2012

Let's Run.

I spent the entire month of March discerning what God was calling me to do after graduation. It was actually a pretty great month full of discernment weekends, interviews, and retreats. The hypothetical, "if I get an offer" was easy to entertain in my head, but once the offers and acceptances came in, I became extremely anxious about the whole thing. Questions were constantly racing through my mind: what if I made the wrong choice? What if I thought God was calling me to this ministry, but He actually was calling me to this other one? What if He asks me to do something and I tell Him no? What if I can't do it?

Pretty overwhelming.

I had made a decision and a promise to God after my FOCUS interview weekend. But then doubts crept in and I came up with countless excuses as to why I was not called to that ministry. Conversations with people who did not support that decision did not help either. Though I was pretty confident God was calling me in that direction, I was terrified of disappointing my family, being looked down upon by the world, and failing at fundraising my salary. I talked myself out of it and convinced myself that God was calling me elsewhere. So I told FOCUS "no," and chose something else.

And then everything came crashing down around me. I began to fall, very quickly. I made some huge mistakes. I stopped praying, and essentially had to drag myself to mass on Sunday. Those last two weeks of lent were a mess as I began to forget my identity in Christ.

The day after my last post, Megan and I had lunch with a Marian Sister. Sister Abigail Marie was a second year novice and she reminded me so much of myself. Megan left our lunch to go to our holy hour, leaving me and Sr. Abigail Marie alone. I began to spill my worries, anxieties, and fears to her. I told her about my promise to God, my inability to pray, and everything that was going on. She very wisely sympathized with me, and encouraged me to really examine with God what was going on. Afterwards I had a great prayer time in adoration and started to slowly allow myself to reconcile with Christ.

Sr. Abigail Marie (source)

But then I let fear creep in again. At lunch I had told Sr. Abigail Marie that I wanted to attend the Marian Sister's Holy Week Retreat (Holy Thursday - Holy Saturday), but I could not bring myself to register. By Wednesday I had convinced myself I was not going, but when I opened my email in the morning, I saw an email from Sister asking if they should plan on my attendance or not. I thought to myself, "Fine. I will go." I had a test on Thursday morning, and I had to put my pencil down, put my hands on my head, and take deep breaths to make myself stop worrying about the retreat.

So I drove to Lincoln, Nebraska to go on my very first silent retreat. Before the silence started, I met a FOCUS Missionary from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and reconnected with two other girls that were on my interview weekend who had accepted their offers to be missionaries. I sighed to myself as I began to deeply realize that this calling was not going to go away.

That night, we were able to "keep watch and pray" with Christ. I forced myself to immediately go to confession. Nervously, I opened the door to the confessional, shut it, and walked forward.
"In the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy spirit."
Tears began pouring out of my eyes as I said, "Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been three weeks since my last confession. I'm pretty sure God is asking me to be a FOCUS Missionary and I told Him no." What? Where did that come from? But I couldn't deny it. My soul had been longing for union with Christ, and by telling Him 'no,' I had put up a barrier between myself and Him.
I finished my confession, and began to listen to the counsel of the priest.
"Well, before I say anything else, about this FOCUS thing - there is always next year."
Oh boy. What I didn't tell him was when I had told FOCUS 'no' over spring break, they told me to consider my offer on the table until the end of April.

When Christ absolved my sins, I went back into adoration. I fell to my knees, still crying, and begged Jesus to confirm this call, to give me clarity beyond doubt that He was asking me to be a missionary.

As we were in our last prayer session on Saturday morning, I was pretty sure I was going to accept my offer, even without clear confirmation from Christ. I had received a pretty big grace and peace about becoming a missionary over interview weekend, so I told the Lord that would be enough for me.

I turned the page in my prayer journal and sat back in the pew to clear my head and just focus on Christ. I put my pen to my page and began to write. This is what came out:

I love the phrase "run after" when speaking about pursuing someone. It love the imagery it creates. It suggests that we're not simply investing in them. Rather, we are full forced, all in, after that person. For some, running comes easy. For me, it is hard. So running after someone is not a light or easy task. It takes every ounce of my strength and all of my attention. It is something that will completely exhaust me. But unlike reaching a finish line in a marathon where you receive a medal and some water, running after a person yields a much higher reward. It yields companionship. It yields peace. It yields friendship and love. Best of all, it yields Christ's favor knowing you willingly said "yes" to His urgings to pursue that person. Better still, running after Christ yields the highest reward - heaven.

So bring on the shortness of breath, the cramps in my side, and the sore muscles. Bring on the dehydration, the seemingly endless miles, and the mental and physical exhaustion. I am ready and willing to spend the rest of my days not just pursuing, but running this marathon to get to Christ.

Dana and I had used that term a few days prior when talking about the girls in my Bible Study, so I guess it was fresh in my mind. I really do love the imagery of it, but wasn't really sure where those words came from.

After the final talk of the weekend, the sisters gave us each a crucifix, a bottle of holy water, and a quote card. They told us they hoped it would give us encouragement in what we had heard from God or would sum up the retreat for us in some way. Here is mine: about confirmation. Tears immediately came and I knew, with clarity beyond doubt, that Christ was asking me to be a FOCUS Missionary and to run after college students for the next two years.

So in 7 hours, I will embark on this journey. I ask your prayers for the mission and for all of the students I will encounter. I know this will not be an easy two years and that I will face many challenges. But as I look to the future, I see joy in knowing I am following His plan for my life. I am ready to run.


  1. Beautiful story, Michelle! Have an amazing and blessed and fruitful staff training! You and Rachel are in my prayers! You'll be an amazing missionary! Alex Roth

  2. Randomly came across your blog through Twitter, and your Twitter through FOCUS Equip. I'm very excited for you to come to UNL! And Sister Abigail Marie is incredible!
    Also, my name is Meghan. See you in the Fall at UNL! All of you mishes are in my prayers!

  3. Thanks Alex - I miss you lots!

    And thank you so much Meghan! I'm looking forward to meeting you in August!! :)