It takes a lot of vulnerability to live and share your life online with others. For one, it can never be deleted. It’s somewhere in the cloud or saved on someone’s desktop for-ev-er (cue “The Sandlot!”).
To me, it’s like finding your journal three years from now and wanting to rip it up or burn it, but you can’t. It won’t shred, it’s also fireproofed. So, even matches won’t help.
Since I’ve made the choice to bring my life to you and asked you to invite me into your life too, I am going to make the jump and be as vulnerable and open with you as possible for this season of my life—especially since so much of the internet and social media shows the filtered and so-called perfect side of us. I think there needs to be more vulnerability and honesty, even more so from individuals who work and serve in the Catholic Church.
Striving for More Transparency
Truth be told, from my experience I feel individuals serving in the Church (Bishops, clergy, religious and lay people like me) get a little too caught up in this idea of scandal and not being open with the people in the pews; as if you can’t take the truth or something?! But all people have weaknesses and struggles; leadership (in the church or secular society) are not exempt from that.
We have our own personal experiences of heartache, struggle, imperfection, sin, and know how deeply we need the mercy, healing, and the presence of Jesus Christ.
Most of us serve because at some point along the way God captured our hearts and we wouldn’t have peace if we didn’t do everything we could to share that same love that captured us from the very beginning. Maybe you’ve experienced that feeling – how have you felt called to serve as a response to God’s tangible presence in your life? Maybe it’s in your parish community? Maybe you’ve started an apostolate? Maybe you’ve doubled-down on your new-evangelization inspired outreach to the people in your day-to-day life?
What I’ve Worked to Overcome
At this point in the faith journey of my adult life, these are the things I have had to overcome, with the help of God, so as to continue the mission to which he has called me. What among these are things you have also had to surrender control to Jesus?
The heartache that comes with working for the Church.
There have been times it has been awful working for the Church. Primarily because of serving with some pretty terrible leaders. Men and women, who’s actions have caused me to wonder, “Do they have an ounce of love or empathy in them?!”… let alone a conscience. (Disclaimer: The Church is made up of saints and sinners. Many of whom are amazing people who I have had the opportunity to serve and journey with. These include priests, deacons, religious, and lay people. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.)
As a leader in the church, these encounters have caused me to take seriously our Christian call to discipleship, decency, dignity and transparency. The evil one gives us ample opportunity to undermine the mission of the Church by not holding ourselves accountable to the people we serve, and to God in whose name we go out on mission.
The anxiety I’ve struggled with for five+ years.
I had a few traumatic experiences when I first started working for the Church that actually caused my first of many panic attacks. I have suffered from these attacks for about five years now. Anxiety isn’t easy and it takes a lot of patience with oneself as well as being extra attentive to sleep, food, exercise, prayer, and time alone.
Being the only practicing Catholic in my family.
This is one of the things in my faith journey that has been difficult. Trying to navigate having a family who is not “all in” on the same journey with me. For many years I carried the weight that it was my job to get my family to fall in love with Jesus and his Church; that it was my job to get them to receive the sacraments.
This self-inflicted weight created too much tension so I had to let go and trust that God will provide another way to reach them and bring them home. It was a painful lesson but a very powerful one that taught me to invite instead of push and to love instead of force.
The 6-Figures I owe in student loan debt.
I grew up in an upper-middle-income family and therefore didn’t receive a lot of financial aid for my Catholic education. My only option was student loans to support my theology and canon law studies. This resulted in a lot of debt that I still carry today.
Working for the Church has not made it possible to pay off this debt and for years I have worried and worried about it. I finally had to let go and surrender it to God. Because if I am right where I am called to be, and I do believe I am, then beyond the work I can do and the income I can bring in, there’s not much else I can do but continue to work hard, trusting God and his plan.
Not always being liked because I speak honestly about what Christ and his Church teaches.
Growing up, people doted on me for being this good Catholic girl. As I grew and lived and expressed the true teachings of Christ and his Church, I lessened in popularity. I lost a lot of friends, and I can get some pretty unkind comments on Facebook from people when I speak honestly about what the Church teaches.
This isn’t always fun, but what other choice do we have? We must never not speak to the truth. We must do it in charity, but never hold back the true teachings. It may hurt some, and it will certainly challenge many. It’s still hard.
Living away from my family and friends on and off for the past fifteen years.
Pope Francis said a few years ago that young people who have supportive and loving families feel freer to go out into the world and find what God is asking of them. There is confidence there because you know that if you fail, you can go home. I was one of the young people who had that confidence and safety net.
I’ve lived in four countries and three states in the past eleven years. Though a great blessing in many ways, it has also been bittersweet. I have missed out on so many holidays with my family, as well as those important moments in everyday life. I’ve had to swallow that I missed a lot of time with my aging parents.
Also, friendships have faded and now most of my closest friends are scattered around the world. I can’t just call one of them up and invite them for dinner or a game night; FaceTime is as good as it gets most Friday nights. These last few months we’ve all learned how to make personal connections without being in-person, but may we take advantage of being in-person every chance we get.
Being a 33-year-old single woman.
I’d have to say that being a single, 33-year-old woman, who has chosen not to be sexually active, has been one of the biggest things I have felt the most judged for, and one of my biggest challenges.
I suppose it’s one of my greatest insecurities too; probably because I have felt that I failed at some point along the way. Should I have married the man I dated in graduate school? Did I work too much and not focus enough on dating?
Since those religious orders weren’t the right fit, should I be inquiring to others? Why are there so many priests in my line of work and not more single lay men? A lot goes through my mind on all of this. I have even had family members ask me if I am a homosexual and if that’s the reason I am single. It couldn’t be that I haven’t met the man I am called to or it’s not the right timing to enter a religious order.
This topic has taken much surrender and many tears before the Blessed Sacrament. It has, and still does today, take a great deal of trust in God and his will for my life. I know he has not forgotten me and has my greatest good in mind. He does for you too! Keep leaning into him.
I take consolation in that several of my closest friends were married in their late thirties and early forties. (My ongoing conundrum: do I cut my hair short or keep it long in case I get married in the next two years? So girly, am I right?)
Being an introvert and the hurt that it can cause others.
It took me a while to learn this about myself, but I am an introvert! I always thought introverts were people who didn’t enjoy being around others and wanted to read and watch movies all day. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I had to learn that as an introvert I simply needed time away from others to recharge my batteries. While I can go days without spending time with others, I am also ready to socialize after a night of relaxing. But I lose my stamina rather quickly and find myself drained after my time out with family and friends, attending a conference, or especially speaking in public.
Regrettably, it took me a while to discover my introvertedness can be hurtful to my extroverted friends. I didn’t think of others when it came to my patterns of how and when I socialized and when I would retreat away. I didn’t put myself in their shoes.
An extrovert needs to be social and around people pretty constantly. That is the complete opposite of me as an introvert and far from what I am able to give. I’ve been able to work through this with friends, listen to their needs, but also respect what I need and the way my body and psyche functions. It takes selfless and generous friends to find a healthy balance.
Placing my worth on how much I weigh, my hair, or clothes.
I still get tense and even anxiety when people comment on my weight even when it’s affirming. Probably because it’s taken years for me to believe that I am beautiful and worthy even when I haven’t been running for three months, I am far from fitting into my clothes the way I’d prefer, and my hair has been up in a messy bun all week.
I have had to work to overcome the lies that my identity is anything else than being a daughter of God. There lies my worth. I am unique, unrepeatable, chosen, loved, gifted and I am his!
When it comes to health and beauty now, I strive to be healthy, strong, and comfortable in my own skin. I choose to exercise and eat as well as possible because it respects the body God has given me (Not that ice cream is a slap in God’s face! He wants us to also enjoy life. Get two scoops!) and it makes me feel good when I move my body! (Cue: “I like to move it!”)
What Have You Had to Overcome?
How about that for honest and vulnerable! All of these have been incredibly freeing “to let go and let God” as they say. Now, it’s your turn.
What have you had to overcome? Did anything I share ring true to your own journey?