Columban Lay Missionary, Ireland
I remembered this particular moment. I was standing in front of the mirror combing my hair. As I looked at myself in the mirror, I suddenly became aware of an inner voice. And as I continued to gaze at my own image before me deeper questions about life surfaced. The questions that it was asking me were, 'Who are you?', 'Why were you born?', ''What are you doing in this life?', 'What is the purpose of your being born into this world?', 'What should you be doing with your life?', Where are you going? As a young 15-year old, I didn't know the answers nor would I have known how to answer them. It was a moment that I knew were deep questions to answer. Young as I was then I didn't know that it could be something I could have talked about with adults so that I could have had at least searched for a bit of answer. Those questions came and went. I forgot that moment and so I went about doing my own business as usual. Mundane things as they were. But looking back at that moment after going further on with my journey in this life I saw it as a moment of grace. For someone who believes in a God, that experience was an experience with my God. Making himself or herself known to me. So that as I searched for who I am I may find my true self. For we can only find our true selves when God is in our lives.
Growing up in my teens was not an easy one. I was 15 when I lost my father. Losing someone at that very fragile stage of development of a teenagers' life was nearly traumatic. I lost a significant person in my life and the anguish that it brought me was a lot to bear. I did not know what to do with it. I didn't know that I had to go through the process of grieving. I was angry with God. I found myself saying, 'You took my father away so I don't want to have anything to do with you'. And I also remembered asking myself the questions, 'How come God takes someone I love and who loves me?' How can he say He is my God if he is a jealous God? I disliked going to mass but I had to because I felt guilty not going and because my mother would know I wasn't going. One good thing though with being young is the capability to sail through life without really bothered with the deep questions so I thought. And so business went as usual.
As the years went by I felt there was a bit of emptiness in my life but I was not giving it much attention. I thought it will just fade away. That perhaps it was just part of life of a growing young adult. I was focused with my studies and being careful not to mess up with it. I wanted to finish my studies and at the same I wanted to reward my mother for all her hard work in raising us her children. She being the sole breadwinner of the family. Furthermore I did not want to break my mother's heart. I finished third level and I was lucky to get a teaching post right after graduation. I was happy with it. I thought then that from there I would build my future.
But I felt unfulfilled and my life seemed empty. I felt the emptiness in me and I felt the hunger. I also felt burdened by the emptiness and I didn’t know what to do with it. It was this time in my life when I began to get much closer to God. I began to pray. I started talking to God as I would to a friend I trusted. Eventually I told God about the emptiness I was feeling and the longing for it to vanish. God didn't give me answers right away though. I discovered that the answers were to come later on my journey. At that time I thought I should continue talking to him and make the communication open between us.
You would think that dealing with the feeling of emptiness in my life was enough but again it was at this time that the same questions I asked myself during the 'mirror moment' I had when I was 15 surfaced. Unlike that moment, this time I felt the questions bothered me. It bothered me because it felt like I could not get away with it that time. And I had to face them. Then I realized answers had to be sought from somewhere and so the searching began. In my solitary moments, I kept asking myself the questions 'What does my life mean then?' 'What is it that I should be doing with my life?' If finishing my education and getting a job is not enough what is it then?
I needed to talk to someone and knowing that I have gained a friend in Jesus, I needed to tell him about the questions and my new founded task - that is to search for answers. I felt I was turning to God more and more. I often asked God what it was that he wanted me to do. If only he will tell me then I would know what to do next. But secretly I was afraid God would ask me to do something I would not want to do because I would not have been ready yet. Not just yet, I thought, as I was beginning to enjoy my independence. God was silent still and secretly I was glad. It felt more comfortable to keep a part of me that was not ready to let go. I was even bracing myself to 'fight' if the response that I was to get from God was not what I wanted after all. I was getting closer to God or God was getting close to me. But whatever way it was, I was testing the waters and was proceeding with caution just in case. Ironically, I was wanting answers to the deeper questions and yet at the same time putting myself forward halfheartedly. There was a bit of resistance within myself to get much closer to God.
Time came and went. One particular night, I was preparing my lesson for my class the following day. This time I was at my lowest ebb as I was not getting any answers after my so-called efforts, of my so-called searchings and waiting for God's response. Then I heard an inner voice saying 'stop'. 'Just stop'. 'Listen to me'. I knew then the time has come. In a moment I felt the urge to cry. I didn't know why I should be crying but I cried. Literally I felt my tears flowing profusely down my cheeks. I reached out to God as I never did before. It was only when my tears began rolling down my cheeks that I understood why I needed to cry. It was time for 'surrender'. I reached out to him in all my emptiness, in my fears and anxieties, in my unanswered searching, in my inability to do things on my own without God in my life, in my unfulfilled life, in all that I was, raw and broken.
It was at this moment I 'surrendered' to God. Surrender I say because I had to let go of the barriers that were hindering me from my relationship with God. I had to let go of my pride and learned to bow in humility before God. I had to let go of my inability to trust. Before when I was asking God what he wanted me to do with my life, they were just empty words. Before, there was caution, fear and worries. And I was not letting them go. But on this particular night, I needed to die from my pride, from my fears, worries, anxieties and my limitations. Yet in my process of dying to these, there emerged a new understanding, a new meaning to the relationship I had with God that I was to embrace. It meant recognizing my dependence on a higher being, a life force, the god - presence at work in my life and to accept the challenges that came with building this relationship with God. That is trusting in God's love and providence. Surely for me, this moment was an acknowledgement of God's presence and my nothingness without him.
All throughout the old testament, God was there with his people, revealing himself to them, being faithful to them even when his people were unfaithful. He made a covenant with them - that he is their God and they are his people. I felt that it was during this particular night that God and myself made a covenant together - that He is my God and I am his daughter. Having entered this phase in our relationship, I began to realize that to trust in God is to let God be God in my life. This indeed is always a challenge to take in one's lifetime.
Entering into deeper relationship with God called for a commitment, to listen more and to spend more time with him. As I listened more, I felt drawn to look at those deep questions that I have been wondering about for some time already. It was through this deeper encounter with God that I began to hear some kind of answer to my questions and pondered them even more in my heart as Mother Mary did.
I felt as if God was inviting me to look at my life, to look at the emptiness I was feeling, to continue seeking for answers but to be patient, to trust that the answers will come eventually and that it will come at the appointed time. In those times of waiting, slowly I began to hear a call. I felt God calling me. Calling me to do something more, something different with my life. There was a feeling of anxiety about it because it was not clear to me what it was exactly that I was supposed to be doing. So I asked God again to give me an answer. God was silent. Over time, I got accustomed to God's silence and to the beckonings within me. Then I heard an inner voice saying, 'follow the desire of your heart'. What would fulfill the emptiness in your heart? After such seeking and waiting, like a 'eureka' moment - I felt the desire to follow a commitment to serve others. How should I have achieved this? I didn't know. And so another seeking began. If my desire is to serve others, there must be something that I needed to do. I knew that while I was serving others in my teaching job, I felt I was called to do something different. All I knew was serving others was what I wanted to do and nothing will stop me from following such. But again, what was it that I was supposed to be doing? Slowly as it always was, answer came and in its own time. Not pushed.
One day, I was talking to a nun she asked me if I wanted to subscribe to the 'Misyon' Magazine, a magazine published by the Columban fathers. Thinking that it would be a good material for my religion classes I put forward a subscription. I received my first copy of the magazine and as I flicked through the pages, I saw in one of the pages an ad saying 'Have you thought of being a lay missionary?'. I was struck by this statement. I thought to myself, 'I never heard of a lay person going on mission before. It was an interesting I thought. I put it aside and have not given it much thought.
|July 2011, Tagaytay, Columban Lay Missionaries|
Sixteen years later
Sixteen years passed. Life on mission has its challenges, its joys and sorrows. And through it all, God has constantly shown his love for me through the people I meet on my journey as a missionary. They give me life and hope.
I pray that I may grow each day in faithfulness to my God and meet each new day with joyful anticipation of what is to come.