Eunice and I were chatting last week about faith journeys and how we were feeling compelled to share our own first encounters with God on this blog. I keep coming back to “Always be prepared to share the source of your joy”..
“Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? . . . No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.”
― Pope Benedict XVI
God is giving me my hundredfold every day. I have the amazing privilege of living a life of abundance and deep joy and it all started when I was thirteen years old. It was that year that I made the life-altering decision to let God plan my adventures. Months before during my Confirmation, I felt something inside me stir. It caught me off guard; I had been told that the Holy Spirit works in powerful ways during the sacraments but I wasn’t expecting something of that magnitude! It made me think, “Hey, maybe there really is something to all this: God if you exist, show me.” That summer the Lord pursued me in powerful ways and by the time I started grade eight that fall I was a very different person.
Fast forward five years…In the early hours of the morning on April 1st 2009, I lost my father and my best friend. During one of the saddest times of my life, the Lord carried me and used my fragility to show me just how much He loves me!
Three days before my father passed away suddenly, I got a tattoo. My parents didn’t know; I didn’t even know I was going to do it! When my friend Laura invited me to tag along for her appointment I jumped on the opportunity. It was a split second decision, but for some reason I felt that it was important, that I was doing something very right. My tattoo reads, “Jeremiah 29:11”. Go ahead, look it up!
This has been my favourite bible verse for as long as I can remember and it is what my dad told me whenever I was feeling lost or upset. It means more to me now than it did the day I got it. The Lord knew I would need it. And for me it is proof that God works through everyone, even a tattoo artist named Ed.
God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle, ever. In the final hours of my father’s life, I was at school doing first aid training. As I complained about the long days on the drive home that evening, my father reminded me, “If you use it just once, it will be worth it.” And I never did fall asleep after Dad went to bed that night. I had spent the day practicing 911 calls, learning CPR, and how to use a defibrillator. That night I did all three. Tell me that isn’t providence.
Throughout the week that followed the Lord carried me. The funeral took place exactly one week to the hour since I got my tattoo. It was an affirmation that if I could trust God so much before I lost my Dad then I had to keep on trusting afterwards. There were even honeybees in the church that day—a grey rainy day in the middle of town!
Looking back over the last four years, I am filled with awe as I reflect on the amazing opportunities I have been given and the best friends that have been placed on my path that have eased the sense of loss and filled various needs. They are part of my hundredfold. I learned to trust God when things are completely out of control and I have come to see that those times are some of the most beautiful because of the disposition of abandonment required to ride the wave. This deep joy and peace is available to all of us and we can access it no matter what is going on in our lives. We just need to let go.