Welcome, 2015. So far, you don’t feel much different than 2014. Last year ended well — a beautiful trip to Rome and then a great trip home with all the siblings together under Mom and Dad’s roof for the first time in a long time.
At some point, we all grew up. I’m not sure how it happened. My brother and sister both have families of their own — children who aren’t babies anymore. My sister is a principal and is in charge of stuff. I can call myself a “director” of an office on the diocesan level. When did this all happen?
For the most part, I’m at peace with it all. I’m at peace with where I am and what I’m doing. But last night I was feeling particularly lonely. It was a combination of a few things, all of which I can identify and explain, but it was still hard. My roommate is moving out next week, and while the whole situation was always temporary and the poor thing has been living amongst my junk for the last five months, it will still be really hard to see her leave. I know it’ll be lonely at night, knowing there’s no one coming home from work to eat dinner with me or talk about the day’s ups and downs.
This morning I headed over to the Opryland Hotel, which is the home of this year’s national FOCUS conference. That translates into the fact that there are over 9,500 Catholics hanging out there, which means the odds of me running into friends is pretty high. So I texted a few friends and headed over there to see who I could see.
It was wonderful — even just sitting on a bench talking to a dear friend, a number of people passed by and stopped to say hi. People I hadn’t seen for years, people I never expected to see. Friends, people I knew through friends, and Catholic “celebrities” — it was a joyful, small-Catholic-world morning.
On the way home, Tenth Avenue North’s “No Man is an Island” came on the radio. And I realized that no matter how I “feel” — whether there are nights I’m eating dinner alone, there are days when no one can understand the messes of life, or there are struggles I carry alone … I’m not really alone.
I have incredible friends. Today I saw people from every stage in my life – from childhood, from college, from graduate school, from my work here in Nashville. I saw friends who have gone on to enter religious life, friends who have gotten married, and friends who are living lives similar to mine.
And I realized it’s not that God gave me all of these friends to be with me during those lonely nights or days. Instead, He gave me those friends to show me that we are all in these struggles together, although apart. On a lonely night, I wish my friend Megan could come sit on my couch with me and eat peanut butter and have a great girl talk. But guess what? On that lonely night of mine, she’s feeling overwhelmed trying to mother her three children. She doesn’t have time to talk on the phone, much less come to Nashville to sit on my couch and talk. But that’s okay. We are all members of His Body, so while we’re carrying different crosses, we’re carrying them together, because we’re carrying them with Him.
We are not islands. It doesn’t mean that we’ll never be alone. It doesn’t mean that we’ll always have a friend physically by our side. It doesn’t mean that we’ll always feel comforted. It may feel lonely at a particular time in life, but when we cooperate with God’s plan, He gives us what we need to get through it all. Even if it’s simply the grace of knowing others are out there carrying their crosses too.
I recently saw a movie – and I won’t mention the title so that I don’t need to put a “spoiler” warning – but the gist of the ending was that we save ourselves. The future and the past are not that far apart, and our past selves can save our future selves. Now, that’s pretty much a bunch of bunk, and no one can save themselves and I’m sick of that trend in movies right now. But there is Someone for whom the past and the future are not that far apart… in fact, they’re both actually the present. And that’s God. And guess what? He saves us.
It’s not that our past selves somehow save our future selves, but that every moment is the present in Him. And maybe the gift He gave us ten years ago can build us up today. Maybe running into the guy with whom you studied in Rome and seeing him with his pregnant wife and his little boy can remind you that God was there for you then and He’s here for you now. Because you were there for Him then — you were listening to Him and wanting to do His Will. You were trying to be faithful to Him and trying to live a life worthy of the Gospel. So ten years later, while you might wonder somedays if fighting the good fight is really good, He gives you a little nudge, a joyful reminder that He was there then, He is there now, and everyone who is striving to do His Will is fighting this fight together.
(And sometimes He does give you the consolation of friends physically by your side — like this coming week, when my other Megan-friend is able to come to Nashville to visit me!)