This is the 6th post in the series, Women of God, and I couldn’t be more excited to share this one with all of you. Kristina (KG) is one of the loveliest ladies around and she is such a dear friend to me. She is one of those beautiful friends that you hug and sigh in sheer happiness because you are in the presence of such a holy & hilarious woman. KG and I had the opportunity to live together in an intentional community of women through St. Paul’s Outreach and it was a crazy, beautiful, awesome year filled with PBS documentaries, late night ice cream runs to Target, early Morning Prayer, movie nights, and hanging out and talking about faith, life and everything in between. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding and I am so honored to have such a faith-filled, incredible woman in my life, by my side and knowing that we are always praying for each other through the joys & struggles of life. I hope that you find rejuvenation through KG’s post and a beautiful reminder from Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
“Give me a reason to stay.”
No, this statement wasn’t an ultimatum spoken in the midst of heated argument. No, it isn’t a dramatic declaration from a Turkish soap opera (my new favorite guilty pleasure on Netflix).
“Give me a reason to stay” has been a small but prevailing part of my daily prayer for the past several months.
Like any good millennial in the initial post-college stage, I began the elusive journey of “soul-searching” and “finding myself.” Adding to the angst was the fact that I was no longer involved in a Catholic student group or in a Catholic household. I continued to attend Mass and I maintained friendships with other Catholics, but soon I began to wonder why I continued to hold on to my Catholic identity.
To be honest, I didn’t step away from my Catholic identity because of Catholic guilt: I would have felt like an awful person if I missed Mass on Sundays (not to mention my irrational fear that God would smite me with gridlock traffic on my commute to work the next day). This self-imposed guilt “sustained” me for a few months, but I also began to feel restless in my relationship with God.
This restlessness soon turned into annoyance, annoyance into anger, and anger into doubt. I forced myself to visit the Adoration chapel at least twice a week, begging God to give me something, but I saw no fruit. I had never experienced a dark night of the soul quite like this one. To the little old lady praying her Rosary in the back corner of the chapel, I may have seemed all serene, but on the inside, I was having a childish temper tantrum, beating my fists, bawling my eyes out, and telling God what I really thought.
- Why are you keeping me in the dark?
- I feel like I’m talking to a wall!
- Why can’t I be just a Christian?
- Why are your rules so hard to follow?
- You’re so hard to relate to!
- Why does the world hate everything that I am supposed to believe in?
- Why can’t I walk away from you without feeling like the world’s worst sinner?
It required a truckload of humility and the grace of God for me to recognize and fully accept that God didn’t want me clinging to Him because of my self-imposed guilt. Furthermore, He challenged me to ask Him directly, “Give me a reason to stay.” At first, I was afraid of this challenge because it seemed blasphemous; after all, Jesus said in Luke 4:12: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”
But God wasn’t asking me to test Him. He was asking me to pray for a deeper relationship with Him. He was reaching into this dark night of the soul to give me two things: a key so that I could un-chain myself from my self-imposed guilt, and a flashlight to lead me out of the darkness of doubt. With nothing to lose, I reluctantly said this little prayer “Give me a reason to stay” every day, and His answer was always the same: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
So where am I now?
I continue to struggle with doubt. But I give praise to God because guilt is no longer the foundation of my relationship with God. I give praise to God that I stand with Him and His Church not because I feel obligated, but because I have the desire. I give praise to God that He has stirred in me an insatiable thirst for the knowledge of the Catholic Church, particularly the Church’s teachings on love, sexuality, marriage, and family. Every day, I see how the world has subverted the goodness of these things, and I know that God wants me to pursue the Truth so that I can bring the Catholic Church’s wisdom to a culture that so greatly needs it.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote that, “the believer is always threatened with an uncertainty that in moments of temptation can suddenly and unexpectedly cast a piercing light on the fragility of the whole.” But he also wrote that “just as the believer knows himself to be constantly threatened by unbelief, for the unbeliever faith remains a temptation and a threat to his apparently permanently closed world.”
I have accepted that the shadow of doubt will never truly leave me. Struggling with doubt is a part of being born with original sin. Whether I am in a state of faith or a state of doubt, I will be a sinner. But praise to be God, He sent His own Son to redeem us sinners, and He will never let us become irredeemably consumed by doubt.
When she’s not going to Volleyball practice, watching Star Wars, or running The Morning Meetup, Kristina is a nurse working with veterans at a local hospital. She has a penchant for scrubs with Marvel characters & loves reading books about her Catholic Faith.