by Callum Donohue
As a teenager I struggled with how I looked in people’s eyes and always felt as if I wasn’t good enough because my personality and appearance didn’t measure up to the standards of society. These insecurities grew and slowly led to vices which ate deeper into my relationship with God. As boys, my friends and I would insult each other as a way of showing love and a lot of times, we would poke at each other’s insecurities. As a boy, I felt that I was not allowed to ever show how affected I was when people had a go at me and because of that it resulted in me burying my emotions. I became so good at it that I truly felt one with society as I always looked like I had it all together. Society painted this image to me that it is not okay to not be okay. You have to be happy. If anyone asked how I was, no matter how bad I was doing, no matter how much I needed someone, my reply was always be, “Okay lah, just a little tired”.
I lived my life as a man of the world. I had always hoped one day that I would change and be a man of god. This desire was so strong that I lived two lives. I would spend Fridays and Sundays with my church community, also going for mass. I’d also spend time alone reflecting on my faith and how my life was in shambles. Other than that, I was with my friends engaging various social activities which brought me away from God. At one point, I was giving God only two days a week, and the other 5 days were given to debauchery. I knew that I always wanted to live a life of faith, but as a young man I just did not know how. The idea of God felt so amazing but with my heart of stone which grew to be so comfortable to live with, it was hard to consciously desire God. Thankfully the Lord saw the deepest desires of my heart. He blessed me with the free time, and presented the opportunity for me to attend School Of Witness (SOW).
Coming into SOW, I was almost immediately hit with one of the biggest challenges I could think of. On the fourth day of the first week, I received my letter of enlistment into National Service. This would mean that I would have to leave SOW at the start of the 4th week. It was heart-wrenching for me to have been handed this piece of news and it felt as if God was trying to play a trick on me and that he was short-changing me of the experience which my heart desired so much. Thankfully, we had a session that same night, in which the Blessed Sacrament was exposed to us. I began to cry as I laid these emotions and stress at the feet of Jesus. I laid down my sadness, my fear, even my anger at the Lord. I surrendered it all, and tried to loosen my desire for control on the situation. At that moment, I felt so vulnerable and could not stop crying. Whenever I glanced directly at the Blessed Sacrament for more than a second, I would break down and another wave of tears would pour out. I received the truth that He sees me for who I am, and He sees my struggles. Many times I’ve heard that statement, but in that specific moment, I truly believed it and felt the Lord was carrying this cross with me. From that moment, I knew that there was power in the Blessed Sacrament that could only come from the one true king, Jesus Christ. Through the tears, the Lord also revealed to me that my desire for him was stronger than I had initially thought. During the time of adoration with the Lord, I felt that the Lord was inviting me to say “yes” to Him and trust in His plans for my life.
The next day, I sent in a letter to the army, prepared by the staff of the school, requesting for a deferment of my enlistment. Now all I had to do was to wait & pray. It was in this time of uncertainty that I had only one person to turn to. My Lord and my God, Jesus Christ. During this time, even when I struggled to feel the Lord’s presence or did not experience much emotional consolation, I still chose to believe that He was working in my life. No matter the lies entered my mind, no matter how sad I felt, even when it felt as if all hope was lost, I still chose to trust Him.
Fast forward to the day before my enlistment. I was surprised with the approval of my deferment. Everyone in my community celebrated in the victory that the Lord had won for me in my life. Although it was the outcome I had hoped for, the joy I received in my heart was not due to the fact that my deferment was approved, but because in that time of waiting, I learned to trust God. I had grown to be open and willing to enlist into the army because I knew that no matter how difficult things would get, no matter how hard it would be to live my faith in the army, I would not stop chasing God for even a second. Neither would He stop pursuing me. The Lord has my back.
Today I can say that I actively pursue the lord, and do not let my faith be formed by feelings. I have learned to accept that the church is not a place to go to because I want to just feel good about myself,, but that it is a place for the broken and wounded. I desire the Lord more and more everyday not because my feelings tell me so, but because of the gift of faith that the Lord grows in my heart daily. I have been blessed by a community I can live with, learn from and look up to when it comes to the rebuilding of who I am. I am more confident in who I am and no longer feel the need to fall into worldly things just because my friends are doing it. I feel that there is finally freedom in the way I make my choices. Nevertheless, even though this story is about the many small victories in my faith, it doesn’t mean that my journey stops here. I am far from perfect and everyday, I look forward to growing deeper in my faith with the lord.
The Lord sees your struggles. He sees your hurts and your deepest desires. Even if you have lost sight of them, He sees them all. He wants to lavish you with gifts, but you cannot receive them if your hands are closed. Are you willing to open them?