A couple nights ago as I did the dishes after feeding what felt like 100 people (okay, maybe it was really nine), I listened to one of Fr. Mike Schmidt ‘s homilies. He made this arresting point: becoming a saint really means letting Jesus interrupt our life.
Our plans. Our expectations. Even our hopes and dreams. Just think of Saul. I’m pretty sure he never planned on seeing a heavenly light, falling down, hearing the voice of Jesus, and becoming blind on the way to Damascus. He was probably content with his life and his persecution of Christians. Despite divine intervention, he had the free will to choose complete indifference. Instead, he was transformed, becoming one of the greatest apostles, whom we still read about and ask for intercession some 2000 years later!
In a much less dramatic way, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t let Jesus interrupt my life in ways big and small.
At 17, I was accepted to Loyola Marymount University to study Film and Business. After attending a weekend visit, however, I was overcome with a huge feeling telling me not to go. I wrestled with all the expectations my family had for me, but in the end, I chose not to attend. In that moment when I said no out loud, I was at peace. That program wasn’t where I was meant to be.
That ended up being the easy part. Telling my parents and grandmother, knowing I had disappointed them, was devastating. I’m a perfectionist; not fulfilling all the plans they had for me, for the first time in my life, was just brutal. But I knew I had to do it. Though they were initially upset, by the grace of God I managed to enroll for classes at the local community college right before the semester began.
Eight months later my mom was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, while my dad was studying law a few states away. We found out on the same day I left work early because a coworker had committed suicide the night before. It was a huge blow, but how grateful we all were that I was able to live with my mom at the time, instead of being across the country at Loyola.
During all this time, I had been dating a guy from high school. It was getting serious and we were starting to discern marriage, but as I reverted more and more towards my Catholic faith, I knew in my heart I was just not called to marry him. He was very nice and came from a loving family I’d grown to love and respect, but his mother and I could both see the problems that would come from us taking the next step to a mixed faith marriage.
God had another plan to completely interrupt my life.
While my boyfriend was away on vacation, I took care of their sweet puppy. Planes got delayed and his family ended up spending an extra night away, so I randomly decided to go to the LifeTeen Mass our church was having.
During the sign of peace, a man turned around to offer me a hug. He just glowed, and a small voice said, I’m going to marry that man. I had no idea who he was, yet it felt like any and all feelings I had towards my current boyfriend were gone. There was nothing left. And I felt like an absolute idiot.
As luck would have it, this mysterious man was part of the LifeTeen core team, and had been going to our parish for a little over a year, though we’d just met. I instantly joined the core team and started making friends who were growing deeper in love with Jesus and the faith. Surrounding myself with those growing in virtue made all the difference in a time when I was so unsure of the next step.
I still hadn’t broken up with my boyfriend, because it was hard. I honestly didn’t want to hurt him, and we ended up breaking up and getting back together twice within the span of a few months. Even he knew I was in love with this guy from church. We finally let the relationship dissolve and I was at peace, knowing that I had done the right thing even though it hurt.
My friends tried to get me to enjoy the single life for a bit after two years in a relationship, but I was restless. I was trying so hard to listen to their advice of taking things slow, being his friend first, and most of all, waiting for him to approach me. Those five and a half weeks of being single, knowing this man was right there, was driving me insane. But I’m glad I listened. I later found out he was discerning a call to the priesthood when I came along, and he decided to take a chance on me.
At least this time, he knew it was a sure thing and wouldn’t get rejected. On January 14, 2006, I spent an entire core team meeting whining about how hungry I was, how I had gift certificates to California Pizza Kitchen, and how I wished someone would go with me. All my friends mysteriously had plans. After saying our goodbyes, I walked, defeated, to my car.
As I was opening the door I looked up and saw him a few rows over in the empty lot. He took a deep breath and said, “Do you want to go out to lunch?”
We ended up having a nice lunch and watching King Kong at the theatre across the way, because we didn’t want the date to end.
And that’s the story of my last first date.
My husband and Matt I have been married for 10 years, and I am so grateful for God completely interrupting my plans. Had I gone to LMU, would we have met? Had that plane not been delayed, would the sequence of events leading us to each other that day ever have commenced? Would we be married to each other, or would he have gone on to become a priest while I settled into marriage?
Give God permission to interrupt your life, no matter where you are in the journey of your own vocation. Your interruption, of course, probably won’t be a breakup, but another matter he’s planned for your heart alone. Our God is a God of surprises.
Images by Rae and Michael Photography.