“The Holy Spirit is not a thing to be controlled, but a force to let loose in our lives.” – Fr. David Pivonka, TOV
I have to admit, going back for round two of the Milwaukee Encounter retreat, I was hesitant on what it could provide for me. I was not exactly sure what I needed in my life besides a deeper relationship with the Lord. Moreover, I did not have any specific personal intentions in my heart before going on this pilgrimage. I brought along intentions of those around me, of course, but I only had the vague desire of wanting to grow closer to God in my heart. We were also starting out at 7 am on a Saturday (not ideal for a night shifter…) and the majority of the people going were not people I knew (not ideal for an introvert…). I was not dismayed, however, and I went into the day with an open mind and an open heart…and with jumping on the chance of driving there in the sleeping car (so much appreciation for the sleep car!).
The day went along without a hitch and I was just kind of “along for the ride.” The breakout sessions were informational and the Praise & Worship was emotional. I am going to skip ahead to the evening program because that’s what impacted me the most. However, I want to stress that the impact would not have been as complete had I not partaken in the activities of the day. Those were essential to put my heart in a state of grace to grow closer to the Lord.
At the beginning of the evening session I realized I needed to start asking myself the hard questions. I realized my “vague desire” was no longer enough. I could no longer “just go along for the ride” and put off facing what is truly troubling my heart..
Wait. Something’s troubling my heart? Okay, let’s rewind a bit…
For some time, I have been struggling with feelings of loneliness and despair when it came to my relationship status. What makes it worse is that except for right after a previous, unhealthy relationship ended, I had never been one to feel the need to be with someone, to be in a relationship. And even now, I do not feel the need to be with a person just to say I have someone. However, I have always had a deep desire to marry and have a family. And with my birthday just having passed, the anxiety of “am I ever going to find someone who I can share that desire with” has been increasing and becoming a looming presence in my life. So what have I done? Prayed constantly for myself to become the wife God wants me to be and I have prayed for my future husband. I do my best to be active in my community and I spend a good amount of energy in furthering my career. I spend as much time as possible with friends and family and allow them to become the focus of my life. I do all of this and more but still that feeling lingers. I have accepted it as a fact of my life that I have to battle every day – a struggle I have to give to God every day. And I was doing okay…until a couple weeks before the Milwaukee Conference. I found myself listening to The Catholic Feminist (TCF) podcast with host, Claire Swinarski, and guest, Marissa Mullins. The topic for that particular podcast was “Singleness and Wrestling with God’s timing.” I enjoy listening to TCF and this podcast was enjoyable and informative. One of the many things they discussed was that it wasn’t enough to just pray for one’s future husband/spouse or to give one’s struggles to God. If one truly wanted to deepen her relationship with Christ she would have to completely trust Him and in doing so need to realize and accept the fact that the married life might not be His plan for her.
I heard that and immediately shied away: “Nope, uh uh. Of course that’s not my path. God would not do that to me.” I shot that down like a guy in cameo during hunting season. And for days afterwards, whenever the thought of that podcast skirted across my mind I would continuously push it back. I just knew it was not what God wanted from me. I just knew He would never ask that of me.. I just knew…so I continued my prayers as usual.
Fast forward again to the evening session of the Encounter conference. I started trying to find some obstacle in my life, something that was holding me back from deepening my relationship with Christ. Unfortunately, the podcast was what kept popping into my head and would not leave. Not from lack of trying, mind you, because I tried with all my might to find something else. But everything and anything paled in comparison to this elephant. So in the midst of the songs and the music and the prayers, I said my own prayer, out loud (thankfully the music and singing was loud enough that no one heard me): “Lord, I know that Your most perfect plan for me may not involve marriage and a family…” and that was all I could muster to verbalize before the water works took over. Damn did that hurt. The tears were rolling down my face and all my strength had left me. I hate to admit it but I was mad. Irate. “Why, Lord? Why!?” I started wrestling with this idea that the Lord wanted me to be unhappy, mad, and lonely. Telling myself it wasn’t true, of course it wasn’t true, but feeling so helpless and downtrodden that I couldn’t bring myself to believe something else. So what did I do? I told Him – okay, more like yelled it at Him – in my head..ish, everything. And when I got all my frustrations and fears and failings out to Him, I took a deep breath. I took a few deep breaths. I stayed still and silent as I waited for His response.
And in my silence, God sent me this prayer:
Jesus, my Lord. Jesus, my Savior. Jesus, my All.
You are more than enough. Your Love is more than enough for me and my life. Yes, I greatly desire to find my future husband. You know this. You know my heart. You know me better than I know myself. So if this is not what you want for me, let me be okay with it. Because maybe, as much as it hurts, this is not what You have planned for me. If that is the case then rid me of this desire, oh Lord, for not my will be done, but Yours. Embrace me and keep me, oh Lord. Surround my broken heart with Your Love. Help me to let go of control and let You write my story. Fill me with Your compassion and strength and Your courage.
In Your most Holy Name, I pray, Amen.
It was the strangest experience – how disheartened I felt by this “letting go” yet how my heart filled with hope at the same time. I was conflicted and still wrestling with this as Hebrews 6:19 kept popping up in my head “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul.” And I felt at peace amongst the struggle. I was able to spend the rest of the evening abiding in a peaceful Joy with the Lord.
This conference, pilgrimage, reminded me -nay, shook me up and pounded into me – the fact that I need to let go and let God. It also reminded me that no matter how far I’ve come, no matter how many church activities, retreats, and conferences I partake in. No matter how much I am inspired and motivated, it is a day to day fight to remind my heart that I am loved beyond my wildest dreams. There is no greater love than the love He freely gives. I shall not want for more. I do not need more than Him. The goose was let loose in my life that evening. And like a wildfire He burned down the barrier between myself and Jesus. He made me take a honest look at what was holding me back ad then made me let it go. Let go and let loose the goose!
(Let Loose the Goose? you wonder. Check out Fr. David’s website for more info! https://thewildgooseisloose.com/)