The Journey Forward

So much has changed in my life since the last time I used this blog. Here I am, at the cusp of another great adventure, staring into the maw of doctoral program applications, GRE preparation, and the tingling anticipation that comes with knowing that the future is entirely out of my hands.

A year ago, I was engaged to be married. I was intending to settle into a quiet life, to fade from the front lines. I thought that I had found the road God wanted me on, and that this time, the doors in front of me would stay open.

I was wrong.

And I have never been happier to be wrong.

It turns out that the old adage about telling God your plans is true. And sometimes, I think I must amuse God more than anyone else does, because I dearly love to plan, to worry, to plot, to scheme. I don’t know how to relinquish control. I fight Him every single step of the way like a nap-deprived toddler in the candy aisle. I want it. I don’t know what it is, but I want it, and I want it NOW!

But God has never let me settle for less than He desires for me. He has dragged me, kicking and screaming, through all the wrong turns I have made. God doesn’t just close doors in my life. He slams them, nails boards across them, and sticks a chair under the knob. He sends angels to lurk on the other side with tranquilizers just in case I get uppity. And He puts a big piece of spiritual cake under a neon sign in front of the door He actually wants me to go though.

I’ve never stood a chance.

And yes, I have been hurt in the process. But it was the hand that touched the hot stove that caused the burn, not the hand that pulled it away. Every ounce of suffering in my life has been because I was impatient with God, stubborn, and frankly, just plain rebellious.

I have learned something these past few months of Grad School. And I know that it’s a lesson I’m going to keep having to re-learn, but all the same, I have learned it for now: God’s Will will be done. No matter what. And this isn’t fatalism. I have the ability to choose, if only to choose the easy way or the hard way. But the Hound of Heaven is one heck of a sheepdog, and it’s probably a lot better for me if I just try to do things right the first time.

So, moving forward, I’m going to try even harder to let God lead me, and not to fight Him on every little thing just because I can.

I truly believe that He has amazing things in store, not just for me, but for every single one of you.

Let Him do His thing.

Or, you know, you could actually HELP Him do it. That’s probably a better option.

That was a nice vacation. Let’s get back on the road.

-E.G. Norton

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Grace: It’s Personal

As 2013 begins, I cannot help but look back over the last year. And in doing so, it is amazing to see how God has been working in my life.

At the dawn of 2012, I was a stubborn mess. I had already begun the process of physical transformation that I was desperately in need of, having already lost nearly forty pounds. I was focused intensely on my goals of becoming a member of the United States Coast Guard. But my soul was a mess. My heart was hard and cold. And all I cared about was myself.

This, but in a Trenchcoat (via Fishy2Me)

This, but in a Trenchcoat (via Fishy2Me)

I had anticipated joining the Coast Guard by February of last year, when I was informed that — due to my ankle injury the year before — I would require a medical waiver. I prayed for patience, and changed my expectations to spring. After all, I’d begin the process in August. A few more months wouldn’t kill me.

Surprisingly, patience came. And I remained focused. I began to exercise spiritual discipline. In March, I joined a Catholic young adult group and began going to adoration with them.

So when I found out that I wouldn’t be able to go for a medical screening until August, I dealt with it. After all, I’d been praying for patience. How did I expect to get more patient if I had nothing to be patient about? I prayed for guidance. The year continued.

In June, I decided that I wanted to explore my faith more deeply. After my accident in 2011, I had become more and more curious about angels, so I decided to begin studying Angelology. At the same time, I began to reflect on other theological points that interested me, and began jotting down my thoughts. . . so The Trenchcoat Introspective began. But it was all about me at first. It was all about getting my own thoughts together. Anyone else’s edification was just a fringe benefit.

Without realizing it, however, writing this blog began to change me. It was as if I could not explore the complexities of my faith without letting go a little bit. As the months slipped by, I surrendered more and more control over my fate. I prayed for guidance. If I shut Him out, how did I expect God to guide me?

It dawned on me rather abruptly in September that the only thing that was holding me back from who I wanted to be, who I was created to be, was myself. My pride, my stubbornness, my fear. I wanted to be a strong, powerful, brave, and godly woman. All I had to do to become that was to decide to become that. To stop being who I had been, and more importantly to stop feeling like I had to be that person just because I hadn’t been anything better yet.

I started volunteering at a local charity. I became more involved in my church community. And I continued striving towards my goals. Everything was going well. In October, I started dating again. I began putting down roots.

In retrospect, I was afraid of change. I’d grown so used to being lonely that I forgot that man was not meant to be alone. That God created us to live in community with our brothers and sisters. I suppose I thought that if I made friends it would just hurt more when I left for Basic Training.

I’m glad I decided to start building those friendships. At the end of November, the medical board denied my waiver, effectively ending my prospects of joining any military branch.

Well, shoot. What was I supposed to do now? I wasn’t fit for anything else. It was my last shot at a career. I was a literature major. There weren’t exactly a lot of job prospects for me.

If I had not begun reaching out to people, this news probably would have crushed me. But with the support of my network of family and friends (most especially a certain young man who has a way of getting me to realize things I should already know), I began to realize that maybe I should take my own advice and see my rejection as a sign from God. And then I realized that everything that had happened was exactly what I had been asking for.

I prayed for patience. God made me patient by throwing delay after delay at me. I prayed for guidance, and He ripped my plans apart so I could see His plan for my life. I prayed for trust, and He filled my life with people I believed in, who believed in me even when I didn’t see any value in myself. I prayed for tenacity, and He gave me the grace to survive the sudden paradigm shift He threw at me.

And finally, after such a very long time of fighting for my own glory, I woke up and realized He’d been grooming me to work for His Glory all along. And that I already had been without even realizing it.

I couldn’t see His plan for my life because I hated myself. I believed in Grace as an abstract concept, something that was meant for uber-religious people, not screwups like me. I ran and ran and ran from God, trying to find my own way through the darkness, and knowing that I wasn’t getting anywhere.

Just another example of why Dante is my spirit animal. (via ArtsyCraftsy)

Just another example of why Dante is my spirit animal. (via ArtsyCraftsy)

But Grace is for everyone. And God is an expert tracker. He hunted me down and led me down the Destined Path without me even realizing I’d been caught. I’d spent so long in the dark not because He was not with me but because I was holding my hands over my eyes and doing my best ostrich impression.

So here I am, older and wiser and a little bit embarrassed because I was silly enough to think I could hide from God’s grace. But when He wants you, He gets you. He’s God. It’s sort of His thing.

2013 is more than just a fresh year on the calendar. It’s a new start. For me, it’s the year I finally give in and start working formally in catechetics. It’s the year I embrace the idea that God really does know best, and He will bring me through every storm in spite of myself. And it’s the year I stop being afraid of being happy and just let it happen.

What about you? Are you open to God’s call in your life?

If you’re not yet, don’t worry. He’ll get his way one way or another. I guarantee it.

Happy New Year! It’s going to be a good one.

-E. G. Norton