My first weeks of college were a huge adjustment. I sat in the chapel feeling homesick and utterly alone. I cried my prayer to God, wondering what my life would hold.
As I knelt there praying, in my mind’s eye, for a split second, I could see from above the earth, as if through the Hubble telescope. I saw myself sitting there in the chapel praying and all of the other people on earth moving about with all of their concerns. We looked so small, like ants. Yet I had the impression that my concerns and each individual’s concerns were all of importance to God. Perhaps God used that split-second visual analogy to communicate with me because I was studying science at the time and had a lot of hours logged in on the microscope. Regardless, I knew without a doubt that God was near and that my concerns were dear to Him. In that fraction of a moment, I felt God’s nearness and love so deeply that it felt as if it were etched on my heart. I have frequently drawn strength from this memory when the winds of change have rocked my world.
Over two decades later, with a life trajectory that has gone in no way as I had planned, I look back on all of the moments that seemed to have been harbingers of the end of the world as I knew it, and I see God’s handiwork in each. Although I certainly could not see it at any of those times, I now see that everything has worked out for the best—not as I had planned, but as God had planned for me.
Every time I face big life changes, I still look to St. Ignatius Loyola for guidance as I did during my college years. Who better to advise on change than Ignatius? His life didn’t go in any way as he had planned either. He was severely wounded by a cannonball in battle. He likely did not foresee languishing away in a convalescent ward afterward. The young and dashing nobleman certainly didn’t plan on giving his wealth away and devoting his life to God. Yet, God had plans—plans that led to sainthood for Ignatius and spiritual direction for countless others that would follow after him.
I recall Ignatius’s wise admonition:
What we want above all is the ability to respond freely to God, and all other loves for people, places, and things are held in proper perspective by the light and strength of God’s grace. …In coming to a decision, only one thing is really important—to seek and to find how God is calling me at this time of my life. …God has created me out of love, and my salvation is found in my living out a return of that love. All my choices, then, must be consistent with this given direction in my life. (Spiritual Exercises, [16, 169, 23], as paraphrased by Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV, in The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living)
When the winds of change blow, I trust that God’s got my back. He’s got me covered. Even though I may not know the plan, God-Emmanuel, ever-present and all-knowing, certainly does. And I know that I, and all of my concerns, no matter how small, are dear to God.
And so, in the spirit of St. Ignatius, I pray:
Lord, I do not know where I am going or what you would have me do next, but I trust that you have a purpose for everything you do and that you are leading me to where you would like me to be.
I ask that you would give me the fortitude to follow you and the grace to trust you even though I do not know the way or what the future holds.
Send your Holy Spirit to guide and accompany me on the journey that you would have me follow so that my life may give greater glory to you always. Amen.