Something that most people don’t really know about me, is that I never used to be this overly quiet & reserved person who’s anxiety levels would rocket at the mere thought of being in a room full of people. Once upon a time, I actually thrived in that exact kind of environment. I was captain of my debate class, & leadership roles came as naturally to me as breathing. I was outgoing & bubbly to a fault, & I wouldn’t have thought twice about walking up to someone new to strike up a conversation. I was the type that if teachers noticed me roaming the halls, they would pull me into their classroom to help demonstrate a lesson plan- and being up in front of peers like that, was when I was really in my element.
But, life not always being made of sunshine & rainbows, the storms of life set in. Things happened. Bad decisions were made. Trust was broken. Deep, invisible, non-healing wounds formed & posed as a constant reminder of a suffering I didn’t quite understand. Not having any kind of relationship with God at the time & not knowing how to navigate the treacherous waters I suddenly found myself submerged in, things went from bad to worse, & that vicious cycle trickled into my adult life until I was unrecognizable, even to myself. I became a numb, hollow shell to the once vibrant, full-of-life person I had been. I spent years feeling like I was always swimming against an unrelenting tide & through a constant whirlwind of negative emotions that had me drowning in my own, self-induced personal sea of darkness. And the idea of people knowing how hurt, lost & alone I felt, terrified me even more than the suffocating emptiness that greeted me each day. I became so absorbed in that fear, that I began to build an invisible barrier as a weak attempt to mask my flaws & insecurities. And before I knew it, I completely isolated myself from everyone & everything. Avoidance had become my new normal & I was a far-cry from the energetic, extrovert I used to be.
Just an example of how far adrift I had become, if you fast-forward to a few years ago when I joined RCIA in the fall of 2013: I remember getting so excited about different topics of discussion, that I would subconsciously start responding. But, like every perfectly placed delayed reaction, it took me a moment to process that I was actually speaking in front of people & almost instantly, mid-conversation, I would start stumbling on my words to the point I couldn’t complete a coherent sentence. I would get so frustrated because I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t will myself to actually form the words. After some awkward attempts & nothing but inconsistent babble leaving my mouth, I would eventually just sigh, look down & give up. I would stop talking without even trying to finish. This is what I had become. And this was how many conversations went for me, & why I did my best to avoid talking to people.
Fast-forward again to the retreat last September, & that’s when things really started to turn back around for me. I had a really powerful experience during Friday night’s adoration & for the 1st time in a long time, I felt something ignite from deep within. Some key topics of the weekend were on prayer & discernment, which I took into Saturday evening’s adoration & left with a heavy sense that I needed to volunteer & get more involved in events within the Church. This idea absolutely terrified me. As ashamed as I am to admit, instead of having faith in His plan, I instantly started a mental check-list of all the reasons why there was no way I could do something like that: I can’t even talk to people! How am I supposed to be more involved!? Does He really know who I am, who He’s asking this of !? Well, much to my surprise, shortly after returning home from this retreat, I was talking to Adam via messenger about what another great weekend it was, etc. Before I know it (without even bringing it up), he casually mentions to not be surprised if I’m invited to be on the committee for the next one. Well, at this point, fears aside, with discernment confirmation at hand, it’s hard to deny the direction I’m supposed to take. So, here I am, getting ready to help on another retreat & the rest is history.
It’s no exaggeration when I say what a blessing these retreats have been in my life! Since helping on my first retreat this past February, & as much as I didn’t understand what it could mean for me at the time, I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given to get more involved! I know I have a long ways to go, but with each retreat & prayer service I’ve been to/helped on, little-by-little, the broken pieces I’ve kept closed off & hidden away are falling back into place, & the spark I never thought I would see again is slowly coming back to life… all as a direct result of going out of my comfort zone & taking the time to say yes to His call!
Living in such a crazy, busy world that offers so many distractions, it’s imperative we take the initiative to carve time out of our busy schedules to spend some quality one-on-one time with the Lord, to give Him thanks & just be in His presence. What better way to do that, than through a ready-made weekend dedicated to the Lord with fellow parishioners, where all you have to do is show up with an open heart? As we listen to personal, moving, relatable testimonies & have deep, meaningful conversations that take us from crying one moment, to laughing & having fun the next… it’s no wonder the friendships made at these retreats go beyond strengthening community bonds & creates more of a sense of family.
I can say with confidence & without a doubt, that I wouldn’t be where I am today & have experienced this much growth & healing if it weren’t for these retreats! If you’ve ever felt the call to attend, create the time, take that leap & come join us on the next one! You never know what the Lord has in store for you & you may not even understand why until down the road, but I do know you won’t be disappointed!