Tabernacles, Too.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Personal photo

A year ago – on March 5, 2020 – I sat on this bench and stared at this church and took a photo just like this one, feeling something stir within me. I was visiting the Catholic University of America campus in Washington, DC, discerning enrollment in the university's PhD program in English in Fall 2020.

With ample spare time between lunch with a pair of current students and a meeting with the Director of Graduate Studies, I wandered into the campus library. As a visitor, I found the building map difficult to decipher and, in searching for the literature stacks, stumbled into the philosophy and religious studies reading room instead. Surrounded by so many motivated students, quietly toiling away in the study carrels before their spring break, I felt that I should read something, too – and that some extra prayers wouldn’t go amiss right then. So I pulled a lectionary off the shelves and flipped to the readings for Mass that upcoming Sunday: the second Sunday of Lent, Year A. The first reading explained how God called Abraham from his homeland to a land that the Lord would show him: away from all that felt familiar and comfortable.

I reflected on these words again at Mass the following Sunday, after returning home. Was the Lord calling me somewhere new?

Then, two days later, I sat with my friend Kat in the Colorado sunshine during our lunch break and shared with her all that was vying for attention in my discerning thoughts. “I just don’t know,” I said. “It would be such a big risk. How do I know if it’s the right one? And…” I hesitated to mention the part I was most nervous about, “what if I take the leap and God doesn’t catch me?”

Kat sighed thoughtfully – as she usually does before she’s about to drop some wisdom – and leaned back on the bench, stretching her legs out in front of her. “You know, I think we usually believe that we have to have all the answers before we can trust,” she said. “But trust is what happens when you jump. You build it in the not knowing. You build it when you allow Him to show up and catch you, moment by moment.”

We all know what happened after that. Three days after that conversation, we all jumped – every last one of us on this big blue planet. We didn’t know where we were going as coronavirus took hold of our hopes and dreams for the foreseeable future, and schools, venues, and restaurants closed in rapid succession. We were all called, like Abraham, to leave the familiar comforts of our homeland and journey to a place that God and God alone would show us, because goodness knows we were powerless to conceive of it.

It seemed so counterintuitive to look all this uncertainty squarely in the eye and add more uncertainty to it.

And yet. When the world got quiet, I could hear myself think. And more than that, I had created space for the still, small voice to speak to me. And God called me to leave my homeland and follow Him to Washington, DC.

So I did.

I wish I could offer some sort of resolution to the story, and say that after moving here, everything unfolded with ease and perfect understanding. But I left campus that day last March with more questions than I had answers, and I have them still. Trust is a dance I’m still learning to do, daily.

But here’s the thing I’m learning, a fact which isn’t a resolution but is maybe, at least, a promise:

If God is Mystery, then uncertainty is sacred. The not-knowing, the blurred vignettes of our daily existence: these are tabernacles, too. He is here. And as we are walking together, I am learning to trust Him so much more deeply than I would have if I had only stayed still in fear. Because trust is indeed built in the dark, but more than that, it’s built in companionship. And when I move without knowing, that’s when I allow God to show up by my side.

So I keep forging on. And because I know that He goes with me, I walk with confidence.



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