I Had No Idea
Two years ago, in August 2018, the Holy Spirit started stirring something within me. After spending my whole life as a faithful Catholic without giving any real consideration to the issue of sexual abuse in my Church, I suddenly could not ignore this ugly reality. I couldn’t stop reading about it, thinking about it, praying about it. It didn’t feel like a choice; it felt like a fire burning within me that could not be ignored.
But in December 2018, after months of wrestling and weeping and crying out to God, I did make a choice - to go all-in, to face the whole ugly truth, to take a step into something new. I left my job in parish ministry, launched this blog, and opened myself to whatever would come next.
I felt confident that this was what God was asking of me. I felt brave and determined.
I had no idea what I was saying yes to.
I had no idea how deeply my heart would be broken. I had no idea the ways I would be changed. I had no idea what I would lose - or what I would gain.
If I had known the horrific stories and painful secrets I would carry... the ways I would feel betrayed by and separated from my beloved Church... how often I would feel completely overwhelmed by the work to be done...
If I had known all of that, I'm not sure I would have been able to say yes. I don't know if I would have had the courage.
But maybe that’s how it always works - We say yes to God, mostly ignorant of what that yes will mean. When I said yes to marriage, and then to children, I was young and naive and couldn’t image how difficult (and beautiful!) that path would be. When Mary said yes to the angel Gabriel, I doubt she had a clear picture of the way that yes would shape her life and break her heart.
Of course, when I get too wrapped up in my own broken heart, I remember that the sorrow and anger and upheaval I have felt is only a tiny fraction of what is experienced by those who have been abused. I know that their pain is not something I can ever fully understand.
I also know that a small circle of survivors have become some of my closest friends - and the people I admire most in the world. I had no idea that was coming either. Their friendship has been the most beautiful unexpected grace made possible by my yes.
It has been a summer of change for our family. Like everyone else, we’ve been grappling with the impact of a global pandemic and discerning how to respond to racial injustice in our country. We sold our home of 15 years and moved to an apartment on the other side of town. We left our beloved long-time parish and found a new church home. Our older son graduated from high school and will move out and start college soon. Our younger son finished eighth grade and just began his freshman year of high school. My husband took on a new position at the non-profit organization where he works, and I was named executive director of Awake Milwaukee. To top it all off, I spent last week in the hospital for surgery to remove kidney stones! It’s been... a lot.
In the midst of all of this, I have been trying to pay attention to where God is leading me. To be honest, it’s been hard to settle my mind and heart enough to really listen. Mostly, what I sense is a gentle urging to just keep moving forward in faith and hope, to trust the call I received two years ago, to keep facing painful truths and asking hard questions, to keep loving the people that Jesus has placed on my path. For now, I think that this still, small voice will have to be enough.
When I set out on this road, I had no idea what I was saying yes to. But today, in spite of everything that has happened since, because of everything that has happened since, I say yes once again. Will you join me?
Jesus, I trust in you.
Take, Lord, and receive
all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will,
all I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
- St. Ignatius of Loyola