How Will I Maintain My Relationship With Christ and His Church After I Graduate?
FAITH Magazine is once again sponsoring a writing scholarship contest for Catholic high-school seniors in the Diocese of Lansing. The winner will receive a $1,000 check and have his or her essay published in the Young Catholics issue of FAITH in 2021. This year’s theme is: During the challenge of this pandemic year, where have you found God?
Please click on the link below for scholarship essay rules and due date. And enjoy last year’s winning essay below.
I must start off this essay with being 100%, completely honest with you: I personally have not experienced a one-on-one encounter with God. Have I had very strong spiritual urges during adoration, a conference, or Matt Maher’s song “Hold Us Together?” Absolutely. But have I had a big revelation where the heavens parted and God’s booming voice came down and told me the rest of my life story? Nope. Alright, I know that’s not how a usual conversation with God goes, but you get what I mean. I sometimes think to myself, “Is there something wrong with me? Did I miss a sign of communication? It’s the powerful, almighty Jesus Christ! Shouldn’t it be so obvious?” Well, let’s start from the very beginning.
I have been involved in the Church my entire life. Ever since I was little, weekly Mass, youth group activities like mission trips and conferences, and volunteering at multiple church events including fish fries and vacation bible school has always been a high priority in my faith life. I have met so many wonderful people and have had so many great experiences, but my faith journey has not been a simple walk in the park. I was always a pretty shy kid, which was very hard at times growing up next to my completely extroverted, totally outgoing sister. Going into freshman year, I was a bit of a shadow behind her; I knew I had massive shoes to fill. I remember walking into my first day of youth group completely overwhelmed. I didn’t really hang out with the kids that went to my church so I was very, very alone. I was a small fish in a vast sea. I dreaded going to youth group. I just didn’t feel as though I fit in. All of these people knew so much about themselves and their faith, and I had no idea. Yes, I knew all of the background, historical aspects of being a Catholic, but my relationship with God was very confusing to me. Not absent, just confusing. As I continued to attend every Sunday night, it got much easier. My awesome youth group adults, the fun games we played, and God himself made the transition into this new crew much smoother. Even though I may not have the extraordinary bond in my youth group that I see at other churches, I’m extremely thankful for the friends that God has given me.
As I was able to become more involved and comfortable, I was given the opportunity to attend Diocesan Youth Leadership Camp in the summer of 2018. Knowing my past, I honestly was not excited. DYLC had been hyped up so much during my life, especially by my sister who attended in 2016. I had heard the miraculous stories that people brought back with them of the newfound relationships they had with God and the lifelong friendships they made. But I wasn’t like them. I wasn’t this outgoing, bubbly person who could make friends with someone within the first 30 seconds of meeting them. I still went and it was an unforgettable trip. I did make many new friends and had a great time discovering more about my faith. But, still no encounter, though I think I may have been close.
There are many wonderful memories from that sunny week in late July, but there is one that really stuck with me. It was about the fourth day into camp. Each day, we took a small portion of time to reflect on what we had learned about previously that day. It was a time to think and to just be present with God. I was trying to focus, trying to talk to him. Naturally, after a few minutes, my mind wandered onto other things. I began looking around the room and something caught my eye. I couldn’t believe it. To the right of the front stage there was a tiny, wooden, cracked crucifix, barely 10 inches tall. In the exact moment that my eyes wandered onto that cross, a foot-by-foot block of sunlight was hitting directly onto that baby crucifix. I looked around to see if anyone was observing the incredible scene. I didn’t know how it was possible; the wall opposite to the cross had massive windows, so how was only the tiny, wooden, cracked crucifix getting beamed with sunlight? The priest told us our time was up, and we all got up and walked to dinner, like nothing happened. But then I realized, it didn’t happen to them, it happened to me.
I know. My story is mild and, quite frankly, pretty boring compared to all of the other miracles that God has given to us. But to me, someone who has never experienced a true “Jesus moment,” it was everything. While everyone else was deep in prayer, God recognized and matched the little shy girl who didn’t feel at home in her own faith life. He sent me a sign of reassurance. Of comfort. Of love. It was a sign to prove that he was truly present in my life. I was the tiny, wooden, cracked crucifix.
After that DYLC trip, I was not this completely changed, reborn person, but I gained a new vision into my faith life that was once foggy and blind to me. Of course, I still have my doubts; my mind is very science-based and I’m constantly asking why things are the way they are, and some biblical stories do not follow the reality of the world. But I am no longer questioning His existence, especially in my life. In college, I plan to expand my faith life by joining a church, a youth group, and traveling on missions to try to grow and flourish in my faith. One never truly knows what will happen to them, but I have full trust that God will take me where I am truly meant to be, a trust that I used to lack greatly.
If you are like me, and you are afraid that God does not see you, I am here to tell you something. No, there is nothing wrong with you. No, you did not miss a sign of communication from Him. And yes, it is the powerful, almighty Jesus Christ! He works absolute wonders and has defeated sin and death. He knows how to take care of you and what you need in your life. Don’t doubt your relationship with God just because you don’t physically hear his words in your ears. A lot of things in life are not obvious, but this one is. God loves you and will continue loving you for eternity. He will always be with you, even if you are just the shy little girl getting ready at the starting line of the faith journey, even if you are just the tiny, wooden, cracked crucifix. Trust me, the sun will shine.
The 2020 Father Charles Irvin Essay Contest Winner
Every year, FAITH awards a $1,000 scholarship to a high school senior in our diocese, based on an essay on a topic related to life in the Church. Our goal is to promote insightful thought and excellent writing, and to encourage careers in Catholic journalism. There are many ways to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, and good writing is one of them. We hope you enjoy this year’s essay by Abby Robbins, a member of St. Mary Parish in Chelsea.