It all started on a Sunday night, when I was doing my makeup in the bathroom of my dorm room. The door of the bathroom was open and I could hear my roommates talking, curled up in their various chairs, scraping the last bits of food off their plate as they talked about Korean dramas. Randomly, I heard my name in the conversation. I poked my head out of the bathroom: “Yeah?”
My roommate looked up from her phone. “Oh, I was just saying that it’s 6:30. Isn’t that when the church service starts?”
My heart started hammering. “Whoa, what? I thought it started at 6:45 and it takes at least fifteen minutes to get there. I was just about to leave.”
My roommate flipped her phone’s calendar towards me. “No, no it starts at 6:30.”
The reality sank in, and I suddenly didn’t feel well. In my life in general, I strive to be punctual; in the three jobs I’ve had, for example, I’ve only been late twice. But thanks to my family’s well-kept Sunday routine, I had never, ever been late to church.
“Oh no, have to leave right now!” I announced. My friends started to catch onto my growing anxiety as I ran to my room, frantically hunting for my shoes. “Hey, Sam, it’s okay, you don’t have to go.”
“Don’t worry about it so much!”
“Yeah, you can always go next week, right?”
Their kind words made me hesitate. Maybe I didn’t have to go. The church was still relatively new to me, so unlike my old church; my friends wouldn’t notice if I was gone. Plus, staying back at the dorm and eating food sounded a lot better than gunning it to church. The thought crossed my mind: It’s not that big of a deal.
In my mind, there are two dimensions of our faith lives-- one is principle, and the other is practice. Principle, is the things we believe in--our morals and the more head-knowledge part of our faith. Prior to this fateful Sunday night, I felt I was doing pretty well with the principles of my faith when faced with my new environment. For the past two weeks, I had been making friends who believed totally different things than I did, and for the first time, I had been explaining what God, prayer, and being love *cough cough* meant to me.
But, of course, it isn’t enough to just believe in things: you have to act on them too. Most importantly, you have to choose, even when things are hard or inconvenient, even when the things we choose seem small or insignificant. The choices we make every day stack on top of each other to create the lives we make, and thanks to free will, Jesus can only help us if we choose to let Him in.
So as I finally found one of my shoes, took a deep breath and told my friends. “No guys, I really need to go.”
“I guess I’ll go too then.” One of my roommates said, grabbing her jacket from the other room.
My other friend turned to me, confused. “But Sam, why do you have to go? Are your parents going to be upset?”
The temptation came back. You’re an adult. It’s all up to you now. In that second, I saw that the choice, for me, wasn’t so much about going to church or hanging out with my friends, but it was time spent with God or time not spent with God. And it all came down to me. My choice. My life.
“No,” I said. “My parent’s won’t be upset if I don’t go. I’m going to be upset.”
And for one of the first times in my life, I owned my faith. I chose God, and surprisingly, I didn’t feel a big rush of power, or a great sense of peace. Instead, I just speed-walked out of my dorm with my roommate, with temptations and doubts still lingering in my head. But my story doesn’t end there.
Even after I had made my choice, I was tormented by the thought that I was alone, even though one of my roommates was coming with me. There was no one who understood how deeply I felt about Jesus, there was no one who I could talk to about this, and most prevalent, there was no one at this church who would even recognize me, so why bother?
And yet, I walked into church at 6:45. My roommate and I shuffled into a seat she picked out and we sat through the remainder of the homily. As we stood up for the next part of the Mass, I noticed that just three rows ahead of me was one of our youth ministers from my old parish. I smiled a little. At the sign of peace, a voice behind me said, “Hey, Sam!” and I turned to see sitting directly behind me, two BLR revolutionaries to shake my hand at the sign of peace. As if that wasn’t enough, as I was waiting for communion I saw a friend from my old parish walk up to the front of the church with her dad. Tears came to my eyes. Just as the cock crowed three times after Peter’s denial of Jesus, I could feel Jesus recognizing and eliminating my doubts. I could feel my choice being affirmed. Over and over, I could feel Jesus saying to me, “You belong, You belong, You belong.”
Today, BLR ladies (and gents, if you’re reading) I challenge you to choose as I did. Choose faith, choose love, choose hope and choose Jesus. Own your faith, even if it’s in the tiniest way. Even if you’re not in a phase of life yet, like college, where there are tons of choices to be made, you can practice by making little choices, until the big ones come along. Jesus knows the hesitation, doubts, and anxieties you feel, and He will reward it, even if it isn’t obvious right away.
Still, no one’s going to make you do it. At the end of the day, it’s all up to you.
Are you going to own it?