By Therese Benz
This past school year when I was a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame, a lot of people started to talk about applying to study abroad. Several of my friends were planning on it, and I thought to myself, “Why not? There’s no harm in filling out an application, plus studying abroad would probably be amazing.” So I applied. Then, lo and behold, I was accepted to the London program, and I thought to myself, “Oh! Well, I might as well accept, since London would be pretty cool and makes a lot of sense since I’m an English major.” So, I accepted. But as I approached the date of my departure, I slowly found that as I faced all the changes that living in London will demand, my desire to go, which was not exceptionally strong, began to dwindle. As person after person asked me, “Aren’t you excited to go to London?”, I have been forced to come to terms with the reality that I am not.
I do not even remotely suffer from wanderlust. In fact, I would probably be incredibly comfortable if my parents let me live in their basement for the rest of my life, and all I did there was read books. And so, when I start thinking about that, the idea of traveling about 3,500 miles to London seemed daunting, if not ridiculous. Why on earth am I going to London, especially when no one is forcing me to go?
I think that in life, we come upon many situations like this. Now you, dear reader, probably didn’t do something silly like decide to study abroad without thinking through your reasons for doing so, but there are many times when we come face to face with the opportunity to do something that we are sure will be good for us, and could possibly be be amazing for us, but we hesitate because we want to be comfortable. But as Pope Benedict XVI once said, “You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness”. And that is important to remember.
Whenever we come across these moments when we are approaching a dramatic change, whether that be going to a new school, moving away to college, or, goodness forbid, having to live in London, it’s important to recognize that in every moment and in every opportunity, there is a call from the Lord to draw nearer to Him and to learn to rely on Him more completely. Sometimes change is exactly what we need in order to learn how desperately we need Him, and when we approach these situations (or really, any situation in life at all), we have to recognize the call from Him. And each time we are called by Him, it’s also important to remember that we have the freedom to either accept His call and live it out, or to reject it and choose to continue living in mediocre comfort, and wallowing in our own pessimism. (As someone who all too frequently wallows in pessimism, I can assure you that for at least some people, that is not too harsh a statement).
So, as I settle into my new life in London, I need to recognize that in all the challenges and stresses that I will face as I learn to live there, I must trust that Jesus is going to take care of me in the practical things—like trying not to get lost in a city that has over 8 million people, balancing an internship, and traveling and taking classes without losing my sanity. But I also need to trust that He will take care of my heart—He will provide the comfort, companionship, and solace in a place that in many ways I would rather not be.
I don’t know how this whole study abroad adventure is going to turn out. I don’t know if learning to live in England is going to be a breeze, or if it’s going to be challenging for me. I don’t know if I’m going to make lots of new friends, or if I’m going to feel a little bit lonely while I’m there. I don’t know if I’m never going to get lost the entire time, or if I will end up in the wrong country at some point in my travels. Maybe I’ll come back from studying abroad and read over this and laugh because studying abroad was actually terrible, or maybe I’ll come back and read this over and cry because I want to go back so badly. However, no matter whether I love it or if I struggle a great deal, right now all I can control is my response to the Lord’s call. So I’m going to resolve to try my very best to place my anxiety and stress and worry in His hands, and if I continue to do that each day, then I will come back from London at least a little bit closer to Him, and honestly, I know that there is not anything else that I need.