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Responding to God’s call

Scott Boyle | Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A few weeks ago, my family travelled to Colorado for vacation. Not a big deal, on the surface; many families take vacations, after all. For my family, however, this was a different sort of vacation.

You see, for the first time in five years, me, my two brothers and my Mom and Dad were all in the same place, together, for an extended period of time. Outside the range of cell phone towers and internet service, we left behind swim meets, rowing regattas and work responsibilities, commitments that had consumed much our time and taken us away from one another.

Here, we were really present. It wasn’t long, however, we began to realize how distant we had grown from each other.

We were out of sync, and nobody listened. Everybody had different ideas for what the vacation should look like, what we should do and how we should do it. Some of us wanted to hike and go fast, others wanted to bike and go slow. Feelings were hurt, and people got mad. And this was only the first day.

The disagreements reached their peak in a hotel room in Vail. After a couple of hours of this, however, it became clear we were getting nowhere. Unbeknownst to us, these disagreements regarding vacation plans were masking our true feelings, insecurities and hurts that had built up from years of emotional and physical distance.

All of a sudden, my brother Steven blurted out: “I never told you this, Scott, but when you left for college, I was really sad. I went in my room and cried.” We all stopped. His vulnerability cut through our tension. I never knew my brother felt that way about me. For all I knew, I didn’t think he even cared when I left for Notre Dame. Tears immediately welled up in my eyes.

It was in that moment I realized I had played a big role in all of this.  I had not known (or even thought to ask) how Steven might feel because I had not taken the time to care. Swept up in everything I had going at Notre Dame, I had not only neglected him, but my whole family as well. I had taken the very people who had been my support for granted.

As we talked more, however, it became clear I was not alone. All of us realized we had forgotten the family at some point during those five years. We had all become so absorbed by our passions and interests we could not say, “I know you and I love you” to one another.  

Our disagreements about vacation were ineffective attempts to brush that fact aside. We had lost touch with each other, and we were paying the price.

In the movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II,” Albus Dumbledore makes a poignant observation: “Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” Led by Steven’s example, the very words that had previously divided us became the source of our openness and our transformation.

As we shared what was in our hearts, we were transported to depths we had not traversed in a long, long time. Our own walls came down, and there, in that cramped hotel room, we brought years of unshared feelings out of the darkness and into the light.  We realized how much we longed for that love from one another.  And slowly but surely, we journeyed back to the magical reality we had been longing for: love.

But this is just the beginning.  We are recommitting ourselves to making that reality of love more fully present in our family. For me, that began when my brother Steven helped me to realize we never really stopped loving one another. We had just simply chosen to turn away from it for a time.

And this struggle can be, I think, the same with God. Although we sometimes take Him for granted and turn away, God’s love, the fundamental reality of our lives, is always there waiting.  

Isaiah 43:1 reminds us of this: “I have called you by name; you are mine.” It is just up to us to respond to that call.

No matter what I do, I belong to my family. I am made more complete because of their love.  

But it is in God that we are drawn to our ultimate completeness and glory. In him, the triumph of love is celebrated. We just have to play our part, recognizing we have choices to accept or reject that love.

But we must not take God’s love for granted.  We must rather always act to make it manifest in our own families – and the world.

Scott is a graduate of Notre Dame and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Theology through the Echo program. He can be reached at sboyle2@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.