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From panic to Providence

Scott Boyle | Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It’s not often that I get discouraged. I tend to think of myself as a pretty happy, upbeat guy. I enjoy life and the people in it. But Monday was one of those days when it was hard to see the light.

Everything was okay on the outside. It was a beautiful fall day, and I had just returned home to one of my favorite things in the entire world: food. The smell of homemade chili wafted through the house, buoyed by a breeze that carried not only the aroma of slowly cooked potatoes, beans, tomatoes and chilies but also the unmistakable crispness that made it clear fall was upon me.  

I almost couldn’t move. It was that much sensory overload. I could have started charging admission to see the Niagara Falls gushing through my throat as my salivary glands promptly began production.

Composing myself, I practically glided towards dinner. But as I traveled towards our dining room, my giddiness was replaced by a deep heaviness and feelings of unresolved questions that overwhelmed my mind and my heart.

All of this caught me by surprise, especially after a great first month in Indianapolis. I have had the opportunity to work at a school and parish I love. I live in an intentional faith community that teaches me more about myself each and every day. And I get to do all of this while working on my masters degree in theology at ND. Yet all of those good things could not hold the heaviness of the questions that weighed upon me. Without prompting, like floodwaters busting through a dam, the questions came crashing down, one right after the other: “How will I juggle four different areas of responsibility? How will I maintain the stamina to give myself to these parts of my life while still taking time for myself and those people who are closest to me? Will I be able to do a good job with all of these obligations? How will I live up to people’s expectations of me?”

As I looked deeper, however, my surprise turned to recognition and realization. I had encountered these types of feelings before. I realized that my feelings were only a surprise because I had grown out of touch with myself. That is to say, in all of the activity, meetings, dinners, studying and work I had allowed to consume my time in that first month, I had not given myself the space to examine how I was really doing or what I was really feeling. I had not taken the time to deal with the questions and thoughts that had been lying and lurking beneath the surface of my heart.

One thing was clear, though: Doubt and uncertainty, some old familiar friends of mine, were paying me visits once again. But later that evening, I heard these words from Saint Mother Théodore Guérin: “We are not called upon to do all the good possible, but only that which we can do … You may have to wait longer than you would like, you may have to bear privations; but, bear and forebear. Have confidence in the Providence that, so far, has never failed us. The way is not yet clear. Grope along slowly. Do not press matters; be patient, be trustful.”
Have confidence in the Providence that so far has never failed us.

It occurred to me that up to that point, I had placed “confidence” in one place only: myself. My busy schedule had become the measure of who I was and the good I was doing. On the outside, I was only dissatisfied because I was not “doing” enough. But in reality, I realized I was unhappy because I was fearful of the reality I would encounter once I took the time to face those questions and vulnerabilities lingering deeper in my heart.  

But we never need to face these questions alone. I had forgotten God’s providence and thus forgotten this truth. I had simply not made the time to acknowledge that it was God who could provide me with not only the strength to confront my questions, but also the strength to face and wrestle with the answers.

In Deuteronomy 31:6 we read: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread … for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”  The struggles and doubts of our lives will never go away. But neither will God. God will be always with us, giving us the strength and the grace to stand and face our difficult realities.  

We must be patient, though. We must be trusting. If we are, God will help us to live into those difficult moments, and we will become the people he called us to be.

Scott Boyle is a graduate of Notre Dame and intern in the Office of Campus Ministry. 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.