Updated: Oct 19
I still remember the phone call, though I can’t tell you exactly what was said on the other end. I can tell you it was late into my last Thanksgiving break before I graduated undergrad when the phone rang. I answered with excitement, shooting up on the couch I had been laying on, only to hang up the phone, numb. I had said yes to being a FOCUS missionary, and God said no.
For those of you who don’t know, FOCUS is a Catholic missionary group made up of mostly post-college young adults that ministers to college campuses through hosting bible studies and developing meaningful friendships/mentorships with students. Their recruitment slogan: “What if you said yes?”
I loved the missionaries at my college, and I wanted to bring Christ to others and help people the way the missionaries had helped me. I had no real back-up plan. I felt sure that if I said yes to God in this extreme way, sacrificing being close to my family and boyfriend, then how could God say no? If you had asked me back then if I felt like it was God’s will for me to be a FOCUS missionary, I would have said yes.
But I was wrong. And that crushing reality sent me spiraling into a period of doubt and self-hate. I felt like I wasn’t enough, and I doubted everything I thought that God told me through prayer. How could I say yes to serving God, and he say no? I can remember laughing bitterly at the FOCUS SLS conference I attended just a few short months later, where happy smiling missionaries talked about how they said yes and God worked so many wonders in their life because of it.
Flash forward today, and I know why God said no. I’m married with our first born on the way, and I have a wonderful job that’s helping me get my masters. Yet, a bit of that bitterness has stayed with me. I still see FOCUS’s recruitment ads and feel a bit of disdain at their slogan.
Why wasn’t I good enough for this mission?
But it wasn’t that I wasn’t "good enough" to be a missionary, it’s that God wanted me to say yes to a different mission. And I was saying no, or, at the most, a stubborn fine. I knew this was the case deep down. It’s the mentality that used to drive me away from marriage. Surely being a nun or sister would please God the most, right? Only those extreme acts of love and self-sacrifice are good enough. But now, I am beginning to realize that these little every day unseen acts of love are just as beautiful to God.
This concept isn’t anything new, of course. St. Thérèse of Lisieux is known for her little way. I’ve been drawn to this little way and her lovely writing style since I picked up “The Story of A Soul.” One of my favorite quotes from her memoire is, “I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would lose its springtide beauty, and the fields would no longer be enamelled with lovely hues.” I wanted to be the rose. I wanted to be the most beautiful flower in the garden.
But, as Thérèse points out, being something other than a rose, or a lilly, doesn’t mean I’m not important. It doesn’t mean my vocation is not beautiful. It just means it’s different. And just because I said yes to marriage and living a simple, uneventful life doesn’t mean God doesn’t see me or that I’m not enough for him. It just means he has other plans for me. Humbler plans.
Some people are called to say yes to big sacrifices, but we also need married couples who work everyday to grow closer to Christ, people who share their faith with their non-catholic friends in little humble ways, and employees willing to love their co-workers even when it’s hard. This is the little way St. Thérèse talked about. And this is the humble yes God has called me to.
Elizabeth is a cradle Catholic, an English master’s student, a wife to a Catholic convert, a mother-to-be, and an office manager at a local university’s writing center. With all that, life is anything but boring for this Alabama native. She can be frequently caught sitting outside listening to the rain and thunder, writing fiction for fun, or reading her favorite fantasy author. She has a blog, but she has put it on hold for the moment while she finishes her master’s degree.