The Challenge of Love, a CBC Times Special Edition

Hello CBC! It has been amazing to watch the CBC community grow into new cities across the country as well as online. I get to hear awesome stories of faith and friendship from the city coordinators and it is inspiring to see God’s love work through the challenges before the world. May God Bless and Protect you all.

-Derek Roush, President Catholic Beer Club

Sprint lays off 2,500, Microsoft to lay off 18,000. Sorry Derek, we are going to have to let you go.

It is an all too common headline these days and a painful experience for the individuals and families affected by them. In January I was laid off from my position as a Project Manager in Kansas City with a small construction company. It was a great job for an engineering graduate right after college. I had a great paycheck, big responsibilities, an awesome apartment; the whole package. The company was struggling though and the young guy is the first one out the door when the budget starts to shrink. I knew right away that I wanted to find something better. It really was a great job, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was an awesome opportunity just waiting for me somewhere. So began the challenge of love for me. My desire to follow this “tug” was doing battle with the fear and insecurity created by this new void in my life.

We all have these voids that seem to keep us from being happy. My void was not having a job, but they can be anything. Lord if I could just have this awesome job life would be amazing! Jesus why did my car have to break down today? If it would just work life would be so much better! Family members with an illness, a romantic relationship, your apartment being broken into, a loved one passing away, or friends moving. Everyone can relate to this experience, but is it the void causing us to be unhappy or is that just our perception?

We all also have these “tugs” in our daily lives. Not just desires or wants, but thoughts that clearly stick out in our minds, movements of the Holy Spirit calling us to action. This could be as simple as introducing yourself to a new person at a social event who looks like they could use a friend. It could also be something much bigger like getting engaged or joining the seminary. The Holy Spirit inspires us forward in these large and small tasks every day in our common vocation, to love our neighbor. There is always a way out by ignoring this though. The great challenge is do we follow these tugs on our heart from God which can only lead us on the path of love or do we allow the fear of being rejected, despair, and frustration from the voids that appear cause us to move away from love.

I love to wrestle with God. I fight him every time something “goes wrong”. Each time I wrestle him though, I am always subdued to trust him. And as soon as I do, I have learned he will pour his grace into my soul. I always learn something new from these experiences and this journey to find a new job was no exception. I could not shake this feeling that something perfect was out there and that I wasn’t going to be satisfied until I found it. So I promised myself I wouldn’t take just any job, I was going to follow this tug wherever it was going to take me.

I spent the next six  months looking for the job and every single day new voids appeared in my life. I had a decent savings fund, but in January and February alone my roommate got married and moved out doubling my rent, my laptop died, my car decided it was going to find every possible way to break, a loved one had brain surgery, and my apartment was broken into. Most of these things happened during Lent quite appropriately, but I learned one of the most valuable spiritual lessons of my life through all of it .

The voids created when things go wrong are oxygen for our souls.

In the same way a fire needs space for oxygen to fuel the flame, God was opening up space in my heart so that I can truly be a reflection of his light to the world. God opens up these voids every day for us in the empty milk carton keeping you from eating cereal this morning, your Friday evening plans not working out how you wanted, or your boss calling you into his office to let you go from your job.

I woke up to a flat tire in February and every part of me wanted to be mad at this new void. I felt every right to be angry this had happened, but I was never happy when I got mad or frustrated at these things. It happened so often those two months I started to notice a pattern. I learned the real challenge with love is simply making the choice not to fill these voids with distractions.

I decided to stop distracting myself from filling the void. Instead of responding to these things with a wrestling match, I did my best to trust and accept. In late February when my apartment was broken into I just let that void be, not trying to fill it with anger, frustration, Netflix, a night of blowing off steam in downtown KC, or any other distraction. This time I just accepted the situation and God resided in my emptiness. The temptation for me was to respond somehow or to figure it out or to connect with God through my own efforts, but I didn’t do any of those things. The results were awesome.  Encountering his presence in this void was so encouraging, so uplifting, I wanted to allow this to happen every time any other void made its way into my life.

Full disclosure; I failed too many times to count. I’ll say it again; I love to wrestle with God. Fortunately, we have a Father who loves us and he made up for my deficiencies with his patience and abundant grace. All we have to do is accept His challenge of Love every day.

Then Jesus told his disciples, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
— Matthew 16:24

March-June were filled with numerous interviews and despite my optimism the thorn in my side of not finding anything was tearing me down further and further. I remember meeting with a priest in spiritual direction after about five  months of following this “tug” and him saying I should look at finding any job at this point “because chasing the dream is important, but hard to do when you are dead”. This practical obligation to provide well for myself was a wakeup call so I decided to open up my search from the dream job to the next thing that fit my skill set. Despite the wisdom, I just didn’t have any peace with this.

I had found several amazing opportunities where I could have been very successful, but the door closed on all of them in the final stages of interviews. By the time June rolled around I had hit my breaking point. I prayed a very desperate novena to St. Cajetan, patron saint of the unemployed, specifically asking to get what I thought was the perfect job in front of me at the time or to find another one like it. On the very last day of the novena I had a conversation with the person who connected me to the amazing job I have now.

I don’t have the words to describe how intricately these six months of trial paved the way for this job and how much of a blessing it is to have this opportunity. It brought me to tears realizing I wasn’t crazy and listening to this “tug” instead of filling the daily voids had led me on a pathway I could never have found on my own. For six months I questioned whether God was leading me somewhere through this void he created. Six months of friends and family wondering what I was doing wrong. Six months of painful detachment from the things in my life that were getting in the way of growing even closer to Christ. Six months of wondering if I should settle instead of following this tug on my heart that I could not subdue. And six months of fighting “my failure to find a job”. I wanted to quit so many times, and almost did on multiple occasions, but God always picked me up.

God doesn’t work on our time, he simply asks us for a yes. Especially the desperate yes when we want to give up. I promise you the challenge you are facing will make you wait too long, make you wonder if you made the right choice, and yes, even doubt God. I promise you will feel like you have more than you can handle, new voids will appear in your life daily, and you will fail over and over again.  However, I will also promise you it is worth it to persevere in trust through all of this.  

I beg you, do not distract yourself from the void he creates. Don’t try to convince yourself to settle. Don’t subdue that tug. It is painful to let yourself fully feel your desire for your vocation, a job, a friend, or any new blessing in life.  You have two options when those sparks hit. Disregard it, convince yourself it is impossible and learn to live without it or have complete faith in his providence especially when it looks like it won’t work.  Let him lead you and be the oxygen for your soul. If you let him lead you on his “way of the cross” you will find true Joy that is above and beyond any “distraction” you can think of to fill the voids in your life.

The voids are necessary footsteps that God is using to lead you forward. The six months of these voids taught me to trust in his love through that suffering just as much as I do in the good times. We just have to follow the “tug” from the Holy Spirit and our faith will be rewarded. I know this feeling and I know without a doubt God is going to bless this new endeavor. All I had to do was give Him my yes!

It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.
— Saint John Paul II


God Bless!