Over the past few months my relationship with the Lord has been a big struggle. I had been feeling very frustrated because I had not been getting any sign of Him being present in my life. Prayer was dead and I had nothing fueling me with the joy I had when I was coaching football at Holy Spirit Preparatory School earlier in the year. So I had this idea creeping into my mind a lot of just packing my bags, going home and not finishing out the rest of this year that I had committed to Life Teen Missions. I started to pray into this idea and eventually I just gave up and checked out of the mission in Atlanta. I kept thinking about things that I could be doing back home like getting an actual job, going back to school and working towards a degree, and jumping back into life at my home parish in Clearwater, FL. These things enticed me to the point where I was telling people back home that I was sure I would be coming home within the month.
I went back home for Christmas break and the desire to stay just continued to grow. Being around my family and friends again and my home parish for Mass started to solidify my idea of staying. I even told some of my mission partners back home that I would be back soon. My break was almost up but I was Blessed to be able to go on a mission trip to General Cepeda, Mexico from January 1st – January 10th and here is really where things started to take another turn. I had been seeking out advice on this whole situation and had been trying to pray into the advice I had received. Mexico made it so easy for me to enter back into prayer. Whether it was praise and worship, silent prayer in the chapel, or a book I had been given called “Dangerous Wonder”, I felt like my relationship with the Lord was starting to get better and I could actually hear what He was trying to say to me. After the mission trip I was blessed to drive home from Houston back to our base in Atlanta because it gave me more time to pray about things and get some more advice. My missionary brother Erik, his wife Bridget, their baby Theresa and I were driving along the interstate when the conversation came up. He had known where I was in my discernment and just wanted to ask some questions. He also felt the need to affirm me (and those that know me know I don’t do well with affirmations). His advice and affirmation had me questioning my thoughts. However, I was trying so hard to stick to my decision of going home that even after the conversation we had in the car I woke up the next day still telling myself I was going home.
It’s now Sunday and I had informed my community the night before that I was most likely going home. The whole Life Teen Community of staff and missionaries were going to be going on a retreat together down in Florida the next day and I wanted to try and use this retreat to give the Lord a couple more days to make things clear for me. I was told by our mission director that this was not an option and that I had to make a decision by that night, explaining to me the retreat wasn’t set up as a discernment type of retreat. The things he told me made complete sense but I was not excited to have to make a final decision. I prayed for God to make it clear to me what I should do and was excited for the opportunity to go to Mass. Angela, Vince and I were heading to Mass and God must have thought, “Now is the time to start laughing at Joe.” The first song that came up on the way to Mass was “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz and they looked over at me in the car laughing saying, “Joe, did you hear that?” I quickly changed the station. The Lord wasn’t done yet. The next song was called “Revelation” by Third Day and the lyrics that really had me going said, “Give me a revelation, show me what to do Cause I’ve been trying to find my way, I haven’t got a clue. Tell me should I stay here or do I need to move, give me a revelation”. By this time all three of us were laughing hysterically and God decides He’s still not done. A brief commercial they played ended with a song by Toby Mac called “Me Without You” and the part that was played said, “I’ll be packing my bags when I need to stay.” I couldn’t help but laugh walking into the Youth Room at the church only to see a painting of laughing Jesus hanging on the wall.
I made the decision to stay because of the advice I had been given, the idea of being a man of my word and letting my “yes mean yes and my no mean no” (Mt 5:37), being taunted by Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”, and the confirmations the Lord was making. I could keep going with ways the Lord clarified His plan for me but it could take up another page. If you really want to know the rest email me at [email protected] and I’d be happy to share it with you. His plans are always better than our own even if we at times do not agree with them. Will you let Him be the author of your life or will you just keep trying to write it yourself?