Into the Desert: A Story of Discernment

Most years I am excited for Lent. Maybe I am a hardcore Catholic whose favorite pastimes include fasting and not eating bacon on Fridays. More than likely, I’m just lazy and need a good kick in the butt every once in awhile. However, this year was different. Why? Because I have felt like I’ve been living in the desert for the past six months. (No pun intended since I have literally been living in the high desert of Oregon)

I graduated in July and on August 1st and flew to my new job and life where I accepted a position as Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Diocese of Baker. I thought once I got here I would have a perfect life, find a woman to marry, and start a family. Don’t get me wrong; I have loved my time here. But something seemed off, and I slowly came to realize that the problem was not with anything around me, but the problem was with my heart.

I was not at peace. I was restless. I thought the problem was that I hadn’t found a woman I could share my life with. So in my search for what I thought was truly going to fulfill me, I traversed into the scary world of online dating.

It was brutal. Apparently the ideal date for most people on the Internet consists of smoking a joint, making out, and half watching a movie on Netflix. When a girl starts smoking a joint in your car on the way to a movie, there is a bit of a problem. Yes, this actually happened! Now I’m not bashing online dating, and I know many people have found happiness through this form of dating, but it was not for me.

I had joy in my job and community, but deep down I was depressed, restless, broken, and scared. Finally, I went to the chapel and let God have it. I asked Him all the things were welling up in my heart and begged for an answer…and He was silent! I didn’t hear anything. I left that chapel feeling even more worried about the future.

Finally, after doing this night after night, I realized the problem. I was asking the wrong questions. I was so concerned with finding happiness that I wasn’t asking God what His will for me was. I guess I didn’t fully believe that God wanted what was best for me. One of my favorite quotes is from Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete. He said:

“The only temptation we face on this earth is the temptation to believe that God does not want to fulfill the deepest desires of our hearts.”

If I’m honest, I didn’t trust that God wanted to fulfill my deepest desires. I never once asked Him if He wanted me to get married, I just assumed. Once I realized I was asking God the wrong questions I did the hardest thing I’ve ever done with God; I entered into the desert of my heart.

This happened over a few months and was very uncomfortable. A good priest friend of mine told me to never enter into my heart alone; always go with God. So I did, and I started to discover things about myself I never knew. I have always been a huge physical touch person. God began to show me my desire for communion was rooted in the spiritual aspect of my personhood, and physical affection was only an outlet. St. John Paul II said:

“It is not sexuality which creates in man and woman the need to give themselves to each other, but, on the contrary, it is the need to give oneself, latent in every human person, which finds its outlet… in physical and sexual union, in matrimony. But the need… to give oneself to and unite with another person is deeper and connected with the spiritual existence of the person. It is not finally and completely satisfied simply by union with another human being. Considered in the perspective of the person’s eternal existence, marriage is only a tentative solution of the problem of a union of persons through love.”

I realized why I was unhappy. I was basing all my happiness on finite things instead of Christ. Unexpectedly, I started to become less scared of the single life and open to God’s call in my life.

During this time I was preparing several talks on Theology of the Body and going over lectures from past teachers. Everything I read spoke to me. St. John Paul II begins Theology of the Body talking about the original solitude of Adam and how through this solitude Adam figured out the deepest truths about who he was and realized the fundamental vocation of his heart to love another. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. (CCC 357)”

I was starting to gain more self-knowledge and through that, I realized my call to communion with others. But this desire in my heart for love wasn’t necessarily a physical desire for another in a relationship.

This all came to a head one night praying in the chapel and hearing the Lord calling me to become a priest. It wasn’t a huge realization or vision or even a tangible voice. It was simply a stirring in my heart asking me to look into it. And since that night, my life has not been the same.

I would never have come to this place if it weren’t for the months of time in the desert of my heart with the Lord. I emerged knowing more about who I was and how I was called to love. I hope this Lent you can find the courage to enter into the desert of your heart with God and see what He desires for you. I can promise that there will be times it will hurt, but you will not be disappointed.


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About the Author

Tommy Schultz

Tommy is the Director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Baker, OR. As an experienced speaker on all things Catholic, he has addressed thousands of teens and young adults on topics such as the Sacraments, chastity, and boldly living the Catholic faith. He has given many talks and hosted retreats across the nation. He is currently working on Novo, which is a Theology of the Body based recovery program for those suffering from pornography addiction. He is also a founder of the Corpus Christi Theology of the Body campus organization at Franciscan University. After much discernment he will be applying to become a Franciscan Friar, TOR, in the fall. You can find out more at

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