The quote that marked my later high school and early college years was, “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself.” It’s from George Bernard Shaw. At seventeen, I knew this was it. I had a reversion to the faith and I was challenged in how I wanted to live my life and how I wanted to just be. I spent my junior and senior years of high school unlearning what I thought to be true about myself. I let myself dream and I created the person I was into who I knew myself to be. It was the most liberating experience and those years were pretty formative for me. The best part of it all was that my faith became deeply rooted in my heart as I began to search for the Truth I had initially found in the Catholic Faith.
Going into college, I had the opportunity to actually do anything. When I saw the ideal of freedom, I jumped at the chance to pursue it. In the quest of creating myself, I could choose to sin or not. I did. I could also choose to do things that would skate the line of moral and immoral. I would do both. And while the freedom felt amazing, there was always an emptiness that would grow.
After I engaged in things that were sinful or immoral. It could be a little thing like saying something hurtful to someone I love or something bigger, like abusing illegal substances and drinking underage. Both cases are pretty bad and both would make that emptiness grow. But when I engaged in my faith, service to my community, or ministry on my campus, the emptiness would get smaller and I would feel more complete.
After my years of living up in the clouds, I came to the reality that there was something deeper under the surface. My sins or my wounds were places where I would try to satisfy a desire out of order. And living into my faith and falling in love with Christ helped me recognize that my desires were good and could become rightly ordered if I let Jesus into them. I decided to sit with that in prayer and let the Lord speak.
Called to Return
“Return” has been a word that keeps coming up in my own prayer. To return means to go back to a place or person. I’ve come to know now, that those years of “creating myself” were actually just a return to the person I was called to be by God: beloved and free. For many years before that, I had lived in a mindset of “I have to be intelligent, funny, deep but not too deep, skinny, on top of my stuff, etc.” It was exhausting. But because I am loved, I only have to rejoice in my belovedness. And because I am the beloved, I am free. Our freedom is something that is gifted to us from the beginning, it is never lost just forgotten. Most times we are the ones who trap ourselves in the mindset of how our lives have to look and be.
The call Christ has for us in our lives is to return to Him and in our return to Him, we return to ourselves — we become who He created us to be. It may take a few falls and coming face to face with our own humanity and brokenness, but little by little, we find that Christ illuminates the true desires of hearts. And in that comes true freedom to always choose the good.
Called to Freedom
A life of liberation is what I seek in my own adventure with Christ. One where I can no longer be held down by the weight of the world and those desires that left me empty, but I can be lifted up to new heights with Jesus. This ideal I understood as freedom, transitioned into a standard of new life. With this realization of true freedom and as passionate Catholics, we now have a responsibility to engage and interact with the world in a way that aligns with who we are as well as honors our Faith and our Father. How do we get there? Gaudium et Spes a Church document about the Church’s existence in the modern world says, “Christ fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (22). Looking to Christ gives us the answer we need.
Called to be like Christ
One of my favorite things about Jesus is His consistency. His character is never in question. He lives His whole life following after the Father, there is no question of His faithfulness. Jesus calls sinners to Himself, He heals every person who asks, He proclaims the Kingdom of heaven, He encounters people as they are and transforms them by His love. In the same way, we too are called to be consistent. Our lives should be an example of what it means to be faithfully Catholic. As the Universal Church, we are called to be inclusive, joyful, service-oriented, mission-minded, and collectively individual.
Even though the George Bernard Shaw quote has a nice sound to it, there is far more truth in the journey of returning to the person God meant for us to be. In high school, I wanted to return to the person God called me to be and it was a good foundation. Even though I didn’t want to lose that in college, my actions caused me to lose sight of my true identity for a little bit of time. Looking back I can see that the core desire I was seeking, was a sense of belonging. The Lord called me to liberation by showing me that he would provide a group of people who supported a healthy lifestyle and were still so much fun. Our joy was rooted in the joy of Jesus and life felt more full because of it.
After we’ve begun the journey of returning to ourselves, we are invited to live like Jesus. My invitation has looked like a life rooted in mission and service work, serving communities of people who are overlooked, are living in poverty, and are in a beautiful place to receive grace. Jesus has called me to the South Bronx, NY, my college in Mobile, AL, and to the North GA mountains. The invitation can be a little scary, we only have to keep our eyes on Jesus as a model for consistency.
Where are the desires in your own heart that are fundamentally good, but are a little out of whack right now? How and where is the Lord calling you to a life of liberation and freedom? And how are you being called to live like Jesus? Remember, it is about returning, freedom, and a life that follows after Christ. The joy of this process is that it forms us to live our lives in a way that fully embraces our individuality and follows after Him. With these things ingrained in how we live, we can continue to grow more fully into the person we are meant to become.