Here I am Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.
That song. That DANG song.
I can still remember sitting in the pew during the closing Mass of my FOCUS interview Weekend, with tears streaming down my face. How did I get to this point? Was I actually considering becoming a Catholic missionary?
“Just go to interview weekend,” they said. “It’ll be fun!” they said.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
The choir seemed to be belting every word directly at me, as I thought, How DARE you allow them to sing this song, FOCUS!
I thought it would be an easy “no.”
I thought I wasn’t qualified.
I thought I already had a plan.
I left my interview weekend knowing that I was going to have to make one of the biggest decisions of my life. And all I wanted to do was hide under a box.
The weekend prior to my FOCUS interview, I auditioned in front of 70 representatives from graduate schools across the U.S. and the U.K. for theatre performance programs. I studied theatre in college and had dreamed of pursuing acting professionally for the past eight years. I did well in school, and I was told that I could easily make a career out of it if I put in the work. Graduate school was the next step.
The audition went very well, and later that week, I was one of 10 Americans accepted into an international graduate acting program in England. Let me clarify: This was a two-year program with the opportunity to perform in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. It was everything I ever wanted.
That same week, I got a call from FOCUS offering me a spot as a missionary.
That’s a no brainer, Emily! Right??
Wrong. What the heck was happening to me?
I felt like the prodigal son, and the Lord was throwing me a welcome back party I did NOT deserve. I had been far from my faith for the majority of my college career, and finding the Lord amidst all of my wanderings was blessing enough. I’d never felt more honored — or more confused — in my entire life.
Everyone I talked to shared their opinions on what they thought I should choose. And I kept going back and forth.
But I think I knew my true side on that day in the pew at interview weekend. I knew that everything in my life was about to change. I didn’t know how, or when, or where… but I knew why. As much as I tried to run from it, I had fallen in love.
I think everyone can relate to falling in love with someone. First, you just think they’re kind of cool…And then you get to know who they are, and they become way more important to you than you had ever planned. Then you start caring for them in a way that puts their good before your own. Then all of a sudden you’re willing to make sacrifices, to take leaps of faith and to give your whole heart to them.
And sometimes, once you’ve fallen, you can pinpoint the very moment it happened.
The very beginning of my senior year, a FOCUS missionary sat me in a pew in front of the Blessed Sacrament and gave me a meditation entitled “I Thirst” by Mother Teresa. Here’s’ a portion:
“I know you through and through. I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to me. I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you- even in your wanderings. I know every one of your problems. I know your needs and your worries. And yes, I know all of your sins. But I tell you again that I love you- not for what you have or haven’t done — I love you for you.”
It took two other girls who said “no” to their own plans and “yes” to His to get me to that pew. The first young woman was our Mother Mary. The next was the yes of the missionary praying behind me.
That day in the pew at the end of my interview weekend, I knew that if I could help just one young woman know the love of Christ that I had found — the love that changed everything — then I needed to say yes to this mission.
My decision took time and patience and a deep trust. But eventually, the Lord put all the pieces together and gave me the strength I needed to take the next leap.
I finally jumped. And all I felt was peace. He wasn’t making me pick between grad school and mission work, he was just leading me to the next step in his crazy plan for my life.
Today, this Nebraska girl is serving at New York University as a Catholic missionary. Prayer, creativity, art and the Lord inspire and create my mission here. God’s plan, man!
Trust it, follow it, let it give you strength and peace.