Were you one of those kids who attempted to feign ill on the day of the dreaded gym class dodgeball game?
It’s not that I hated the game.
Competition, playing hard, and being part of a team gives me great satisfaction.
It was becoming part of that team that plagued me with anxiety.
Sitting on the hard, wood, gym bleachers, waiting to be chosen, my melancholy eyes stared sheepishly at my K-Mart, blue-light special sneakers.
I counted in my head how many students were in the class, subtracted the two captains and those who remembered to stay at home sick, then divided by two. Knowing which captain chose first, I would be able to predict with amazing accuracy which team I would be on.
One gets really good at that when you’re always the last one left on the bleacher.
For me, it was a popularity contest which I never won.
Dodgeball doesn’t end in middle school; the name of the game changes.
College study groups, employee outings, and even church ministries continue to leave people on the bleachers.
At first these left-overs wonder if they’ll ever be chosen. Left sitting long enough, they come to the conclusion that they just don’t belong. Many, like myself, develop a hardness and wear a mask that says,
“Don’t approach me… I don’t want to be on your team… leave me alone.”
Yet, those of us who built the wall around our hearts after years on the bleachers, secretly hope that some day someone will say,
“I see you.”
Deep down, we long to be on someone’s team, to be invited to the party, to be considered necessary.
Isn’t that in the heart of every human being?
wanting to belong
to be part of something
to be needed
Although each of us has a different story to tell, I’m sharing mine to offer some hope. Your story will be different but please know:
YOU WERE CREATED FOR A PURPOSE!
Before I go further, let me just say that there have been wonderful people in my life – from coworkers to friends in ministry. All amazing individuals that God placed on my path and who have been an integral part of my journey.
That said, I never felt settled or at home.
There has always been a hint of longing in my soul that I could not put words to. And, over the last few years, that longing became stronger and more evident.
During the COVID lockdown of 2020, the Holy Spirit placed a desire on my heart to intentionally work on my interior life.
God revealed and healed deep wounds in my soul, shattered that shell that I build around my heart, and stirred a great desire for holiness. I learned to forgive those captains who picked me last by default – they had been dealing with their own versions of dodgeball.
Then, through the intercession of ‘friends’ that had been on my bookshelf, St. Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and St. Therese of Lisieux, I discovered a charism for spiritual direction with the nuances of the Carmelite way of prayerful quiet.
Continuing on this journey of spiritual growth, the Holy Spirit led me to the Avila Institute for formation and on to Apostoli Viae, an association of faithful Catholics with similar charisms across the globe.
On July 16, 2021, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I made my first promises with the community at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
As I was being prayed over and receiving the Scapular designed for Apostoli Viae, a wellspring of joy flooded my being and overflowed in tears. While there are no words to adequately capture the movements of my heart, when we were leaving I uttered the shortest phrase that brought it all together for me,
Please pray for me as I pray for you!