Anyone grilling up anything good this Memorial Day weekend? I’ll be taking a break from the snacks until later next week, but I wanted to share a story with you first, and hope you take the time to read it. Have a great weekend everyone, and please, if you are the kind who prays, remember to keep all of our soldiers and veterans in your prayers. This ain’t a Holiday just about grilling, you know.
Wednesday evening seemed like a low point. Driving home from work in a torrential May thunderstorm, I couldn’t help but let tears creep into my eyes as I angrily attempted to discern the events of the past few months. Emotions have been running high for me as of late, and a weekend after my sister’s graduation from college, they were sprinting towards exhaustion that particular afternoon.
That my sister and I haven’t been getting along so well lately hasn’t helped. Once my best friend, she’s now independent and sociable all on her own, recently graduated and head-over-heals in love with a great dude. Maybe that’s why we haven’t been getting along. I’ve grown jealous of her happiness and envious of the life she has forged, and allowed my frustration to creep into every attempt we actually make to reestablish our once best-of-friends brother-sister relationship. I’ve spoken out of turn about her boyfriend, and at some point, what turned into just joking about their “perfect” life really must have offended her, and left her hurt and feeling detached from me. I thought we might be able to get out relationship on the right track earlier this week when we agreed to meet up at for dinner, but thanks to some miscommunication, we went to different locations of the same chain. And so I called her, yelled at her, and allowed all that frustration, all that jealousy, to come pouring out like the rain falling from the sky.
With it came all the struggles and tribulations, all the crosses and all my failings, of the past few years. The loneliness I’ve felt in my social life. The disquietude I experience when turning on the news or looking at a paper. The loss of self-confidence I’ve felt because of the job market, and the very real fatigue I’ve experienced in the emotional turmoil of my home life. All of this I unnecessarily burdened my sister with, and when I was finished, I drove home in sniffling sadness, wondering where I had gone so wrong, and when — or if – things would ever get better.
I managed to convince myself they wouldn’t but God got the better of me. It started with the heartfelt comments left on this blog that same day. Letting me know that there are people who care and read is the kind of little thing that tells a guy he’s not really as alone as he thought he was, and that God answers those silent prayers and hopes he sends up. Likewise, a sincere Facebook message from a former teacher the next day — in which I was reminded that I am not in fact the only down-on-my-luck person in the entire world, much less human history — gave me the kind of “chin up, son” kick that I needed. Is the world tough these days? Is it scary, uncertain, and does it sometimes feel like everyone is up against what you believe in? You betcha, but as my former teacher (now a Brother) reminded me, this isn’t the first time in history an individual, or group of individuals for that matter, have been faced with adversity. “Take solace in the Saints,” he told me, instructing me not to overanalyze world events or worry needlessly about things that are not under my immediate control. “Do you have any idea what the state the Church was in during the time of St. Francis – the world too, for that matter??!!” he wrote, almost scolding me in my shortsighted anxiety. Above all, he told me to pray and hold onto hope.
I know I talk a good game when it comes to spirituality, but the truth is, I pray like a little kid is made to before digging into his food. My intentions are almost always selfish or about me, and more often than not, praying becomes an exercise in repetition rather than an attempt to commune with God or even focus and calm myself. These habits notwithstanding, it is something I try at, and every once in a while, when I’m really low or feeling especially depressed, it’s something which I focus every fiber of my being and every atom of my existence into.
Still, the prayers never seem to be answer. At least, not until now.
They day after the miscommunication with my sister brought out a flurry of emotions that made me question if I really believed things would get better — in our relationship, in my job search, in the world — I drove down to a favorite place of mine for what I thought was going to be a tour of a possible summer internship.
As I sat down in the office of an editor at a publishing company my mind wasn’t exactly focused on the internship he “might” need me to fill in for a few weeks for, and my mind definitely wasn’t coming back to the beautiful day overlooking the Chesapeake Bay and the grounds of the United States Naval Academy. Instead, I was thinking of my sister, wondering if this latest spat between the two of us would lead to a greater chasm. As much as I hated it, a line from Boy Meets World was running through my head.
The next half hour was a blur. Somewhere between admiring the offices of the publishing agency and wondering how cool it would be to work at a place like this, the man interviewing me handed me an application and told me to fill it out. He then was looking on his computer and telling me when to start, moving so fast as to assign me my first projects and introduce me to the office staff. Before I knew it, this man — who I had only met two weeks ago while volunteering at a national military history conference — was offering me a job. No, not full-time, but not some internship either. A real life, honest to God job, which, according to him, has plenty of growth potential. What’s more, it’s not in some menial task. It’s working with authors and marketing people in a publishing company that works exclusively with military history, and it will allow me to set my own schedule. And did I mention it even comes with a title and office? With a view. At the United States (insert obligatory FREAKING) Naval Academy!
I’m still asking myself if what happened this week was real. It sounds too good to be true, and while it’s not official yet and I seem to find a way to worry about things, even my sometimes woefully pessimistic outlook can’t convince me it isn’t going to happen.
When I walked out of that office I called my dad, and I asked him what I did to deserve this, and why this was happening right now. He couldn’t give me an answer except to say “God Bless you.” The strange thing is he was right. God did bless me, and although you might be rolling your eyes at the proposition, I really think this is why I – why we – pray. So that, when we’re at our lowest and looking away, God sends us that reminder that He is there, and that his timetable is beyond our understanding. The prayers I’ve sent up this past years, those prayers for purpose and for labor and to feel useful, He was answering them. Maybe not right away when I thought I needed them, but later on, when I really needed them.
Happy as I was on my drive back home, my thoughts were still on my sister and on our relationship. I wanted to call her, to share with her my joy and excitement. I didn’t, but the next day she sent me a text congratulating me. I have no way of knowing if it was just one of those “things we do” or if she really was reaching out, but I’d like to think the latter. Because these days, I’ve added another intention to my prayer list; for her to see that I am.
I don’t expect us to instantly become best friends again, and I know that even if we do, there’s another, more important young man in her life. I just hope and pray she remembers that I’ll always be her big brother. And if she doesn’t remember it tomorrow, fine. The next day? So well. One day though, I know God will provide her and I that chance to look back on our childhood’s and share those dumb jokes that only we would get. That’s why I pray. Not for what has been, and not for what is. But for the hope that’s in the waiting, and the undeniable truth that things will always get better.