Two years ago…
It was night, and I had been sleeping for quite some time. My slumber was the quiet, eventless sort, void of any imagined things, people or events. Then suddenly, a man shouted my name, “VANESSA!”
I remember shooting up fast in bed, my heart pounding, my husband still asleep, and responding—kid you not—with the words: “Here I am.” I immediately knew that I had heard the actual voice of God: a dual-tone voice, not the sinister, demonic type, but a mix of my older brother and someone unknown. It was strong, yet comforting.
And, that was it. The experience faded as I slipped back to sleep.
That morning, my husband and I prepared for Church with our three children in that hurried “we’re-going-to-be-late” fashion. Despite the stress and commotion, we made it on time, as we did most Sundays. Why all the stress? You’d think we’d learned something by now, but such is the nature of humans. In any case, we’d made it to Church and through to the readings without too much distraction from the children.
Then he said it. The Lector began reading aloud the first—or was it the second—reading, “Samuel, Samuel,” followed by the well-known response, “Here I am.”
The goosebumps erupted across my skin and I laughed. People must have thought me crazy. Who laughs in the middle of mass? Apparently, I do. God is real and has an equally real sense of humour.
I didn’t know why the coincidence had happened, that I should be woken by a man calling my name in the middle of the night or that the mass readings would, in turn, echo that experience. The only thing I knew for certain was that God was calling me. He was calling me, but I had no idea to what.
Fast forward to today…
A number of things have been stirring in my heart lately. I have been facing my mental health issues, struggling to come to terms with my brokenness without sinking further into despair, I have been balancing home life, caring for my four children, nourishing my spirit, dedicating time to my fitness passions, pushing myself past my social anxieties to break the barriers of friendship, enjoying brief moments around horses, all while simultaneously hearing, and trying to understand, a pretty clear call from God.
Let me back up just a little. A couple of weeks ago, I hit my breaking point. And I felt inspired to write about it. At first for myself, but then I recalled a seed planted by my sister-in-law only months before; she had encouraged me to consider writing for a Catholic blog or magazine. (You can actually read my reflection at theYoungCatholicWoman blog here). Amongst my ridiculously lengthy list of hobbies and passions, right in my top three, I have long-harboured a love of writing.
The idea of becoming a published author came to me when I was 11-years-old. I wrote all through high school, completing my first “pantsed” (un-plotted, impulse-led) work of literature: a fantasy novel I would one day hope to see published, but that’s another story). I never ceased writing new ideas, playing around with characters, plots and scenes, but for all that was worth, I could hardly find the time or the drive to truly pursue my dream career.
This brings me to my recent postpartum breakdown. I was distraught, shattered, my vulnerable heart broken open before God, and I found myself compelled to journal it all out. Delight found me as the words materialized on the screen, following the click-clack of each finger stroke to my keyboard.
Low self-esteem has plagued me from about the time I became interested in writing. All artists share a reflection of themselves in their work. The same can be said for writers; it is an incredibly vulnerable craft. This is especially true when the theme of your article is illustrated through your own personal experience. I don’t think it can get much more vulnerable than that, however, I remain a novice writer and could be wrong.
That being said, I sent a copy of my heartfelt article to my mother, who reiterated my long-standing gift of expression through the written word. My heart heard a deeper call through her compliment; that God was trying to ask something of me, but that I kept stubbornly ignoring for fear of rejection. Somehow, I believed myself inadequate; as much as I yearned to become a published writer, I persistently failed to see actual merit in my work. And yet, the call seemed true, pushing my broken soul into more uncomfortable territory; I needed to share my written voice with the world.
As a Christian, just saying that previous statement makes me cringe. I want to shrink and let God be praised. To claim having talent makes me feel haughty and vain. I felt trapped in this position of feeling both called, and yet unsure of whose voice was truly calling me to the task. Was I inventing this or could God really be calling me to praise Him through my passion? Why would God give me this desire, and this possible gift, if not to share it for His glory?
The dominoes began falling, one after the other, and I have since set to developing more sustenance in my work. I have been reading, researching, listening to podcasts and practicing my craft. Partly for fun, but also with the intention of writing another novel (a story I have been putting off for nine years!). I’ve been afraid to declare myself a writer, fearful that this is not God’s will, but I have continued in the process, discerning every domino put into play.
This morning, I made it to weekday mass. Having arrived ten minutes early, I knelt down before the crucified Christ; His life-size likeness outstretched on the cross, invited me to deeper contemplation. Despair surfaced within me; I’ve missed my boat, I thought, regarding my writing career. Other authors had years of schooling, practice, workshops and experience to shape them. Some authors had several published works, if not more, to show for. It’s too late for me, I sighed. I’m 26…I’m twenty-six, for goodness sake! What a ridiculous notion, that it could possibly be too late for me to become a writer! The lies of the evil one can be quite dramatic, and yet, I had caught myself wallowing in this lie for some time now.
My eyes followed the length of Jesus’s arms nailed to the cross, taking in their form and strength. The striations of his muscles, lean and laboriously earned, stood out to me. These arms of my suffering Saviour, had been shaped from years of manual labour, I reflected; Jesus had been a carpenter. For thirty years, His main preoccupation had been to family life and the mundane. When thinking of His ministry and purpose, Jesus could have said, “It’s too late for me to do my Father’s work. I’m 30, I’ve missed my boat.” And then Satan would have won the fight.
Let me reiterate: Jesus was thirty when His ministry began! In retrospect, I’ve four years more, not less. I am young, I mentally shook myself to my senses. And that new-found awareness wasn’t even the culmination of God’s revelation to me. No, more was yet to come in confession following mass.
During confession –a confession that lasted a good thirty minutes of spiritual direction—the priest went with the Spirit to say some pretty compelling things. Completely unrelated to the sins I confessed, the priest confirmed my new sense of purpose and hope.
“You are so young,” he’d said. (Remember, this priest did not know me and did not know what I had been meditating on before mass). “You are so young. God wants more from you. You have so much potential just waiting to be used. Think of your children and how you encourage them to grow and to exceed your expectations. God has a special call, just for you, and He wants you to excel. You are young, you have so much light inside of you. Stop holding it back and doubting yourself.” It was in this moment when, through the words of this ordained stranger, that God spoke to me more clearly, reaffirming the call to become a serious writer.
“Someone once said, that what you are is God’s gift to you,” he paused. “But what you become is your gift to God.” Call me a liar, but I swear he literally said that! “You have so much beauty and talent to share with the world. Don’t be afraid to let it shine. It’s there, you just have to reach out and touch it. Like a rifle; with all of its mechanisms, it has the tools it needs within itself to produce so much power. It has a little spark inside that, by the simple pressure on the trigger, erupts with an explosion of power. Be a rifle!” He obviously didn’t mean I should be shooting a gun off; He was challenging me to claim my untapped potential with confidence, and share God’s light lying dormant within me.
God is REAL, people. God is REAL, and He has called not only me, but he has called you too. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to sit and reflect on your talents and passions. What special something could you be sharing with others? You might not believe it is worth sharing, but I challenge you to explore the possibilities. Ask God to reveal His purpose for your life. He is REAL and He will answer. You need but ask and listen.
“…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:16
Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment, like or share.
And as always, God bless ❤