As I prepare for the semester to start tomorrow–for my own classes, and the nineteen freshmen faces that will look at me with expectation that I will Know Things and be able to teach them–I am once again lamenting how short break is. Two weeks is not long enough.
It also strikes me as crazy that I am entering another semester of grad school. I am firmly lodged in this phase of life now. It almost feels like home. And that is what I love about academia–the familiarity of it, even while it is ever new.
A couple of days ago, I phoned a friend I hadn’t seen or talked to in more than a year. We last saw each other in the summer of 2008, back when I still had long hair, wanted to be a missionary with FOCUS, and was still aching from the events of the previous spring.
So we had a lot to catch up on–not little stories to tell, but the big picture. Which was pretty big, considering that I graduated from college, moved to the city, and started grad school–none of which were even on my mind last year. What I told her on the phone boiled down to a summary of 2009, and she was amazed (as I continually am) at the unity of it, how everything that has happened came together like threads in a story. That doesn’t happen very often.
Another friend of mine asked me what lesson learned stuck most in my mind from the past year. The answer is the thread that binds my stories together: I have learned about Trust.
As I neared graduation, I felt pretty ambivalent about my future. I was applying to grad school–one grad school–and to be a missionary with an organization called FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). But I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about either of them. Mostly, I was scared I wouldn’t get accepted anywhere, and would be stuck working at the grocery store with a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. Or, that I would get accepted to both places, and would make the wrong decision.
It was the latter fear that ruled me when I got accepted to the University of Pittsburgh with full funding. That day I went to the chapel and cried, asking God: “You aren’t going to make this easy, are you?”
But I learned a very important lesson: that you need not fear when making a choice between Good Things. That who you are matters more than what you do, and that life is a collaborative effort between you and God; and He can shape all things into something beautiful, if you live with an open heart.
Trust, in this case, was not waiting for a sign. Rather, it was discerning where my heart was leading me and believing that God would bless my decision, whatever it was.
I have learned, too, how to trust and live in the present moment. Or at least, I am learning this. To accept the gifts of the present–a relationship, for example–without the fear of losing them; to accept something as holy and blessed and beautiful in itself that will be brought to its proper fulfillment in the right time. Here, perhaps, trust sounds passive. Not at all! Patience and waiting are anything but passive, even if they are at times still. Trust is a dance, not a homogeneous and unchanging state of mind.
Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about trust is that it is not felt, but lived. (Oh, there are so many things that are like this! Love, faith, patience … all the virtues, even at their most human and least spiritual levels; but it is trust that makes the living possible without the feeling.)
I have, sadly, learned also of the places where trust doesn’t fit. The relationships it no longer belongs in, or the varying levels it operates at–where it opens doors and where it must close them. Whether it is appropriate for forgiveness to renew trust, or leave it in the past. In human relationships where trust is absent, where it must withdraw and close the door, the trust must rush upward. When there is nothing more to be done, it must be given over. And that letting go–that leaving people at God’s feet, or inside the tabernacle with the Eucharist–that is trust.