Lately, my schedule has been filled with school events, grading papers, and a few phone calls with Child Protective Services. And just when my team of teachers need me, I am on bed rest for three weeks due to a knee injury. To add to my heartache, my friend, Steve, a firefighter and devoted father of four, passed away. I am tired. Not only physically exhausted, but soul tired.

While getting ready to go to a meeting with my faith sharing group, my right leg was braced and right arm limited by the side effects of a flu shot. I am so much slower than what I imagined. In my klutzy state, I knocked over a cup of water and had enough. Looking up at God, I yelled, “You know I’m on my own. How can I take care of myself now!?” It appeared as if my prayers hit the ceiling and rebounded back to the floor.

When I met with my small group, we checked in with one another and prayed for those who were hurting. I shared with them about the guilt of not being able to be there for those relying on me. My friends did not just respond, “Get well soon,” they stepped up to help. They attended Steve’s funeral with me. Their simple and kind gesture of walking with me during these tough times helped alleviate my pain. Others met up with me to share a meal or watch a movie as they understand how staying at home can depress an extrovert like me. Another friend shared a book she was reading, The Jesuit’s Guide to (Almost) Everything by Fr. James M. Martin, and it ignited my friendship with St. Ignatius of Loyola. What a coincidence that he was my age during his conversion and how he hurt the same leg!

Coffee with Jesus and St. Ignatius

In retrospect, I can see how God eliminated everything that was distracting me from Him. Every morning, I would sit with a cup of coffee and read about Iñigo de Loyola or from my Bible. It is easier to relate to a saint who was not always one. St. Ignatius, before he gave up his life as a soldier, was “something of a ladies’ man… and a real hothead” (Fr. James Martin, 2012). I learned about how St. Ignatius turned his life around and how Ignatian Spirituality could be applied to my life. My daily quiet time grew from 15 minutes to 30 minutes, then an hour. It was quite an accomplishment for someone who always needs to be doing something! I grew to understand the meaning of being a contemplative in action. I began to notice how God is in all things. He was with me in my grief and pain. I prayed for God to show up and He sent His people. He sent help in the form of good friends, family, and the kindness of strangers. God was with me in my joys and victories. He gave me my students to care for and guide. He gave me the privilege of seeing dozens of young people graduate from high school and college. He let me have a hand in raising them and protecting them.

After years of hiding some aspects of my life, “God I’ll follow you, but only this far,” God finally had me. It was when I was unable to walk, I learned what it meant to surrender my present circumstances and future. I have no control over them anyway.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord Your God is with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:9

Grief and a Call to Action

Months later, my friends and I went to watch Wonder Woman. The person who helped call her to action was named Steve Trevor. He shared the same first name as my friend who passed away. Many would say that it’s just a coincidence. But I believe many coincidences are God’s way of showing up and being humble about it. Steve tragically died, giving his life to save others. As I watched her grieve her loss on screen, it helped me deal with my own grief. I have never been the type to cry in public or put my emotions on display. But I was able to relate to the compassionate, wise, and fierce Diana Prince. I thought about all of the people I have lost over the past few years and how much I missed them. I did not realize how much I was still hurting. Of all places, I was able to cry and begin to let go of all of the pain I felt. God was ministering to me then in that theater.

“Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you're not really losing it. You're just passing it on to someone else.” - Mitch AlbomThe Five People You Meet in Heaven

I would like to tell you that the obstacles in my life relented, that everything has come full circle and worked out. In some ways it has, but I still face a lot of unknowns. My singlehood is a gift. I will cherish this time “alone” as I already have a life filled with love. To say that I am truly alone would be unfair to God and my loved ones. My knee is healing and I can go jog for a few miles at a time. I still keep in touch with Steve’s twin sister. We talk about how he sends us messages and people to make us laugh from heaven. I have a lot of people praying for and cheering for me to reach that heavenly finish line. I also know no matter where God sends me, I will always be a guardian of the young. My life has a purpose and that purpose is to love.

“I've touched the darkness that lives in between the light. Seen the worst of this world, and the best. Seen the terrible things men do to each other in the name of hatred, and the lengths they'll go to for love. Now I know. Only love can save this world. So I stay. I fight, and I give... This is my mission.” – Diana Prince (Wonder Woman, 2017)

Reese Nguyen

Song: Overcomer - Mandisa

Further Reading: The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by: James M. Martin, Discernment by: Henri Nouwen