Growing up, I thought I'd be a missionary. Well, actually, at first I thought I'd be a singing nun and a missionary (think Julie Andrews) but my mom discouraged it on the basis that I wasn't Catholic. So I revised my vision to that of a married Protestant missionary.
I combed religious periodicals at the library and wrote down the names of missionary training schools. I schemed ways to raise money. I spoke to every missionary who visited our small church and saved my pennies for missionary causes. I could see myself with my wild-haired, bare-footed children in the wilds of Borneo or Honduras, translating the Bible into indigenous languages. I imagined my bed draped with mosquito netting as I patiently combed the knots out of my daughter's wild mane with a primitive looking comb. I saw myself washing clothes in a river on rocks alongside the locals, my baby tied securely to my back with piece of woven cloth. I imagined visits home as my children, unused to civilization and with unfamiliar shoes strangling their feet, clung to me with uncertainty in the airports as my family ecstatically embraced my tan, fit self. This, I was certain, was my future.
Instead, I went to a nearby university, dropped out after only a year, earned my "M.R.S. degree" instead and began adult life in the concrete jungle in Houston, Texas. It took me years to stop accusing myself of selling out. I thought the only way I could share my faith was, in short, to sacrifice myself to it.
In truth, there was a lot I did not know about my mission. Throughout my life I have gotten glimpses of my calling, sometimes in crystal clear blasts and sometimes, "as through a glass, darkly." In 1984, I got such a blast and for the first time articulated my calling "to be an advocate for children." In the 30 years since, that calling has woven through my life, manifesting in myriad ways creative enough to be the handiwork of only the Great Artist. Right now, it is manifest not only in the raising of my beautiful family but in my work with Special Ed kids in a Functional Communication Classroom.
But I digress. On Sunday, all of this came tumbling back to me as Father Uche reminded us that we know not what the future holds, but each of us has a mission and it is ours -- and ours alone -- to say YES to. For some that looks like being an alter server, for some it is a lean-to in the wilds of Borneo. I think about soldiers, giving all. I think about doctors fighting Ebola at the cost of their lives. I think (and think and think) about martyrs and saints and Mother Teresa and oh yes, I do wish I was more like her!
For some, it is dramatic and public and heroic. For me, it seems to be less so. I don't know if I will be called on to give my life for my faith and ideals; I like to think I would in fact do so willingly and joyfully, but honestly, I don't know. I do know that for now, my call is to live out the gospel --in a way that is hopefully both evoking and inviting --while advocating for children. It's certainly not easy, but it's not complicated either. It living life purposefully day by day, moment by moment, all the while praying that the "good" is outweighing the "bad" often enough to make a difference.
May God give me the grace to do just that.