It’s been 11 years since I finished my year of service with NET Ministries.
What reflections stand out the most to me?
– NET is the closest life experience to marriage possible. It’s true. You live together, have a common mission, are called to communication, have an idea set before you, get little sleep, have to be constantly flexible and accountable. It’s the wildest adventure you can imagine going on, and you take each step trusting the Lord, struggling to find balance enough to pray, thankful for the times in the bathroom when you can be by yourself. You discovered things about yourself you otherwise would have never known. People know you better than you’ve ever been known. I learned I’m an extrovert. I never knew that living out in the country, reading, having so much alone time and being at peace with my imagination. I put my two cents in where it wasn’t needed, over the course of the year I learned to keep my mouth shut. I need to relearn this lesson when it comes to my marriage.
– It’s okay to just be okay. I remember sitting with a teammate who was a good man. He was the first model I experienced, other than my father, of how a man should treat me, with care and respect, without needing romantic feelings to find me worth his time. “How are you doing?” I asked him. “Okay,” he said slowly, “how are you?” “Okay.” I said. Our simple words packed in the meaning as we awaited the end of our year of service, soon upon us. “Want to be okay together?” So we sat together, not talking, not exuberant as many were, just being…okay.
– I’m very different, and that’s good, too. In a way I did not fit in with my NET Team. I don’t think I wouldn’t have developed natural friendships with most of them. But we were brothers and sisters in Christ and I felt included and encouraged in a way that was totally new to me. It wasn’t until we were in the Portland, Oregon diocese that I realized I wasn’t alone in my different-ness. I was artistic, and began to relate to our host families in ways never before experienced by myself. Shortly after NET, I would meet a man who was also quite different. We are artists, after all! And I learned to be grateful and embrace that as being part of a group I had never seen before.
– God built a strong foundation in me. NET was a time of being totally carefree. My only responsibility was to love the Lord, love my teammates and do my job on the retreat. In keeping with keeping my change to myself, I had to learn to sit back and just do my job, allowing others to do theirs. This was valuable for me. To let go if I’m not in charge of it. NET put me in my place and that was a good thing for this bold little creature. During that time I would pray. I experienced wonderful times of prayer and of offering up sacrifices amidst the tiredness and the struggle to keep going. I had to practice humility when disagreements arose. I learned some terrible mannerisms I have, a particular tone of voice. Learning about that tone and how to pay attention to it keeps things charitable with my husband. Once again, a lesson that needs to be relearned.
The NET Team came to visit our parish last night and two young women stayed in our home. The visit caused much reflection. I am so tired lately, so terribly terribly tired that it feels impossible to keep in mind the lessons I have learned, whether in watching that tone, holding back and not reacting emotionally so quickly to perceived slights, or not feeling guilty about every negative thing, attacking or hating myself. We’re at the point in our marriage where it takes an act of the will, and these days, I feel so incapable of thinking or acting.
But I do will it. So I think that now, as on NET, I’m called to rely on God. I’ve gone to two Saturday holy hours by myself and prayed. I attended mass by myself last night and did not feel so foreign there in the silence. I did not know what to do with my hands without a baby of child’s hand to hold, but my heart knew the Lord and I was able to speak to him, not just stare, saying, I don’t remember how to focus on you.
It’s time to depend on God. Work as though everything depends on you and pray as though everything depends on God. We’ve reached a place financial security. Now we are maxed out physically and emotionally by tiredness. So we are forced to need God again. When we were single we dedicated our lives to him and desired to be saints. Now we are living out the path, finding we must, again and again, place our trust in him.