Spring Retreat 2018 was one of the most memorable retreats I’ve ever attended, even though it only took place about a month ago (the first weekend of this April). It’s expected that we lose the spirit of the retreat as time passes on, but for me, the spirit of the Spring Retreat’s message, “I Am Enough,” has remained with me.
On the first night of the retreat, Sarah, the campus minister at Hofstra University, reminded me that I am not alone. “Growing up,” she said, “I suffered immobilizing anxiety and fell into depression.” Listening to her story moved me to tears because I knew exactly how she felt. I wanted to stand up from my seat in the back, wave my hand, and say, “Me too!” I know the feeling of being so anxious, being so fearful, that it causes me to break down to tears, and it makes it extremely difficult for me to move.
Sarah transitioned into an exercise that she did when she was little at a Christian summer camp in Massachusetts, where she became aware that God loves her just the way she is. “For the first time, I felt that I was enough. I was loved,” Sarah told us. In the candle-lit room, we were given glow sticks and broke the glass tubes inside to light them up. We each said a prayer to God, then, one by one, we walked to the front of the room, and laid our glowstick in the shape of the cross on the floor. In this way, our brokenness revealed our light. It was quite beautiful.
My brokenness and weaknesses—the way I put too much pressure on myself, compare myself to others, get annoyed that I put on a extra few pounds—does not and will never outshine or overpower the wonderful, loving, qualities and strengths that embody who I am. My brokenness—our brokenness—is the meaning of the Cross: that we can and will overcome. Our brokenness gives off light that helps us find and feel Hope. When the exercise was over, I carried these ideas on in my prayer.
The next morning, Joanne, my campus minister at Stony Brook University, told a story that melted my heart.
“When I was pregnant with my first child, I thought I was prepared. I was given three baby showers. I read ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ twice. I started to read the next book, ‘What to Expect the First Year,’ but nothing prepared me or told me how I would feel when I would see my son for the first time.”
I could only imagine the feeling Joanne must have felt. My chest gave itself a hug, as if my rib bones fused with one another. I now realize that feeling does not even compare to the experience of seeing your child for the first time. This comparison made me understand that God’s love for us is a million times stronger and more empowering than how a mother feels toward her child.
“He did not look like the Gerber Baby.” Joanne continued to share. “He had a cone head. He was all red. He looked angry with his tight fists held up by his head, but… I never loved anyone as much as I loved my son. All I wanted to do was stand over my son’s crib and look at him. When I did, I wondered, ‘How can I love someone so much?’”
As a young woman, sure, I have fantasized about what it might feel like to hold my child for the very first time. I can imagine it’s a strong force, one that makes a mother willing to sacrifice and give all of herself to this child. Jesus has done exactly what a parent would do for their child—die for us. We have another parent in God, the Father, who loves us unconditionally. When we fall short, He wants nothing but have us come to him in receiving the Eucharist, prayer or through the act of reconciliation. God could never be disappointed or angry at his beloved daughter or son. He wants nothing but the best for us. He teaches us in ways that we may not fully comprehend all the lessons at the time. God created the universe, so God created you and me exactly the way He wanted us to be. We are here on this Earth for a reason as we were made with perfect care. Knowing this, we are enough just the way we are because God love us just the way we are. I am enough. “I am a child of God” (1 John 3:1).
Joanne gave us a magnet with special quote from St. Francis de Sales. I have kept in a place on my desk in my room where I can read it everyday. It reads:
Have patience with all things, but first with yourself. Never confuse your mistakes with your value as a human being. YOU ARE A PERFECTLY VALUABLE, CREATIVE, WORTHWHILE PERSON SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU EXIST. And no amount of triumphs or tribulations can ever change that. Unconditional self-acceptance is the core of a peaceful mind.
I am enough… at this moment, at this time simply because I exist.
The weekend was filled with community-building events, like small group discussions, one-on-one conversations, and hiking on the beautiful grounds. I was surrounded by people who love me for exactly the way I am. I love them in return. The weight and pressure I put on myself of never being enough was lifted. Being surrounded by those who love God, reminded me that I am not alone. I was not alone. Knowing this, knowing that God loves me, the pressure that I put on myself is lifted off my shoulders and off of my chest.