“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you...”
When I was young, I remember asking a lot of people, but especially my mom, “What should I be when I grow up?” Her answer was always the same, “You can be whatever you want to be.” Even as a kid, I felt that was something of a non-answer. I wanted her to tell me what I should do. When pressed, over and over, she would eventually say with exasperation, “I don’t know, whatever you want!”
Truth was, of course, I didn’t know what I wanted, either. I began to figure that out in high school. I went down a couple of dead ends, but I knew I wanted my life to make a difference. I wanted to change the world for the better. Eventually, after writing a reflection paper for my junior theology class, I decided I would become the President of the United States and thought I could. After all, I had been hearing for years, “You can be whatever you want to be.”
I did have a pretty high opinion of myself, not totally without warrant. I had earned the rank of Eagle Scout, graduated as valedictorian, was voted Most Intelligent by my classmates for senior superlatives, was selected by the faculty for the Outstanding Senior Award, was awarded several scholarships, and received an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy. I felt like I could do whatever I wanted and becoming President was it.
In college, I had some failures, which moderated my ego some, but I considered them setbacks I could learn from. I started to deepen my relationship with God, which also moderated my ego some, but I had great confidence, all the same. Then it started to happen: it began to break into my thoughts that God may want me to be a priest. It took years for that idea to gain any traction, because I knew what I wanted to be, and it wasn’t a priest. I was afraid that I would have to give up my dream, or plan, of becoming President. Perhaps subconsciously, I also feared that I would lose control, lose my future, lose myself. I was afraid to surrender, to die to self, to let go. I was afraid to pray for God’s will to be done. I thought I would lose something essential.
Pope Benedict XVI addressed something of this fear to young people, “Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom?...No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation...Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything...Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.”
Eventually, I did let go and still work at letting go. Jesus chose me to be his friend and I simply had to say yes. I found life, love, goodness, beauty, truth, freedom and myself. Jesus chooses you, too. Open wide the doors!