Moving halfway across the country with no relatives and only a framework of a community, my 24-year-old heart didn’t realize just how much it would ache and long to be near family once the excitement of my new adventure waned.
I moved to Boston for a job that made me realize work could be something more than just a paycheck, health benefits, a place you go every day. But two years in, living 18+ hours away from the familiarity of fields of corn, going from knowing everyone who walks my hometown’s brick streets to seeing strange faces every day rushing to get to their next destination left me feeling …‘blah.’
I missed the easy access to my mom’s taste-bud-popping chocolate-chip cookies, the comfort of knowing I wasn’t alone when Red, my lemon of a car, acted up and I was stranded (a car breakdown without your dad 30 minutes away isn’t easy) or when I was dealing with general health stuff on my own (when your mom isn’t there translating the doctor’s words for you, things can get confusing).
For a few months and after feeling a bit restless with my work, I continued to pray about what was keeping me in the greater Boston area and so far from the people who love me most. Why on earth would God want me to hurt in such a way that physically pained me? He wouldn’t want me to hold back tears and whisper to myself in a shaky voice, “You’ve got this,” every time I was overcome with the bitter taste of this solo journey. Would God really want me to feel such loneliness when I could easily move back to the Midwest and the sharp stabbing would cease?
Disgruntled with not being given a clear answer (after rounds of frustrated prayer), I decided to dedicate the weekend I was chaperoning a small group of girls to Steubenville specifically to praying about my future on the busy East Coast.
It wasn’t until Adoration on the last night of the retreat that I so clearly heard God’s answer.
I pleaded with Him, “Please, tell me if I have purpose here.” My heart flooded with peace.
“Please, tell me if you want me to stay.” My being became overwhelmed with love.
“Please, tell me why I’m still here.” I heard the soft whisper to embrace patience. My fists pounded at God’s door, begging Him over and over again to let me take the easy way out.
Lost in a sea of tears, collapsed to the ground on the cold cement floor, I realized His answer. My heart sunk. His work with me — thousands of miles from my family — wasn’t yet complete.
I can’t explain how I know this, how I know I’m supposed to stay. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have that incredible moment and immediately accept it. I battled, and still do battle, the challenges I face living so far away from all my relatives.
Every time I return home from seeing my family, it gets harder and harder to get back on the plane. I find myself scrolling hundreds of times over the pictures we took, small moments captured of our shared time together.
My tear-stained cheeks mirror the wounds embedded on my heart, wishing I could turn around and soak up a few more memories.
Just recently I was on my sad trek home. I was wallowing in the pain of just leaving my family. I had gotten back around rush hour so the T was crowded as I worked to weave my way in and out of the young professionals with my backpack and heavy suitcase.
After a couple of stops the crowd thinned a bit and I was able to snag a seat. A large, gruff-looking construction man was standing over me. As most Bostonians are, I expected this guy to be a little rough around the edges, not the friendliest or most approachable fellow. So I made extra sure to keep to myself, so as not to disturb or bother him.
Looking through my phone, distracted by my thoughts of the wonderful extended weekend I just had with my family, I felt the familiar sharpness of being stranded by myself clouding the air around me. I began to pray that I would be reminded again of the guiding Grace that kept me here.
The train pulled into my stop and as I rose the large man tried his best to step out of my way. I was just about to say, “Excuse me,” and scurry away when his words escaped first, “Welcome home.”
Home. A gentle reminder from God that He will never abandon me. Even when I feel lost. Alone. Betrayed. Beaten. He encounters me in my pain.
When I feel I’m forging this journey alone, figuring out who I am as an adult (or what it means to be an adult), God showers me with love in providing me a supportive community of coworkers, He embraces me with strangers’ simple words, and nudges me with comfort in rich and unexpected friendships.
Even as I continue to push back with my no and point to all the reasons I should turn around, God tells me yes. Though it’s hard, though it’s a challenge to the grueling point of devastation, God’s loving hand is steadily placed in mine. So while I can easily sink into the pool of despair (and believe me, I have), God always calls me out of it.
I pray we all find the courage to press on and lean into God’s plan for us — wherever you may be on your walk of life. Take comfort, you’re not alone. He’s walking beside you, reminding you — even if it’s using the stranger standing over you on the commuter train — that you’re where you’re meant to be. You’re home.
Copyright 2018 Melissa Fitzpatrick