Four simple words, ‘Thy will be done’ - for some, these words bring peace and comfort, but for others, like me, they are a struggle. Born and raised Catholic, God has always been in my life, but I will admit that I have not always made our relationship an easy one. When I graduated high school, a first-generation college student, teachers said I had a mind for science and should pursue it, so I did. I was later told I should get out of our town and meet new people, so I did. I moved 6 hours from my entire family to Terre Haute and majored in Geology. I did well academically throughout my undergrad and was told that I should pursue a graduate degree, so I did. You would be great in the lab researching, so I did. You should pursue your doctorate, so I did. Are you noticing a theme here?
It was during my doctorate at Tulane University in New Orleans that I reached my breaking point. For what felt like forever, I had been doing what others wanted of me, it was all-consuming, and the pressure I placed on myself to please each and every person in my life had left me completely broken.
And God, where was He in all of this? He was there. He always is. My mind was so cluttered, and my heart was so hardened that I couldn’t hear His words or feel Him reaching for me. My two years at Tulane was a period in my life of which I am not proud. I was broken, and my actions reflected that. A phone call from home on February 22, 2009, was the turning point. Through tears and screams, I realized that I had no idea who this person was that I had become, but I was ashamed of her.
The days that followed were a blur as I flew home to bury one of the most important women in my life. The plane ride saw my mind, as always, overthinking every piece of my life. I knew I was proud of my accomplishments, but I wasn’t happy. I knew I wanted to change - looking back, this was God pushing through - but the devil was work in my mind via temptation.
In New Orleans, I finished another semester, and days of internal dialog over my future followed. I can’t explain it as anything other than a ‘God Moment,’ but I found myself in a church for the first time in years. I sat there in silence and reflected on the last seven years of my life - I had unique experiences, published research, a successful teaching career, and a family who couldn’t be prouder. I was good at my life, and I wasn’t miserable all of the time, but in my heart, I knew that it wasn’t the life I wanted. That day in that church pew, my brain shut down. It was quite long enough for me to hear the words of a friend who had never left me, a friend who had been waiting patiently for me.
Telling my parents that I was quitting my doctorate program was, to this day, the hardest thing I have ever done. Followed only by telling others who were so proud of me. My heart knew that they wouldn’t love me any less, but the devil filled me with lies - ‘you are such a disappointment, you are letting everyone down, they will be ashamed of you.’
“I’m so confused, I know I heard you loud and clear - So, I followed through, somehow I ended up here. I don’t wanna think, I may never understand that my broken heart is a part of your plan. When I try to pray all I’ve got is hurt and these four words: Thy will be done...”
I want to tell you that my story ends with “from that day forward I committed to living a life surrendering to God’s plan,” but my friends, that just isn’t how my story goes. What did those hard conversations accomplish? They set me on a path where I acknowledged that I had severe anxiety and that it was playing a crippling role in my life. While I still struggle with my anxiety, I have worked hard to learn tools to cope, and God’s voice is one that I can once again hear.
I find peace in praying those four little words, “Thy will be done,” even when I still struggle with fully accepting them. I pray daily for the strength to surrender to God’s will and everlasting love. When we allow ourselves to surrender, amazing things will happen - when we allow ourselves to surrender, we have the courage to persevere when bad things happen. I’ll end by sharing that I pray daily for all of those who, like me, experience this struggle of anxiety and that the peace of surrendering to God’s will is with you always.
“I know you’re good, but this don’t feel good right now. I know you think of things I could never think about. Sometimes I gotta stop, remember that you’re God and I am not...So, thy will be done.”