Before I met my husband, I was so annoyed by people with boyfriends. They spent all their time together, talking nonstop, always considering what the other person wanted or thought. It was confusing, though. Because while I was annoyed by it and thought they were a little odd, I couldn’t help but want what they had! As much as these relationships were foreign to me, I was jealous of the connection I saw.
Fast forward 20+ years and I found myself in a very similar position. This time, though, it wasn’t a human relationship I was jealous for. It was a relationship with Jesus.
I was asking myself the same questions that haunted me as a young woman. How was it that my friends and colleagues had these amazing relationships that seemed so distant to me?
What did they do that I so obviously didn’t that made these relationships possible?
Was there something wrong with me?
But on the other hand…didn’t it seem weird how close they were? They talked to Jesus all the time! And then, weirdest of all, they told me how Jesus talked to them! How was that even possible?
Once again, I found myself jealous of something I didn’t understand, yet wanted desperately.
In the past year or so, I’ve been on quite a journey of growth. I knew that, for my emotional sake and the sake of my faith, I needed to figure out what this was all about. The more I’ve opened up to others, the more I have found that my questions aren’t uncommon. A lot of my friends want to know the same thing.
I have grown up. I am comfortable in Catholicism. But the Person of Jesus escapes me.
Does that mean my faith isn’t as strong as it should be? Is it not as good as this friend’s or that mentor’s?
Does God not love me as much as He does these other people?
The answers I am only beginning to uncover as I continue on my faith journey are rocking me. And I have a priest whose name I never even knew to thank for it.
In September of 2019, I attended the Shine retreat in Nashville. I was there with some friends and with my mom and, while I didn’t know exactly what God would do in that weekend, I remember having a feeling of unsure expectation. Something was coming, but what would it be? Would it even be for me? Or would one of these women I loved be touched in a meaningful way?
The talks that weekend all centered around light. The light that is Jesus shines into our darkness and cannot be overcome. Jesus wants to be and to bring that light in each of our lives, regardless of the darkness we carry.
Time and again, these beautiful women who spoke said phrases like…
“God said to me in prayer…”
“Then, Jesus told me…”
“I heard the Spirit say to me…”
I have to be honest, those comments tore me apart.
There were those same questions I had been asking myself for ages, rearing their ugly heads again. What was wrong with me that God didn’t talk to me? What did these women have that I didn’t? I wanted Jesus, so where was He?!
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Midway through the Saturday of the retreat, we were offered the opportunity to go to Confession. Naturally, I took it! Hundreds of retreatants lined up in the beautiful cathedral, praying the Rosary together as we waited our turn to unburden ourselves. Scattered around the church were about 15 wonderful young priests, ready and waiting in persona Christi to offer us forgiveness and renewal.
When my turn came, I sat down in the pew next to a young priest. We began and he gave me space to confess my sins. What came pouring out of my mouth, though, instead of the litany of wrongs I had done, were all of these questions I had been asking myself all weekend!
And that wonderful man just let me go. He listened, nodded, even commented that he had asked himself some of the same questions before! And when I had exhausted all of my energy and longing, he quietly said something I will never forget.
It is good that you want this deeper relationship with Jesus. There is a special grace in the wanting. But your relationship with Him won’t and shouldn’t look like anybody else’s relationship with Him. He wants to love you in a way that is unique to you.
Truly, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather.
God does want a relationship with me! And He knows me well enough and loves me so completely that the relationship we have is supposed to look different than everyone else’s.
So maybe He does speak to others so that they can discern His voice. He also knows I would think I’d lost my mind if He did that to me.
Maybe He shares Himself in big, ostentatious ways with people who have big, ostentatious faiths. But He also knows that my faith is like a slow burn, quietly unassuming, but always there. He knows that He needs to approach my heart quietly and subtly.
Yes, sisters, this was my experience, but the message is for all of us. And I don’t want you to forget it, so I’ll say it again.
God does want a relationship with you! And He knows you well enough and loves you so completely that the relationship you have together is supposed to look different than everyone else’s relationship with Him.
And if you don’t feel that relationship yet? Lean in. There is grace in the wanting.
Here’s a prayer I wrote in my journal that day. It’s one that I continue to sit with every time I feel lonely or lost; every time I meet Jesus in Adoration.
Jesus, I want a real relationship with you. Help me to put aside my pride and jealousy of what others have. Let the love You shower on me bring me peace and joy. Let it form in me a new identity, secure in who I am to You and through You. And, from there, make clear my mission in this world and help me accomplish it. Amen.
Can you relate to this kind of longing? How has Jesus brought you closer to Him in unique ways?Grace in the Wanting: Searching for a Unique + Intimate Relationship with Jesus #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Beth Williby is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She is a mom of four pretty amazing humans and has been married to her college sweetheart for twenty years. She does her best praying through singing and feeding the people she loves. Having grown up in the Midwest, she now calls Northeast Florida home. You can find out more about her here.