This is a story since 2005. A big part of the reason why I never went for School of Witness (SOW) was because of hurts that piled on each other and snowballed. Disclaimer: I believe this applies for any kind of retreat and the FOMOness in missing a big moment others experience, it’s just that my story revolves around SOW.
I always felt a lack of usefulness in the church being a generally shy, scared, unintelligent and non-instrumental girl. As I grew older, I started to realise that I get quite triggered by the phrase “You mean you haven’t gone for SOW?” As well-meaning and curious as the question is meant to be, it is a sore reminder that it seemed like it was never in the cards for me to go. I have a variety of excuses to make sense of the hurt I felt. My feelings made sense, the logic in my head on the other hand – some are sensible, some outrageous, I’ll list some of them for clarity sake:
- SOW only started 2009, my gap of time between JC and Uni was in 2008
- I haven’t felt the calling to go, so much so that I would push away starting work life to make space for it
- A bunch of my friends have gone for it, I’m sure it rubs off somehow
- I have given it considerable thought about it, but no peace from God
- I have other places to grow and give to, mostly parish community which is equally good
- There are a limited number of spaces, I rather give others the opportunity to go
- Is my faith of many years not legit enough that I have to go for a 2-month ‘retreat’ to show I’m a serious Catholic that wants give of herself to the church?
I’ve tested these justifications in fire the last 3 years, especially when I got married to an ‘OYP boy’. Fiercely I shot them to anyone willing to ask, and each time I spoke I heard my hurt from the lack of acknowledgement in ministry. Then I would be left with my own grief of being left out from a wave of good formation overwhelming the rational idea of the objective good of SOW itself. On top of that, expectations grew wild as I felt pressured to have to prove myself of my identity of being active for over 10 years and being an OYP-wife. After a while, I felt like I walked around with a shield because I was tired of fighting expectations from others, though it was rather ineffective because most of the expectations were from myself.
I didn’t want to just assume the best/natural course of action was to go for SOW. Knowing my own pridefulness, I didn’t want to go just for the supposed status of ‘serious catholic’. I also really resented the fact that just because I had free time, I should attend.
With a lot of prayer, my emotions and logic cooled off and started to make sense to each side, I tried to be indifferent as I could possibly be whilst acknowledging both sides. It came down to three factors.
God knows I gladly do things for others, but would scrutinize plans if they were for myself. One of my main objectives in this season of my life is to be a supportive wife. This idea didn’t come by so easily as I had badgered God repeatedly on what I needed to do these 3 years while my husband commits to studying. Do I study? Have kids? Start a business? Discover something entirely new? In short, God told me to do nothing.
I fought with the husband a couple of times in dealing with the hurt I mentioned above. After being consoled, I felt a tension rise after every argument, it wasn’t the sort where we had different perspectives which were complimentary, it was different. I hated this tension, am I really supporting my husband?
Perhaps I needed to do this for my husband, to be in greater union and of the same mind as we look to our future mission – in the church, in parish, in our family.
Being in church for quite a while, I’ve also grown quite comfortable. I knew the loopholes, the shortcuts and have tried my hand at quite a variety of things. With each experience, besides embracing who I am, I learnt a little something about who-and-why God, what-and-when Jesus, and where-and-how Holy Spirit. I know what I like and where I draw the line. I’m comfortable with family, community and friends.
There are many things to explore, many avenues to grow beyond the comfortable. But which way is the right way? I think I need people to push me, to make me uncomfortable, to challenge me to grow…
God knows I have no plan. As much as I am busying myself with a variety of things such as freelance work, online shop, journeying, mentoring, babysitting, I don’t actually know what the future holds in three years. So much as changed in the Singapore church landscape since 2015, I’m almost too scared to make any plans because I don’t know what will be my place then.
Among all the options, I need to find that nice convergence of who God has prepared me to be and what the church/society/economy needs. What is that one desire is this season of my life? Where do I need to go?
All together now
“I get it but as much as I know it’s good and maybe even ideal, I would like to hear the call from the man himself. God please.”
Externally, there were also a few factors that pointed to this time being available. The visa to stay past 3 months didn’t look promising and the house was also problematic. It was going to take a lot to try and make sure I stayed January to March and I wasn’t sure the effort was worth it especially since we just spent the first two months settling in. I saw Shaun starting to stress over it and decided it wasn’t really worth fighting to stay.
Although our marriage isn’t as easy while we are physically apart, if God wants me to go, I’m sure he will make sure we do ok. Trust and understanding is a lot easier to come by when we both are clear of the reason for the sacrifice we’re making. This I’m sure are the graces of marriage.
The external factors were the final push factors for me. A stamp of confirmation from God if you like, beyond the assurances and clarity he was already giving me. Shaun and I have a time of prayer, and as I spoke about it with him, I felt part of me die, that’s when I knew it was the right thing to do. It’s a very noticable feeling which involves crying and a sense of peace at the same time.
I signed up on the bus on the way to lunch and that was that.
The best time of my life
After 4 weeks, looking back on the reservations I had, God has been showing me how much it is the right time for me to be there. It might actually be the best time of my life to go, as a person who is 30, married and looking to define her mission. I took a while to accept and embrace me for me at SOW. The justifications, as real as they are, give way to bigger reasons of mission, community and simplicity.
Opportunity cost isn’t that big a deal
Every ‘yes’ is a ‘no’ to something else, there are so many things in life we can FOMO about because we said no. Some times it almost seems like abundance of options/choice to say no to can actually be rather overwhelming in making a choice. Ironic how choices can makes us suffocate instead of giving us freedom to choose. Ultimately, We just need to be able to pick the best choice (aka God’s choice).
God has blessed me greatly and I don’t think I can ever say otherwise. Praise God! It’s time for some new hope and new life!