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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Stars or Fireworks?
A vocation story by Jocelyn Christianson.

Jocelyn Christianson is in her third year of formation and is studying for a B.A. in Religious and Pastoral Studies at Mater Ecclesiae College in Greenville, RI.

We lay on the side of a hill looking up at the night sky. The fireworks burst beautifully in all directions and the glassy lake mirrored their reflection. What a perfect night! My sister and I were out for a late summer night with our friends and life was good. The only thing the night lacked was the fidelity of the stars – the brightness of the fireworks blocked out their steady glow, and even with all the fun of the night, there was something missing.

My life was like a fireworks show. It was bright, it was colorful, it was fun – I thought it was perfect. I was seventeen years old and I loved life. As the second oldest of 6 children from a Calgary-born Catholic family, I lived thanking God daily for his many gifts. I loved Jesus very much, but still tried to squeeze him in as just one among many important things – friends, family, boys, clothes, sports, school. He didn’t get squeezed out all together, but he still didn’t have the place that he truly deserved. He was very patient with me.

High school graduation passed by like a spectacular firework show and only two weeks later, I packed my bags full of pictures and memories of all the good times, and set off on the adventure of a volunteer year for the Church through the Coworker Program. To give a year to Jesus, who had given me so many gifts – that was why I was going….but I made sure he knew it was only ONE year.

From the bright lights and noisy sounds of life outside, I arrived, suitcase in hand, to the soft stillness of the chapel of the house in Rhode Island where I would have my summer of formation and training. But something stilled my heart when I stepped into this new world, and deep down, I knew this house would not be my home for only one summer.

Coming from the bright and familiar comfort of home, this thought did nothing but terrify me. I looked at Jesus, hidden but attentive in the monstrance on the altar, and cried to him, “Lord, please don’t ask me this!”

Jesus knew my fears and was very gentle and respectful – still, a man in love is a man in love, and even more, a God in love is a God in love - there is no way to change that. Throughout my summer and into the start of my volunteer year in Washington, D.C., Jesus continued to tug gently at my heart.

My fear of listening and answering Him could be summed up in one simple reality – a lack of trust. I tried to hold Jesus at arm’s length for fear of what I would hear if he came too close. I was an expert at distracting myself from the whispers of my God. With the many activities for the girls youth groups I was leading in DC, with my wild adventures with my team of coworkers who I loved as sisters, with my country music playing steadily on my iPod, with phone calls and emails home to family and friends whom I missed so much, with university plans for the following year, I was almost able to drown out those whispers – I could almost convince myself that it was all made up. Yet deep down, I knew it was him calling me.

So amidst my fears, questions and distractions, the certainty of Christ’s love began to shine through. Even I couldn’t ignore the reality that I was falling for him – very slowly. Something that a holy priest told me continued to resound in my heart, “Will not the God who made your heart fill it?”

I began to long to trust Jesus and respond to his call.

In September of my second year in D.C., I began to offer up all my times of prayer for one urgent intention – for the grace to trust Jesus. As in all things, Jesus is faithful. After Christmas, before returning to the cities where we were working, all of us volunteers gathered back in Rhode Island for a week of Spiritual Exercises. There is a simple, but beautiful song, which was running through my head for many days on the retreat. In the song, Christ says “I died for you. I’d do it all again if I have to, to show you what you really mean to me. I cried for you. I hung on the cross so you wouldn’t have to and gave a way to set your spirit free. That’s how much I love you!...”

In discovering his love so clearly, my heart was moving more and more towards trusting in his plans. It was through an experience of his love and mercy in confession, that my heart made that final leap into his arms. Who couldn’t trust and love someone who loves so faithfully and so tenderly? I softly closed the door of the confessional, turned towards the chapel and slowly walked towards him. I walked up the center aisle and found to my delight that Jesus was waiting for me – and he was the only one there! I knelt before him and with a heart open wide, I looked at him and said softly, “Yes Lord! Yes, Yes, Yes – a hundred times yes! Wherever you go, I will follow. I love you.”

After some minutes and many “yeses” with Jesus in the chapel, I put on my warm winter coat and headed outside to the silent winter night. I lay down in the snow and looked up into the clear night sky. What a beautiful night! In the quiet stillness of this life, there were no fireworks to steal the glory of the stars, nor noises to overpower the sweetness of Christ’s voice. I gazed up into the night sky and heard him say, “I placed every star in this sky for you. I am here and I will be faithful. That’s how much I love you!”

Jocelyn Christianson is in her third year of formation and is studying for a B.A. in Religious and Pastoral studies at Mater Ecclesiae College.



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