Some of you are about to go off and do really big things. You’ll travel the world and help people. You’ll start organizations and businesses. You will be well known in your field. You’ll be on the news and in the paper. Some of you.
But all of you will change the world in the small decisions you make every day. In the words and actions you choose with your roommate, your family, your neighbors, your lab partner, the lonely person you pass by, that person in your 8 am class Monday morning who really gets on your nerves.
There’s a woman in town who reminds me that I changed her life. I didn’t know until years later. I invited her to a moms group at our church. She learned she had immense value and she could find community. From there she was invited to join the next thing. That thing grew her relationship with Jesus which changed everything. At some point we were on a walk. She said she couldn’t run and I said, “Yes, you can.” So, she did. And then she kept going. And it CHANGED her. You most likely won’t know how you’re changing the world. But you will be.
Many of you will have a spouse and kids you live with. Let me tell you, those are the easiest people to lash out at. I’m sure you’ve seen this already with your siblings. You will change the world, for better or for worse, by the grace and mercy you extend inside the walls of your house.
Change the world by how you respond to failure
And you’ll fail. Oh, and the devil will really love if you sit and dwell in your failure, but like David, you have to have a heart for the Lord, and keep coming back to Him.
Which means you have to know Him. In your first 18 years, you’ve uncovered only the tip of the iceberg that is the richness of the Catholic faith and a relationship with the God who created you and loves you immensely. So keep getting to know Him and this beautiful faith He gave us.
The world is full of distractions. Some of them are evil wrapped in pretty packages with a lot of time and money behind them. Some distractions are good and beautiful. But there are too many good things for you to do them all and still be able to love the person next to you. So, you will have the tough decision of deciding what God wants you to do.
God’s plans for you
He would love for you to come to him with those decisions. You have many plans and ideas for your life. But I promise, your imagination isn’t big enough. Mine wasn’t. I didn’t ever envision being the mom to 10 kids, half of whom died before me. I didn’t envision my perfectly healthy 18 month old dying. Never would I have foreseen the beautiful waiting period I had with our last two miscarriages during the weeks we didn’t know if those babies would be okay or not. I didn’t envision being in this place where I can tell God, whatever He wants, I want that too.
God’s plans for you are better than you can dream up. You’ll be more joyful and fulfilled if you ask him what he wants you do and then wait to hear an answer. In the big decisions and the small ones. My days are always smoother and more productive when I take the time to ask God what I should do first and second and third.
God brings peace. He doesn’t bring stress and confusion. I like to remind myself and my friends that if we’re overwhelmed there’s something we’re trying to do, some burden we’re trying to carry that God didn’t ask us to. Take a step back, figure it out what it is, and let it go.
Change your view of suffering
John 16:33 says, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” It’s not a matter of IF you will experience suffering. Some of you have had intense suffering already. But you’ll all have suffering of some kind. So, it’s not a matter of if.
People would say it’s a matter of when. “Not if, but when.”
I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s a matter of how. Not in wondering what will happen to you but in how you will respond to the suffering. How will you suffer? Will you suffer with God? Will you let Him in? Let Him love you? 2 Kings says, “I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Now, I am healing you.”
Will you let others in? Will you suffer joyfully? Will you recognize the sanctification that happens through suffering? Reflect on how much you’ve grown in your love of God and your detachment from things the world says you should love? Even in our suffering, our imaginations are not big enough. The God who loves us, never leaves us, and is always reaching out to us.
We are human and we are not fully alive, fully able to love and experience joy until we let God be the one who fills us up. Like Saint Augustine says, our heart is unquiet until it rests in God.
By the words you use. By your tone. Whether you ask God what to do or decide what is best on your own. With your thoughts and your daily actions. In all the big and small ways, go change the world!