It was quite simple, really. It was 11pm, and I was sitting in the adoration chapel, finishing my first full day at Belmont Abbey College. I was talking to Christ about my day, and how I was feeling, and my worries and expectations, so basically about…me. All about me. That is, until I heard the door open behind me and some muffled sniffles from the back pew soon after. I was quite comfortable up in the front, just gazing at Jesus, but then he started nagging me.
“So Ashley, are you gonna go see if they need anything?”
“Ummmm well I wasn’t planning on it.”
“Hm. That’s nice.” [insert expectant glance and raised eyebrows]
“UGH ok Jesus. But inspire me. I don’t need to be scaring people off my first day here.”
Wow. yup. If you noticed, I was thinking about me again. But I soon gave in to my Beloved, and said a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit. Then I slowly got up and walked towards my sniffling friend.
“Hey, is everything ok?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
Um, YEAH RIGHT. But I wasn’t going to pry, so I just smiled and chirped “Ok,” and went to saunter back to my nice contemplative bubble. But then he came again.
“Ashley, go tell her I want her to come closer.”
[No words from yours truly. Insert silent but interiorly dramatic sigh]
I roll my eyes. But I can’t say no. So I awkwardly spin back around half way down the aisle and head to the back again. What comes like a cool wind swirling softly across my heart is a phrase one of my good friends had to tell me more than once during my time as a candidate with the consecrated women of RC. As I approach again, my sniffling friend looks up hesitantly.
“Hey, you know, if you want to go up closer, he doesn’t bite.”
For a second I got a blank stare, and then slowly a shy smile spreads across her face and she nods. As I go back to my seat, I hear a quick shuffling of feet and then catch a glimpse of my friend sitting across the aisle from me. I steal a glance upward toward the tabernacle and fail to contain a smirk. Ok, you won Jesus.
In the quiet moments afterwards, I come to the simple realization that I’m not just here for my own formation and growth and life experience and whatever other things you’re supposed to get out of college. I’m here to draw closer to Christ. And, just as importantly, He put me here to draw others closer to Him as well. It doesn’t have to be by being a martyr or converting pagans, either. It can be by simply telling someone that Jesus doesn’t bite and inviting them to come out of the shadows of the back pew and towards the consoling light shining from the sanctuary lamp.
In the end, my sniffling friend (who was no longer sniffling) left the chapel the same time as me and thanked me for reaching out to her. As it turns out, she was a freshman, had just said goodbye to her parents and was feeling a little overwhelmed to say the least.
As we went our separate ways and said goodnight, I slipped her a note I had written right before we both left the chapel. My note to her applies to each of you reading this as well, so I will end with the same words I felt inspired to say to her:
Whatever is on your heart right now, you’ve come to the right place. Jesus is so happy when you entrust your heart to him! He wants you to draw close to him, so that he can console and strengthen you in whatever circumstances you find yourself. DON’T FORGET THIS! Never be afraid to run to Him, because only he can fulfill the deepest desires of your heart.