Light in the Dark

Today we worked with a domestic violence shelter for woman and their children. It was such a beautiful shelter and could almost feel the love in the air. This shelter just had such a homey and welcoming atmosphere that almost made feel as if I was back at my family compound on Guam. My job today was to just help with some of the things such as construction, moving things around, etc. It was also to interact and play with some of the children present at the shelter. I had a wonderful experience and give my best wishes to the workers, moms, and children at this shelter.

While riding to each service site throughout the city this week, I've had similar concerns for all of the visits. Would I come across as being genuine? Would I be able to connect with those I had met? Could I reflect Christ to others through my presence? I suppose it's sometimes simpler to believe that Jesus saved us than it is to believe that he intends to use us to help save others.
I was struggling to find how I could bring a light to such a deep darkness that the mothers and children at a domestic violence shelter have experienced. Today I found that when it comes to service, one need only be present; God takes care of the rest. God was able to transform the meager gifts I gave him - a bit of my own time to paint a shed and play with children - and transform them into an encounter. I was reminded of the beauty of simplicity of heart through each of these children. They had no agendas, put up no barriers nor displayed any fear. They only sought to offer companionship. Isn't that such a beautiful reflection of what a child of God ought to be, and who God himself is?
Later in the day, Heather King, an acclaimed Catholic author, joined our community for dinner. Her story is nothing short of incredible. She fought with alcoholism and persistent guilt for many years. Many of her points touched me deeply, particularly habitual vices and the tendency we all have to struggle to forgive ourselves for them. Personally, I find a great level of shame and disappointment in committing many of the same sins repeatedly. Looking to gain some insight for myself, I asked, "How did you do it? How were you able to forgive yourself?"
Heather looks at me, giving the question some thought. She says that she is still trying to find the strength to forgive herself, then shares, "If you can, make amends for your wrongdoings. If you cannot, strive to be better for those who you will meet in the future." This was a moment of great clarity and peace for myself, because I've held on too tightly to past spiritual mistakes, instead of doing something about them. Living today in the light of Christ is the best penance one can give for living yesterday in the shadow of sin.
Though I've failed to represent Christ before, that doesn't mean I can't today. Almost certainly, doubts about this will continue to persist, and I will fail again. But the beauty of our God is that he is slow to anger and rich in kindness. Maybe it's time I was a little kinder to myself too.
RJ Schratz


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