What God Means to Me – Aoife-Marie Buckley
Aoife-Marie, 24, is from Dublin, and is currently amidst a Masters degree in Art History in University College Dublin.
Looking back, I can see numerous traces of God’s hand in my life — sometimes in little nudges, other times with neon lights and great fanfare. I am a stubborn person; sometimes He needs to reshuffle the schedule I’ve boldly made for myself without any consultations with Him. We all have different words for these times of reshuffling, sometimes positive but most of the time negative: transformations, changes, disruptions, upheavals, whatever words you want to use. Usually at that time we cannot see any silver linings, we cannot see the purpose God has for us, and others, in it.
It has been almost four years since I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), something that dramatically altered every facet of my life. ‘Chronic pain’ and ‘chronic fatigue’ suddenly became part of my vocabulary; my life up until this point became a distant memory. It was a trying time for myself, my family and my friends. I had grown up the eldest of three children, in a Christian, Catholic, caring and motivating home and had always been creative, energetic and a planner. I cannot recall a ‘crisis moment’ with my faith in God, I had by circumstance accompanied my parents regularly to mass and to different events within an Ecumenical Christian community, called the Community of Nazareth, they were members of. Here I learnt from other parents and peers about the many aspects of faith, prayer, service, commitment to your chosen church, scripture reading and more. Here circumstance became conviction — my understanding of God became deeper, broader and the anchor to drop in those ‘reshuffles’.
I am grateful for the different groups I have encountered such as the Community of Nazareth, Youth2000, and University Christian Outreach (based in University College Dublin), because interactions with them has given me an overarching comprehension of how others live out their faith lives and helped me establish healthy Christian Catholic habits in my life. I have discovered the life-line that is personal daily prayer, scripture full of hope and truth, the beauty of confession and repentance, and the treasure of the Psalms which are amazing aids in any trouble or worry. These habits have been there to help smooth the little upsets, to keep me anchored and help in times of immense uncertainty and change.
Heralding in the new ‘Aoife’ — now featuring fatigue and new daily struggles — sometimes felt like my whole identity was being stripped away. Who was I if I couldn’t study Architecture anymore? Who was I if I couldn’t play the piano? Be with friends? God why are you doing this to me? I felt frustrated, alone, mournful for my past life, and lethargic because I couldn’t ‘do’ much. I felt like it was all a waste — it is safe to say that I felt altogether lost. But God! He had many purposes in my weakness, to teach me about dependence on Him and His plan, not all the plans I make for myself. I had to release the identity I had constructed in my head that was mostly placed in the things I could ‘do’. Stubborn and headstrong, it took me a while to realise this — retrospect really is a gift! God was not, and is not, calling me to do anything, He is reminding me to go to Him. The simplified realisation from this particular ‘reshuffle’: God does not call you to be or do something in particular, He calls you to Himself. He calls you to follow Him.
During this time I found great solace in a familiar story and, through my reshuffled context, gained a deeper personal understanding of it — when Jesus calls the first disciples:
“And he said to them, ‘Come after me and I will make you fishers of people.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew 4:19-20
God prepares you for the journey too, using skills and characteristics unique to you — they did not stop being fishermen, they become more than they could ever imagine, they become fishers of people. Sometimes we may feel like our destiny in God is a cloudy and out-of-focus photo or painting — there are faint etchings that hint at what is beneath the surface but we cannot see the whole picture. Perhaps one of the reasons we cannot see our own future is that it would be thoroughly overwhelming if we saw the problems, struggles and reshuffles we would face all at once and all the joys, celebrations and discoveries that intertwine them. I imagine it would be like receiving the monopoly card ‘proceed to X spot, do not pass ‘go’ and do not collect €200’ — missing out on great opportunities and rewards that come with each part of the journey.
Today, I am thankful for the reshuffles. I can see the good that has come out of them, there are days when it is not as easy to see the good, but I still believe it is there because I can look back and see the good from other times. Over the past four years I have experienced immense change but also immeasurable, and often unexplainable, joy. I could not have written a better script for my life nor imagined one where the situations unfold as delightfully as they have. God to me is the unsurpassable virtuoso script-writer, who never lets the threads fray or become forgotten, but weaves a wholly good and polychromatic story uniquely mine.
First published in “Alive”, June 2018 Edition.