In a matter of weeks, our worlds have been upended and reforged. Because of the Coronavirus, we now attend classes virtually and work from home–which are modifications that help us to maintain our typical schedules. But when we’re through with those responsibilities, we find ourselves still at home, with several hours left of our day, feeling boredom and hunger that no number of visits to our kitchen cabinets or pantries, or hours spent binging on our favorite Netflix TV shows and movies, can mitigate.
At the end of each day, there’s still something “there” that keeps us awake at night and forces us to ponder. It’s the desire for something more out of life, the feeling of an insatiable emptiness, a longing for Him. It’s perhaps the result of seeking short term answers to a problem that is far more long term and interconnected with our being. I invite you to turn to God during this unprecedented and difficult time, as He is in fact the only one who can fill up that void.
More recently, I’ve thought about what all of that means. What does it mean to be filled up with God’s love? The answer, I realized, has always been difficult for me to put into words. It’s one of those things, I guess, that you feel.
The most salient example of this “fullness” in my own life was when I came out to my parents. It was an Autumn night in November and I had decided, after several hours of pondering in between my steps, to enter my parents’ room from the hallway outside. There they were, on their Queen-sized mattress, snuggling together in an act of love for each other. I interrupted them.
“I have to tell you something,” I said.
My dad, who usually does the talking, answered me, “What is it, son?” Not only did I lack an answer, but I immediately burst into tears. At that moment, I remembered all the reasons I had curated for not telling them. My coming out, I reasoned, might forever change the way they see me. I pondered, playing different scenarios in my head. At this point, well over an hour after I had entered, I had made my way onto their bed, like an infant seeking the love and affection of its parents. And in truth, I was. I had not been able to grow, because I had never been able to reconcile being gay and Catholic. But now I sought after the opinion which mattered most to me: that of my parents. My mom caressed me, the way she would when I was 4. Her fingers made their way through my hair. The time continued to pass. And, finally, I decided, it was now or never.
“God, fill me with courage,” I implored. It was then that the words finally made their way out, “I’m gay.”
I closed my eyes in preparation for my whole life to change. But when I opened them, I was shocked to see their demeanor hadn’t really changed. And more surprisingly, I saw something in their eyes I had never seen before. It was a look that melted me, made me feel embraced without them touching me physically. It was love.
“Jacob, we still love you, and always will, just as you are, no matter what,” my dad said. My mom nodded her head in agreement. I felt as if God was speaking to me. I had always heard that He loved me as I am. But at that moment, His word became flesh in my life. I felt happiness unlike any other, indescribable by words. I felt at ease, more than ever before in my life and, in that peace, I closed my eyes and fell asleep, embraced by my mom.
In retrospect, this experience of coming out, and other experiences I’ve had of God’s love, have taught me that, oftentimes, all I have to do to feel His love is open my heart to Him—choose Him. But, more often than not, I’ve chosen the path I know will destroy me. I’ve chosen short term answers to my long term desire for Him: I’ve smoked my reality away, fornicated to “feel,” and many more things I’m not particularly proud of.
This virus has allowed me to experiment with change. I’ve made an effort to let God be my strength—to be filled up by Him and only Him. And I’ve noticed one thing in particular: because I’m not actively trying to distract myself from that longing for Him, the beauty in everyday life is so much easier to see.
I can see clearly the beauty of having a family who loves me for who I am, cares about my day-to-day activities and waits for me to come home from a long day at school. I can see clearly the beauty of having 8 siblings and still another on the way. I can see clearly the beauty in the suffering I have endured over the years, the emotional ups and downs, the friendships I have upended but, with time, reforged to be stronger than ever. I can see clearly the beauty in having a community to celebrate the Word of God and receive Holy Communion with, even though we now can only do so from home.
In this light of being able to see beauty more clearly, I have begun to write and take photos more. Writing and photography, in particular, have been ways for me to clear my mental “haze.” With writing, I can put down into words how I feel. With photography, I can capture the beauty I see with my eyes and preserve it in the digital realm, to look back on when I need encouragement.I feel fortunate to have been taught by the people I’ve encountered at school and beyond that there is beauty in everyday life and, further, that it is possible to see it. And the Coronavirus, in all its terribleness, has served as the circumstance I needed to push me to really “see” what’s around me, and be grateful to God for each day more of a beautiful life.
Here are some moments I’ve captured this past week that I found beautiful: