Ms. Stoll's Kairos Reflection: Finding God's Friendship
Maureen Stoll, Upper and Middle School Faculty

For this week’s blog post, I thought I would share some of my speech that I will be giving at the Junior retreat (Kairos) this week. The topic I was charged with was talking about how God’s friendship has been a part of my life. Of course, I love talking about this and decided to share it with you as well!

Everyone has to find their own way to God. None of our paths are the same. Just like no other person can tell you what you feel inside or read your true thoughts– our relationship with God (or however you refer to the divine) is unique to each of us. The one key ingredient though is making space.  I believe making space for God, the divine, in each of us can provide meaning in our lives and allows us to see the ways that God works through us to help ourselves and each other.  

I found God early in my life because of the deep space left in me when my family fell apart at age 7. Out of nowhere, my parents split up and my dad moved out, just like that. I didn’t know why our seemingly happy family suddenly disintegrated and no one really talked about it.  About two years later, my mom decided to move us across the country and my dad took her to court to get us to stay. They fought and it was ugly, but my mom prevailed, so we left. It was devastating losing my dad again, but it was also terrible moving to a new state and school. To top it off, as we were getting ready to leave, my dad told me that he had contracted a virus, the HIV/AIDS virus, and that it would end his life.  

The next five years were gut wrenching, heart breaking, and incredibly traumatic, traveling back and forth between parents who didn’t get along and watching my dad gradually get weaker. I didn’t know where to turn, but I distinctly remember asking God for help and somehow finding Psalm 34, which reads in part, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” I was certainly brokenhearted and crushed in spirit, but reading that Psalm gave me hope that I wasn’t alone.  

Every night before I fell asleep, I would pray, asking God to please watch over my dad and make him better. Looking back, I see now that by making that space for prayer for my dad, I was also praying for myself - that God would take all my worries about my dad and keep the thought of losing my Dad to AIDS from overwhelming me. When I was 14, my dad was nearing the end. I went to visit him one last time, and before I left, I told him not to be afraid. I could have also been talking to myself. My dad died the next day.  

After we lost my dad, I’ll be honest, I was angry at God for a while. I struggled to find space for God. I didn’t go to church. I stopped praying every night. I felt despair and I felt alone. I went through a very deep depression during the middle of high school. I couldn’t relate to kids my own age – I had been through too much that no one seemed to understand. After a lot of therapy to sort out my overwhelmed spirit, things got better and I was read to make space for God again. I finished college, went to law school. I started going to church again with a friend – a Jesuit Catholic church in New Orleans. I remember thinking that I felt at home there, there was no judgment – only peace, love, and positivity.  It gave me hope. A few years later, a priest told me that even though I thought God didn’t answer my prayers to save my dad, maybe God did heal him, just not in the way that I thought. In that moment, I knew that he was right and I found the peace with losing my dad that I so needed.

I see now that God is always there, though sometimes it’s hard to see with everything going on. Even today, sometimes the noise just gets to be too much. But, when things get overwhelming as they inevitably do, I know I have to be so much more intentional to take a deep breath, close my eyes, and find some space, and that space will lead me to God and peace, confident in God’s friendship and the realization that I’m at peace and all is well.