By Jenna Ebener
(Editor’s note: Jenna Ebener, a graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is a social worker at a school in Colorado for students with a combination of medical, cognitive and behavior disabilities. She relies on God every day to aid her on this wonderful, yet intense journey.)
Throughout the year, increasingly difficult cases have highlighted the intensity of my compassion for my students. I realize now more than ever the importance of self-care so that I can maintain that level of compassion. Yet, whenever I start to make progress in trusting God something happens to my students that causes me to worry and attempt to take control.
At first, I viewed these continuous obstacles with frustration. After joining a small group focusing on consoling the heart of Jesus, I now recognize the beauty of these obstacles. Rather than letting me remain content where I am in my relationship with God, he continues to give me crosses to bear. He is reminding me that I need to continually grow, and that happens most clearly when I am challenged. The more I resist or forget to turn to God in the midst of my struggles, the harder it becomes to bear them. Yet, when I make myself offer up my worries and control to God, the more peace I feel.
I realize there is no perfect formula for letting go of control and embracing trust in God. I continue to expand my toolkit of strategies. In past articles, I discussed the importance of self-care through doing activities I enjoy. I also recognized the healing power of doing selfless acts for others, in part through charisms. I dived into the latter by regularly finding opportunities to use the gifts that God has given me. Doing so has graced me with the humility of recognizing a third vital strategy involving mercy.
A large component of my small group focuses on mercy. As my frustrations have increased throughout the year, I have focused on how to practice acts and prayers of mercy in difficult situations. I realize that I also need to be open to accepting mercy. I went to my group after a difficult day and, before I entered the room, I felt a nudge. I knew in that instant I was in need of mercy and love. I went into the group more willing to simply receive rather than look for ways to give, and I left with a lightened heart. That willingness allowed me to feel the nudge to go to adoration where I felt the urge to write a poem. I needed to receive mercy in order to prayerfully grant it to others.
People have suggested that I write to God when my soul feels burdened by the intensity of my compassion. While I am a writer and journal nightly, I never seemed to find the “right” time to journal when I was upset. That night, in adoration, God pushed me until I found a pen and paper. The words poured out. I have discovered the release that comes with writing away my frustrations to God. Even though he knows what is in my heart, by writing it out, I am able to tangibly let go of my distress.
I have learned many things about God this year, and the latest is this: the increase of crosses is a challenge from God to continue to grow rather than give up. Yes, I will fall at times, but God is always there to pick me back up. His mercy is endless, and the crosses I bear are nothing compared to the cross that Jesus willingly carried for us. As the obstacles increase, so can the strength of my relationship with God and mercy.