By Molly Herrera
I love the interaction between Nathanael and Jesus in today’s Gospel. Here you have a skeptical Nathanael, not yet a disciple, who is called by his friend Phillip to come and meet Jesus for the first time. When Jesus approaches Philip and Nathanael, he says to Nathanael, “behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”
Nathanael, unsure of how Jesus could have known that he was a trustworthy Jew, asks Jesus, “How do you know me?” Jesus replies, “Before Phillip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” I particularly love this interaction because of Nathanael’s blunt and very human question:
“How do you know me?”
There have been many times in my life where I have felt like Nathanael. God, how do you know me? A number of times in my life, I had set out very specific plans for my future, thinking I knew exactly what I needed next. When I graduated college, I discerned to commit to a year of service in Ecuador with an international volunteer program, Rostro de Cristo. I chose the program for many wonderful reasons, but one of them was that it was only a year program. There were several different international programs that I was discerning between, but many of them required two or three-year commitments. While I loved the idea of this new adventure, a multi-year program seemed too daunting. But a year? I can do a year.
Before moving to Ecuador, I planned to return to the US immediately following my volunteer year to begin a master’s degree in Psychology. My plan, ended up not happening. At the end of my volunteer year, I felt God calling me in a different direction. I stayed in Ecuador for another three years teaching English, Psychology, and Spirituality to middle and high school students. I grew enormously throughout those three years and made incredible lifelong friendships.
I had little to do with the decision to stay in Ecuador, Someone who knows me better than I know myself helped me make the decision to stay.
God, how do you know me? How do you know what is best for me?
I have been incredibly blessed in my life since I was a young girl. I always had a deep seeded and unwavering faith. I rarely questioned God or whether He was present in my life. He was always there and He always seemed to know me better than I know myself.
However, for the first time in my life, not too long ago, I doubted God.
Do you really know me?
In April of this past year, my unwavering faith shattered and I will never forget that day. My husband and I were able to go on vacation, for the first time, as spouses. The day after we arrived, we received a phone call that my brother-in-law, my husband’s only brother and sibling, had been tragically killed. In the moment we heard, we both immediately collapsed from the overwhelming pain that rushed through our bodies. In the days, weeks and months that followed, our hearts and heads became immersed in pain. The reality of my brother-in-law’s death was unbearable.
I was at a loss in every single way. How could this have happened?
How could God let this happen?
He was only 36 years old. Our niece, his 8-year-old daughter, is in her second year of fighting Leukemia. Our nephew, only a toddler, will never get to know his father. My sister-in-law has lost the love of her life and is now a young widow. My mother and father-in-law have lost their first child. And my husband, has lost his childhood companion and only brother. How could You let this happen?
At the time, I felt like God had given me, my husband, and our family too much to carry. I was devastatingly frustrated. I was lost. I was so angry with God that there were times that all I could do was cry in pain and anger. God, do you really know me? How could you do this to me? How could you do this to the people I love? How could you rip our lives apart like this? How could you take him from us? Why are you doing this? You know my heart. Don’t you know I can’t handle this?
Months later, I still sit with these questions and the pain of losing my brother-in-law. But, in the pain and the grief and the anger of this loss, I found that
the only One who I can repeatedly turn to in all of my emotions is the only One who can comfort my pain.
Even now, in my confused spiritual space, there is this light and hope inside of me that believes that God not only knows me, but He sees me, in all my pain and suffering. There is nothing in this physical world that will bring my brother-in-law back. But there is no greater promise than God’s promise that we will all be together again one day with Him. God knows me, God sees me, and God is present for me. There is nothing more comforting than knowing and believing just that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Molly (Gradowski) Herrera is a 2011 graduate of John Carroll University and proud Blue Streak for life. After many years of living far from home in the wonderful city of Cleveland and the beautiful country of Ecuador, Molly returned to her hometown Bethesda, MD last Fall to begin working as a Youth Minister at a diverse and dynamic Catholic parish. Molly loves spending time watching and rooting for DC sports (#HTTR), community building while cooking for crowds at the Gradowski Inn, unintentionally laughing at her husband’s punny jokes, reading anything and everything about Ignatian Spirituality, and a good glass of red wine.