Jan 25 2013

Light Amidst the Darkness

It often becomes difficult for us to appreciate what we have when everything in our lives is going well. We take those around us for granted and seem to look directly past the abundant blessings in our lives. However, during times of struggle, we witness the blessings we have in our lives in a new way: more specifically, the people we have in our lives.

At times, I became stressed during my first semester at Candler, as I sought to balance a difficult academic schedule with a variety of other activities. Towards the end of the semester, I learned that each “task” was a blessing from God to be cherished and a new way to connect with my Lord and Savior. However, even in the midst of this significant discovery regarding my daily tasks, I breezed by another significant part of my first semester at Candler: the people that I had encountered.

I am not by any means suggesting that I did not feel close to those at Candler after my first semester. In particular, my Episcopal Studies cohort seemed like family. I was the youngest, and the group always seemed to look out for me. However, since everything seemed to go well my first semester, I feel as though I took the concept of this group always being present in my life for granted.

Katie and MomThis past Friday, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. While my mom has had a number of health problems since I was in the second grade, this particular case cut like a knife. I am 12 hours away and have been filled with guilt that I am unable to physically be there in support of my mom. However, I have had difficulty discovering how I am “supposed” to feel. I have always been the strong one and the positive one. Even amongst my Episcopal Studies cohort, I feel like I am known for positivity and “holding it together.” I wondered if it was acceptable not to “hold it together” for even a few moments.

I was comfortable enough with the Episcopal Studies group at Candler, after knowing them only four months, to share the news in our private Facebook group. To my surprise, I received a public or private message from almost every one of the 18 students within a matter of hours, even though it was a holiday weekend. While each one was comforting and expressed sorrow for my family, one private message in particular touched me. One of my peers had written me a letter within the message. She told me that she hoped I would be able to find solace through those reminding me of God’s love, God’s purpose, and God’s comfort for those who suffer. However, she also told me that if these things did not help and felt like hollow reassurances during this time of darkness, that was completely fine. She would be there for me regardless.

This particular message gave me permission to be myself in front of my family, my peers, and God. I did not have to “hold it together” for anyone, especially my friends at seminary. Throughout my spiritual journey, I have typically been in the position of a caregiver. However, for the first time, I have been put in the position of someone who realistically needs the support of others. The response of my classmates to my newfound role has showed me what incredible friends I am surrounded by at Candler.

It is comforting to know that the Candler students will always be there for each other in good times, such as my first semester, and in more difficult times of struggle. It is even more comforting to know that these same individuals reaching out to me will reach out to the world as priests and as workers of God. As a result of Candler students, I have found a glimmer of light amidst the darkness.

-Katie O’Dunne

Katie is a first year MDiv student, a graduate of Elon University in North Carolina, and a Candler Student Ambassador.