By Caryn Tennant

While I was growing up, my family moved cities a couple of times, and every time was mixed with adventure as well as discomfort in laying down new roots. In each of these changes, my faith was a constant probably because I learnt very early that geography and the concepts of ‘home’ are transitory. But there certainly was a time when I really grappled with belief in God, and questioned the relevance of faith.

The reason why my faith is so important to me is because at one point, I considered a life without God. During this time, my search for purpose was painful. And so was the great gap in my heart which nothing else could satisfy.

I started to question the existence of God at the end of high school. I remember drawing a picture of my heart in my journal, divided in two: one side of me wanted to pursue a relationship with God; the other did not.

The ‘no’ side of my heart was my desire to do things my own way. It was the side that defied being told what to do. I would not associate myself with a religious institution on the premise of being told that it was true. Rather, I had to experience God in order to know God to be real.

Perhaps, at the core of it, I, like any other teenager, was trying to find my place in school and in the world. But instead of allowing God to encourage me, I listened to the dominant voice – the one that says we will never be good enough until x, y, z happens. My marks had to be better, my appearance had to be what society wanted, my possessions were never enough, and the more that I felt this gap in my heart, the more I felt horribly imperfect and drained of life.

At face value, I was successful in high school, but I wasn’t happy. The biggest killjoy of high school was this need to have more. It was all about me, and all about taking – and the paradox is that the more I took, the less I received.

This made me search deeply as to what my purpose is in life, and if God really does have a plan.

One Sunday I felt particularly burnt out from this search for more. I went to mass with my family as we always did, and I allowed everything outside the church building to grow quiet. The words of a song seemed to speak to me, “Those who are hungry shall not hunger; those who are thirsty shall not thirst.”

I let this phrase roll over in my mind a couple of times and the more it did, the more it became a personal invitation to me – as if to say, “You are hungry! You are so hungry. Yet you are filling this void with things that are not enough to sustain you. Come back to me. I will fill you.”

This is one of the turning points in my life. It was an invitation from God, the True God who wanted to fill me with [him]self. I knew that day that I had experienced God and I knew that the battle in my divided heart was slowly being won.

The response to this invitation was not immediate, but rather a gradual exploration of what life with God at the centre would look like. As time went on, I decided to say “yes” to things that would deepen my experience of God.

For starters, I decided to take a gap year in Australia, ministering to teenagers. But even this “yes” did not come from a desire to be a missionary. Rather, it came from an encounter with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. She encouraged me to join this programme because she had done it. I had never considered it, but there was a quiet peace and a radiant joy about her. I don’t think she will ever know the power of that moment – how a five-minute conversation led me to go to Australia – the start of an endless chain of “yes”.

2011 was the year I spent in Australia and it will always be the cornerstone of my faith. It was there that I found deep and lasting joy. The paradox was turned on its head for the better: the more I gave, the more I received. Every day, I had the chance to give something of myself; most of the time it never felt like giving. It was a joy instead of a chore – listening to teenagers’ struggles, acting like a fool in a play, engaging in discussion and travelling the circumference of Australia to encounter teenagers with a universal desire for more.

I finally found my place in the world. It’s a place that exists beyond a geographical location and beyond time. It’s a place where I can choose to be daily, and that is giving my life as a gift to others. This is only because I know the transformative power of Christ loving me in all my brokenness in the way that He gives me His life so I can give mine.

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” – Luke 22:19

The greatest answer to my hunger is found in the mass which is the “source and summit” of our Catholic faith (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324). It is comprised of the richness of scripture and it is a meal of the Word made Flesh. There, I meet Christ at the centre of the Mass, giving Himself over and over again to each broken person, every single day of the year in every single city, for the rest of eternity – so that each of us, despite our brokenness, can become the gift He created us to be.

 


CarynTennantAbout the Author

Caryn Tennant

My inspirations are the smell of croissants, Pope Francis and café interiors. I have had too many hometowns, but currently I’m living in Cape Town where I finished my BA degree and am now teaching English at a high school. My bucket list includes studying theology, speaking Spanish in Spain, and running a half marathon.

 

 

 

 


 

  • Graeme Tennant

    Really enjoyed this honest article. Great website!

  • Chelsea Rebelo

    Love this so much. Shifting the focus from “all about me” to what God’s doing in our lives. Thanks for the reminder that God is so accessible because he allows us this “place to choose to be daily”. Wow.