The impression that I had of church things growing up for most of my childhood can be summed up in one word -“boring.” I didn’t understand why we had to go to Mass or why we had to go to CCD classes. I thought perhaps this whole religion thing was just a behavior management system to get me to do what my parents wanted me to do -to just do what they said and stay out of trouble. I did, though, come to ponder the deeper questions in life -What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? Why do we exist? How are we supposed to live? Where did everything come from? Why do we do the things we do? -and the things “at church” didn’t seem to answer these questions, or at least, it didn’t seem that I could trust that anyone at church could help me with the answers. It felt like they were showing up more out of guilt and obligation rather than conviction. Therefore, I thought surely the people at church don’t have the answers to these questions, otherwise they would perhaps be more excited to be at church related functions. Moreover, I thought, "if the Church had the answers to these questions, wouldn’t people be flocking to the Church?"
On my quest to discover the meaning of life, one thing I would hear over and over again was “do what makes you happy. ”Much of my childhood, I struggled with loneliness. The times that made me feel most happy were the times when I was noticed and wanted by other people. I thought that perhaps the meaning of life was to do things that made me noticed and wanted. So I tried to fill my life with things that made me feel that way. Some things were good, but unfortunately, some things were bad. I noticed, through the good and bad, I always ended up feeling empty. This repeated experience of feeling empty led me to assess, at many times, my understanding of the meaning of life.
Long story short, God eventually put some people and events in my life that made me realize that I was putting my dignity and worth in things that made me feel noticed and wanted. That is why in moments when I didn’t feel either of those things, I felt completely empty, I felt I had no worth. Ultimately, praise be to God, I came to realize that my dignity and worth came from being a human being created by a loving God out of sheer goodness, body and soul, with an intellect, will, loved infinitely and unconditionally. I came to realize that the yearning that I had to be noticed and wanted was a yearning to know and understand that I can have a relationship with the God who created me and willed me into existence for a plan and a purpose, who knows me better than I know myself, and loves me more than I love myself. I came to realize that the Church is here to give us access to God’s life and the grace to be able to root out the darkness in our life and to experience true joy and true happiness.
In times of emptiness and darkness, know that you are a beloved child of God, that He is in constant pursuit of you, and that the love and grace He has for you is infinite. All you have to do is receive it.
God loves you, Shileng Yang, Director of Evangelization