The outward signs of my heart

A couple weeks ago I was on my way to meet some sweet sisters in Christ for Sunday afternoon prayer and fellowship in the park. As I got dressed, I felt particularly attentive to what I was going to wear. It was a casual occasion with friends I knew well, so there wasn’t a need to dress up, nor curate a fit perfect for a future Instagram post. I just wanted something simple, shorts and a t-shirt, yet I felt like the Lord had put it on my heart to introduce some evangelistic flair in my style.

I settled on an oatmeal t-shirt with a sketch of the Pietà on the front, faded high-waisted shorts, patterned socks that scrunched just above my ankles, and oatmeal sneakers. I complimented the neutral tones with gold jewelry — a dark gold medal of Our Lady of Fátima with light pink beads and simple gold hoops that have “Jesus” discreetly written on the side. I looked in the mirror, observing what the Holy Spirit had inspired me to put together. I couldn’t tell if the outfit was actually cute or if I looked like a trendy toddler. Either way, I felt cute, comfy and, most importantly, like myself.

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I put my AirPods in and began bee boppin’ down the main avenue to meet my friends. As I walked along, humming the latest songs from Maverick City Music, I felt someone touch my shoulder. A little startled, I turned around and was met with a pair of deep brown eyes and a confident smile. An unknown young man, who looked around my age greeted me, “Hello, how are you?”

In five seconds, my mind swirled into a storm of thoughts.

DANG. Do I know him? No, I don’t know him, how could I forget a face like that? Wow, he’s handsome. Is this real? Did I airdrop into a ‘90s rom-com? But who the heck is this person? Why is he talking to me? Do I have something on my face? Did I put on deodorant? Wait. Jesus. JESUS. Help me, be here now.

“Hi, umm … I’m good, thanks. Can I help you?” I said, flustered with a cheesy smile on my face.

He smiled back at me, looked at the ground with a fake bashful expression, quickly followed with a confident and more serious look into my eyes.

“My name is Sergio and, well, I was just walking and I saw you … and you are very beautiful. So I thought I would introduce myself and see if you were busy and would like to grab a drink or something.”

Flattered by the compliment, and intrigued by his boldness in pursuing a stranger, I thanked him and told him my name. “So what are you doing right now? What do you say? Want to sit down somewhere and talk?” he asked.

I was for sure blushing and definitely surprised by the proposal, but very present in my mind were the plans I had for the afternoon as well as the fact that I didn’t know this man. I looked at my watch, aware I had to be somewhere in 15 minutes. But dang, he was cute, and I do appreciate a confident man. “Well Sergio, I actually am walking right now to meet my friends in the park for a Bible study and prayer time, but you can walk with me for the next 10 minutes and we’ll see how that goes,” I said.

He engaged in a little small talk, which honestly I quite detest and don’t have patience for. I’m not a fan of talking about things that don’t matter, and I really care to know people and know them deeply.

I interrupted his line of polite questions and asked, “So what are you doing with your life, Sergio?” His eyebrow twitched and he gave me a funny look, doubting whether or not my question was real. “What do you mean?” he asked. I smiled back. “Well, I’m just wondering how you’re making use of this one life you got. What excites you, what are you passionate about, what strikes your attention?”

He burst out laughing. I could tell he was still in a state of disbelief and couldn’t blame him. Most girls don’t ask these kinds of questions to someone they know, let alone a stranger.

“I’m serious. You’ve got this one life. What are you doing with it?” He kept laughing and finally replied, “Look, I’m still young and figuring it out. I really don’t know.” He paused for a moment and, before I could reply, said, “So what do you say, want to meet up later for a drink?”

What do I say? I thought. Come Holy Spirit. I looked ahead at the cars passing by, praying in my heart to God and wondering about this unexpected encounter. I suddenly became aware of my earrings hitting against my ear with the oncoming gust of wind, and with that I had one of those Holy Spirit moments where I was talking but it was clearly God who was giving me the words.

“Well, Sergio, I would have a drink with you, but there’s something you need to know first. I believe in God. Like really believe in God. God is my dad and I’m his daughter. I take my faith seriously, I practice my faith everyday, and I can’t live without Jesus. I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m wearing a shirt with God on it. My necklace has Jesus’ mom on it. My earrings say Jesus. I really love God and live my life by him. Not because I have to but because I love it, I love him. I’m not sure what you believe or what really matters to you in life. But God is the most important thing in my life. I don’t know how that sounds to you, but I need you to know that before we even think about that drink.”

He abruptly stopped and looked me in the eyes. “You mean I can’t have sex with you unless I believe in God?” he asked. This time I laughed out loud. “No, you can’t have sex with me unless you believe in God and are my husband.”

I’m not sure if it was the God part or the husband part, but his whole posture shifted away from me and he began to walk away. “Yeah, don’t worry about it. Not interested,” he said, clearly annoyed. I stood there for a few moments, watching him walk away and sitting in the sting of an attack against my dignity.

Then, I’m not exactly sure what came over me, but I ran after him. The tables turned, and now it was me tapping him on the shoulder. He turned around, shocked to see me again, but quickly reverted his eyes and kept walking down the avenue. “I said don’t worry about … .” I cut him off, almost yelling in a shaky yet firm voice. “No, you listen. You’re wrong. I want you to know that God has big plans for your life. Bigger than you can even imagine. You’re gonna remember this moment in the future, when God comes into your life and changes it unexpectedly. I promise. You are wrong.” Sergio walked away, and I’ll probably never see him again.

I don’t share this story to shame Sergio or to paint myself as a saint. I share this story because this encounter is emblematic of the detailed nature of our Father. Nothing escapes his attention; he is aware of everything. Everything we do, see, act, say and think. He’s there in the middle of it all and sustaining it all.

Very attentively, the Father engages in our life. In the seemingly ordinary and inconsequential decisions of our day, in what we wear, what music we listen to, who we talk to. To the obviously extraordinary moments when we face moments of decision and trial, in which our faith is tested and the true nature of our heart is brought to the surface.

When I ponder this moment, I’m overwhelmed by the Father’s goodness and his subtle yet constant ways of communicating with us. Although I spoke to my brother Sergio with confidence and conviction, I’d be lying if I said there was not a part of my feminine heart that was not affected by dreamy brown eyes and a handsome smolder, especially with the dating environment Catholic women find themselves in today. Encounters like this can feel like someone is teasing you with water in the middle of a desert!

But in the middle of my heart being flustered, the Father communicated to me in a subtle gust of wind. Although there were no words, this wind reminded me of the word, the name, written on my earrings: Jesus. The presence of his name at the forefront of my mind allowed me to pan out and see myself as I really was in the scene. My Pietà shirt, Fátima medal, Jesus earrings — all were outward signs of the inward reality of who my heart was made for and who my heart beats for.

When I am very present, the reality of who I am, and more importantly whose I am, helps me stand firm in whatever situation or circumstance I find myself in. I can come face to face with something, or in this case someone, that appeals to a deep desire of my heart, but have the prudence and trust to know that it will not be me who brings my dreams into reality. It is my Father in heaven who will not lose sight of a single dream or desire of my heart and who will ensure that everything will find its fullest and truest expression in communion with the heart of Christ.

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