Editor’s note: Missioner SarahJane Cauzillo shares “an experience of letting go of my controlling nature, and learning to depend on others. Christ presented Himself to me in those who helped me along the way in my travels [to Cochabamba, Bolivia].”
I am a stranger
in a brutal, yet wondrous land —
far from the promise of home,
on a journey
led by your hand
the lion lies down with the lamb
— Prayer by St. Francis
Not unlike many, I have a deep and ingrained tendency to be in control and to be fiercely independent. So when I boarded my first plane in Detroit, Michigan, beginning my long journey to Cochabamba, Bolivia, I thought I had it together. I cried a bit saying goodbye to my family, and I cried a bit at the gate. However, when I arrived in Miami, I convinced myself that I was just fine and I would figure it all out (spoiler: I was not and I did not).
I spent my long layover in Miami with my grandpa, who lives in Florida. I felt a bit distracted, but otherwise just fine. However, the moment I stepped into the airport in Miami, I began to cry. (And I did not stop until I landed in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.) Suddenly, the waterfall of emotion I had locked up somewhere deep inside burst and I simply could not hold it all in.
With tears cascading down my blotchy red face as I stood in line to check my bags, I suddenly found myself in solidarity with the wailing infants in the arms of their parents beside me. I was not sad or fearful because I was going to Cochabamba. Rather, the pain of saying goodbye to my family and friends finally hit and I finally allowed the floodgates to open, allowed myself to feel the weight of the goodbye. It was heavy, and by the time I entered security in the Miami airport, I could no longer carry it on my own.
After locating my gate that would lead me to Bolivia, I scurried to a semi-private corner in the crowded airport and immediately called the Casa community—my family from my time living in Washington, D.C. There, in a corner, as a grown woman, I shook, and sobbed, and heaved all the emotion I could out of my tear ducts and lungs. I doubted why and how I got there, and I lamented the long journey ahead of me—completely alone—from the comfort of all I knew to a land far away.
The words of my dear friends, all gathered around the phone screen during our FaceTime, encouraged me and uplifted me. They comforted me and made me laugh. They convinced me to buy a sandwich, call my mom, and ultimately, get on the plane. These dear friends — this dear family of mine — were the Incarnate Christ walking beside me. I was not so alone.
With thirty minutes left before I boarded my plane, I called my mom. I didn’t want to worry her or scare her with my tears, but she was a fortress of strength. She spoke gently, slowly, and calmly to me. Her words of love were the loving words of Christ, ever so softly encouraging me as He walked beside me. I was not so alone.
As I boarded the plane, I apprehensively sat in my seat. The Spanish language flooded my ears and my fears of being unable to speak enough overwhelmed me. I was the only native English speaker I could hear for rows and rows of the plane until a medical student from Minneapolis, named Collin, sat next to me. The Incarnate Christ was present in him as well as he talked to me in English and listened to me patiently and compassionately. Jesus never left me in that plane ride. Christ, in this stranger, led me through my layover in Santa Cruz and onto my flight to Cochabamba. And, when I arrived in the airport in Cochabamba, I was warmly and emotionally embraced by the arms of Christ in Maggie, Anna, and Anita, my host mom. I was no longer alone.
I am only beginning this journey, far from home, in a strange and wondrous land, and I am certain that I am being led ever so carefully by Christ’s hand. In one period of long travel, He presented Himself and guided me through so many individuals for whom I am eternally grateful.
Our patient and loving Lord is always so kind and gentle as He reminds us that our need for control and independence is simply counterintuitive to how He desires to work in our lives. In many ways, my insistence on control and independence pushes me further to the loneliness I so dread. In this traveling experience, I am already beginning to see and learn that I will need to lean on others — many others, both familiar and strangers alike— to help me see Christ and be guided by Him during my time here in Cochabamba.
I cannot fathom how good You are to me! Thank You for being with me, for showing Yourself to me in all of these individuals that crossed my path in a most precarious time. This is not the first time, nor the last time, I will need to learn the lesson of trust and dependence on others and on You, but I give You thanks for Your abounding patience and empathy. Amen, Amen. I am here with You, Oh Lord.
Reflection question: How has Christ reached out to you through loved ones and strangers?