I Once Was Lost

by Janine Gobeil

On your way to our farm from Madonna House, if you go straight instead of turning right at Carmel Hill Road, you will come to the Peplinskie farm. It’s a simple walk, though not a short one, and I was on my way to visit them.

I was partway there when I decided to take a shortcut through the Yaraskavitchs’ back field and bush (woods). I figured that taking this short cut would save me at least 10 or 15 minutes.

I set off and I was going through bush, bogs and streams, and climbing over all kinds of obstacles with only my destination in mind. It was the middle of the afternoon and I merrily barreled on.

It seemed to be taking a longer time than I thought and I was beginning to get tired. At one point I tripped and landed hard on my shoulder. It was pretty sore but nothing was broken, and I could still walk.

Soon after that, I came to a small clearing and in it there was a huge rock. I climbed up to get my bearings. Through some trees, I could see the red roof of Paul Shulist’s house, so I knew exactly where I was and which direction to go.

I made my way through more brambles, over more fallen trees, and through more wet ground.

It was beginning to get a little darker and then a soft rain began to fall. I said to myself, “any minute now I should be out of here,” but it seemed to take forever.

I came to another clearing and there I climbed a tree to see how much further I had to go. I was dismayed to again see the Shulist’s roof, but now it was a tiny red square in the far distance. I had gone twice as far away from it but in the wrong direction!

By this time, I was cold, wet and hungry, and I realized that I was lost, but I didn’t panic. I realized that I would just have to think my way out instead of just pushing on.

I looked up at the clouds and I noted which direction they were blowing in relation to the red roof. So even though I could no longer see the roof after climbing down the tree, I knew which direction I needed to move.

I started walking and eventually I came to a fence. On the other side of the fence, I saw signs of horses and then I knew exactly where I was because the only people who had horses in the area were us and the Peplinskies! I had arrived at my friends’ house.

I had been in the bush about four hours. My friends gave me dry clothes and at supper I told them about my adventure.

This story about being “lost” and having to find my way parallels my journey of faith and my vocation.

When I began my faith journey, I had a goal in mind. I knew I would have some kind of vocation, God would be a part of my life, and I would be busily involved in parish life. Somehow, I thought, a vocation would just fall into my lap. That is the beginning of my other “being lost” story.

In both cases, I was struggling through, pushing ahead, ignoring things I needed to deal with. I just wanted to arrive at my destination, to find my vocation, and I scrambled over whatever I thought would slow my “progress.” I wanted a short cut, so I tried to force my way through.

I thought I could ignore the pain, sadness, and wounds that I carried inside. But all these things weighed me down, and they kept causing me to stumble and fall. Over and over, even though I was hurting, I would just get up and push on ahead.

The first clearing I came to on my hike is like when I came to Madonna House as a working guest in 1980. At MH, I had a little respite from my struggles, and I was able to be here for a good long stay.

I asked to become an applicant but was told to wait a year. Then when the year was up, I was asked to wait a second year.

I was devastated, but Madonna House was like that large rock that I had climbed. I now knew in which direction I needed to go. So I climbed down from the “rock,” that is, left Madonna House, and continued my journey.

The continuation of my journey and the struggle that ensued seemed to be much harder than before—more painful and difficult. All kinds of things from inside began surfacing. Painful memories, experiences, and trauma from my childhood made life hard to live. I began to doubt God’s love and care for me.

I reasoned that if he were a God of love and compassion, he would not have let me suffer. He wasn’t there when I needed him so I chose not to need him now. I would take care of myself.

But I was very tired, in a lot of pain, and I did not know where to go or how to get there either with my vocation or just with life in general.

I returned to Madonna House pretty much in this state and this was like my arriving at the second clearing of my being lost story. When I “climbed the tree,” which like the rock was Madonna House, I realized that I had gotten so far away from God in my spiritual life that I hardly had any pulse left.

I could see where I needed to be but the distance was so great, it seemed like I would never get there.

But the little red roof was pointing the way. It was then that I realized I couldn’t just keep barreling my way through the bush thinking I knew the way. The thinking would have to become prayer.

The wind blowing the clouds on my hike were like the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit was saying, “Don’t follow the clouds. Follow the direction I’ve pointed out for you, and you will be free of the woods.”

This was when I joined Madonna House. This time I knew I was going to get free.

The journey was not an easy one. I have been a member of Madonna House for 31 years now, and the first 22 were like my journey after leaving the second clearing.

I had a lot of struggle living this life because I was still carrying a lot of my baggage that I didn’t know how to let go of. There were areas where I did not trust, times I couldn’t recognize love, and times I felt I was misunderstood because I didn’t even understand myself. I was easily hurt and then I would make life miserable for anyone around me.

For years I lived like that, and it was not fun or pleasant, but I had to just keep going and to trust that eventually God would help me. It took 22 years before a major turning point occurred in my life.

One year, shortly before Lent, the Lord put it into my heart to go to a past journal where I had written that I felt I was going into Lent, 40 days in the desert, with just the devil for company!

During that former Lent, I was in such darkness of soul and spirit. Every journal entry seemed so filled with darkness and pain; there was no light and certainly no joy.

As I read the journal, I began to ask myself, “Who wrote this? It can’t possibly be me!” But it was.

Through that journal, God was telling me that I didn’t understand what had been happening behind the scenes. I had been going through my own passion, but I was also on my way to resurrection.

Moreover, I came to understand that it had not been God who had put his Son on the cross; it was sin that put him there. It was also sin that had made me suffer, whether my own or someone else’s.

That put a lot of things into perspective for me, yet I was still wondering what had changed because now my life was no longer dark; I had peace, joy, security. I had been healed on a lot of levels, but when did that healing start?

As I continued to read, I discovered that God had fulfilled a desire that I had held in my heart a long time—a desire to learn to play the fiddle. That was the tiny key that God needed and used to bring forth the good things he always knew were inside me.

After a few months of my fiddle lessons, God was able to do his work in me, to show what he had created when he created me.

The music was secondary to the real beauty that I have within me. I’m not perfect, but I am growing.

It’s like my story of when I reached the fence and climbed over it. I’m still walking through the last fields, and I haven’t reached the house yet. The walking is easier by far, but I still need time to finish my journey.

When I reach the “farmhouse,” I will be welcomed, given a new garment, and sat down to a banquet. I would like to believe I will hear the words, “Come in, my daughter. You are no longer lost. You are home.”