A Story of Awakening: Redefining Life, Community and Mindfulness
by Mark Votava
In my own life, I have been experiencing awakening for quite some time now. It has been a process of change, growth, shaping and listening. Growing up as a Catholic, I went to a church building almost every Sunday with my parents and siblings. I became an alter boy and rang the bells during the Eucharist at mass. First communion, CCD and confirmation were all things I completed throughout elementary school, middle school and high school.
- God was not relevant to me
After going to hundreds of masses growing up, I believed in God from a very young age. Although thinking about God a lot was not something I liked to do. I didn’t think God was relevant to this life. I thought God was only present to the after life, as someone passes away.
- A profound awakening
Toward the end of my high school days, I had a profound awakening within myself. I loved playing basketball. It was what I lived for. Playing year round was something that I did for years throughout middle school and high school.
- Facing a place of depression
When I was in high school, I played under a tough coach who made me want to quit the basketball team. He yelled a lot and I experienced a lot of fear of making mistakes when I played. I got to the point of hating practices so much that I quit the team for good. This brought me to a place of depression.
- Alone and afraid in a state of withdrawal
It got so bad that I was having a difficult time wanting to finish my senior year of high school. Dropping out of high school crossed my mind more than once. I didn’t want others to call me a quitter. Facing this within myself was extremely hard. It seemed I was alone and afraid in this state of withdrawal and depression. It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life up to this point.
- God cares for my life
Soon I met a youth worker within the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination hanging out at my high school. I got to know this guy a little. He would tell me that God cares for my life. I would think to myself, “whatever.” We started to spend time together. He seemed to listen to me. The guy was kind of strange to me, but became a friend. I would listen to him talk about God’s love for me. The kind of stuff now that I can see is very common among church culture.
- Engagement in listening carefully through loneliness and pain
My excruciating loneliness and pain kept me engaged in listening carefully. Becoming even more depressed was something that I didn’t want to experience. I didn’t want to turn to drugs and alcohol to relieve my pain, so I slowly became open to God. I thought to myself, “I am so messed up I might as well try being open to God. I don’t have a lot of options at this point. Where will I be in a year?” I kind of said this to myself out of a deep fear. At the young age of 18, I was extremely scared and depressed. Not a place you want to be right before graduating high school. I didn’t know what to do.
- Starting to trust God in my own way
So I started to trust God in my own way. I started to cry out to God. Knowing pretty much nothing of theology at the time, all I knew was my pain and my need, but that was enough. I had virtually no knowledge of the Protestant church. All I knew was a little of the Catholic church.
- Beginning to practice reflection and rest
As I trusted in God and slowly began to practice reflection and rest, I experienced an awakening within myself. I started to show signs of hope as the depression was receding within me over the course of the year. Finding some kind of identity in God really helped me to ground myself in a sense of peace in life over my constant state of anxiety. My identity as a basketball player had died when I quit the team. This dream was crushed and gone forever which was hard to take. But I wanted to live again. Life was worth living. I had a hope for the future of my life that I hadn’t thought was possible before.
- Becoming more mindful of God in everyday life
I couldn’t understand what happened, but I just wanted to keep seeking God more. I had a conscious awakening over time to becoming more mindful of God in everyday life.
This was troubling in a way because what I experienced of church always seemed to have a sense of disconnection and disillusionment for me. I never seemed to fit in. It never really made sense to me. I tried getting involved in Campus Crusade for Christ in college along with Christian Missionary Alliance and Calvary Chapel denominations. But still things didn’t seem to work for me that well.
- Disillusioned with the experience of church
After I went through another stage of depression in the year 2000 after college, I explored the Emergent Church movement after realizing there were all these North Americans who were disillusioned with their experience of church. Learning about postmodern culture through much reading, conversation as well as many new relationships in my life, I had an awakening to the context I was living in and being shaped by. I soon had more awakenings to the Missional Church movement, New Monasticism and the Catholic Worker movement.
- What community means
And now I am having more awakenings toward what community means as embodied in a particular place of a local context together in everyday life. The words or phrases “parish,” “neighborhood,” “theology of place,” “rebuilding,” “authenticity,” “practices,” “faithful presence” and the concept of being “rooted and linked” have all been a part of my journey to understand the mystical body of Christ in the world today. I am sure more awakenings will happen within me the longer I live and experience life. I am sure more awakenings will happen as I practice reflection and rest in the parish where I live in community with my neighbors.
Does the term awakening resonate with you? Does God give us ordinary awakening experiences in everyday life?