Early discouragements can be building blocks

Published 8:15 am Wednesday, September 20, 2023

By Steve Stricker

Born into a small Catholic family in southern Missouri, my mother and daddy were too busy to attend to me, and my three older sisters ignored and daily told me I was stupid. So I pursued four degrees, Ph.D., MA, MAT, BS to prove them wrong – after squeaking out of high school and almost flunking out of college. Maybe they were right.

My parents never challenged me to think, remember things, share my feelings, and as a result my memory is rubbish. I never learned to “talk,” and have great difficulty communicating thoughts from the brain out my mouth.

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Having to negotiate this ruthless world alone, like a duck on quiet water, my brain (feet) was in constant motion under the water. I figured things out on my own, and one of my strengths is problem solving, along with being able to take care of myself and others.

Early on, not knowing what success was, I just never quit. In school I had no confidence but the Ursuline nuns who taught us saw my potential and encouraged me.  Being athletic, and captain of our extremely small basketball team my junior and senior years,  I busted my tail. I had bloody feet after each game, averaged 13 points a game before the three-point shot – but never won a single game that year. 

One day our assistant priest and coach told me I had been selected to the All-District Team. Wow, without winning a single game!

In the same breath, the priest who always encouraged me to keep shooting, looked at his shoes and said that because he didn’t scheduled the required number of games, I couldn’t be awarded this major achievement and could only be given an honorable mention. I was disappointed, but very honored because I had indeed been selected to the All-District Team.

Thenceforth, I got knocked down but never quit and accomplished some major things. A few shallow people meeting me for the first time, not capable of articulating my thoughts, judged me stupid like my sisters, and I just put my head down and because of God’s silent, strong, guidance and my no-quit, proved them wrong.

If one is not at peace, silence can be hugely intimidating, threatening, deafening because the demons within can come screaming. Whereas, if one is square with God with frequent confession, daily Mass, eucharist, prayer and life given to God’s will,  there is no greater experience than to be in complete absence of noise with our Lord – listening to his awesome words of peace, guidance, reassurance through the Holy Spirit.

Many years ago going through divorce, my spiritual adviser, Fr. Patrick Jerimiah McDevitt in Missouri, a swell friend then and now, asked me how I talked to God when I went to bed at night – “Like the cacophony of machine-gun fire!”  Fr. Pat said, “Stop!  Quit talking to God, and listen…”

It took me two weeks to discern how in heaven God was going to talk to me.  It finally dawned on me that to hear God speak, I had to be quiet and listen.  Being quiet meant relaxing my entire body, stress left, and God spoke through my friend, the Holy Spirit – in that what I thought and felt were His words to me…something I still do and can’t wait to go to bed to be still and listen for His guidance.

Trust God, yourself, be still, listen, never ever quit, and Go Rebels!

Steve is an Oxford resident, received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss, and can be reached at sstricker@olemiss.edu.