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Jesuit scholastics Eric Immel (back row), Matt Donovan, Thomas Bambrick, and Bobby Karle, meet the Sisters and children of the Missionaries of Charity Orphanage in Guwahati, India.
"I feel called to do more with my life, more than just being comfortable. I recognize discomfort is inevitable to growth."
--Eric Immel, SJ
A Call to Live Uncomfortably

By Eric Immel, SJ

I was fortunate to spend my summer in Northeast India. The Wisconsin Province has a long relationship with the Kohima Region, and it was my turn to make the trip, working and living with Jesuits who truly go to the frontiers. Here’s just a short story about one night in a village in Northeast India.

I woke at 3 a.m., the result of two factors: first, the combination of fantastically scary dreams caused by mixing malaria pills and a generic form of Nyquil, and, second, the oppressive, almost comical, heat of the place. No fan. My thin mattress is soaked in sweat and for a moment, I have no idea where I am.<

Then I glimpse the dark mesh around me. I fumble for my glasses and headlamp (no lights, either), and when my mosquito-net cocoon is lit up, I see that the little monsters have gotten in despite my best efforts. I swat one away and curse, because the rash all over my arms is raw and sensitive to the touch.

I decide to get up and use the bathroom, one of perhaps five trips I’d made that night – a result of over-hydration and three huge helpings daily of rice and dal. Crossing the small room is an adventure; I carefully step over not one, but three long lines of ants running along the floor, and I dodge a fist-sized spider letting itself slowly down from the ceiling. In the bathroom, I’m greeted by my now familiar friends, cockroaches, that scatter high up on the walls as my light shines on them. When I’m finished, I use a small bucket of rainwater to wash my hands,and I look in the mirror. All of it – tired eyes, the crazy dreams, the fever, the sweat, the rash, the bugs – makes me think to myself: “This is possibly the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been.”

Eric Immel, SJ
 Eric Immel, SJ

And thank God for it.

A friend in college, reflecting on her own time abroad, once told me, “Eric – we are called to live uncomfortably.” In my life of discernment, the greatest hindrance has always been an unfounded and unnecessary desire to be comfortable. To live an easy life. To follow a much trodden path. To have all the answers. To know without a doubt. I didn’t join the Jesuits until I was 29, in part because it was too uncomfortable to think about leaving everything else behind – I couldn’t take a leap of faith.

And yet, here I am. Not a day goes by that I don’t ask myself what on earth I’m doing as a Jesuit, and if the tension of life can be resolved – this is true under the extreme conditions of Northeast India and in the luxury of my Chicago suite. Fortunately, for me (despite the discomfort), joy and hope and laughter and love shine through like a headlamp on a mosquito net, illuminating my truth – I feel called to do more with my life, more than just being comfortable. I recognize discomfort is inevitable to growth. The choice is clear – it is between growth and comfort. God gives me that answer, and asks with what I imagine to be a slight smile, “what do you say – shall we live uncomfortably today?”

For more great articles by and about Jesuits, check out Callings, a publication of the Midwest Jesuits Vocations office.

For more information about joining the Society of Jesus, visit us at www.thinkjesuit.org






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The Demontreville Jesuit Retreat House is located on the shores of Lake De Montreville in Lake Elmo, Minn.