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Today is my priest’s birthday. She is a perfectly flawed, beautifully broken person, and one who has become someone I count among my dearest friends.

Susan is a mother, sister, advisor, teacher and mentor to me and countless others. Her intelligence shows in every aspect of her life, but what shows even more is her compassion.

I don’t know very many people like her. Utterly committed to the betterment of people, especially those on the fringes of society. The outcasts. The ones that everyone else allows to hide in the shadows because it’s just too easy to let them stay there.

Susan doesn’t subscribe to that philosophy. Her love for Christ shines a spotlight on the people and causes that make many people uncomfortable. In that way, I think she emulates our Lord and Savior in a way like no one else I’ve ever met. 

We bond over spiritual matters, but psychology as well. We both have an understanding that human behavior and conditioning go hand in hand, and believe that basic human needs: mental, emotional, and physical, to be addressed before someone can be touched on a spiritual level. 

Her ability to be compassionately detached is something that I am learning from all the time. How to love others without letting that empathy completely destroy you from the inside out. I have a gut feeling this is something it took her a while to learn, and I’m finally, finally getting there. You can care deeply without letting it overtake you. 

That might sound cruel, but if you’re not a deeply feeling person, I can’t explain it to you. I can only say that it’s necessary for the sanity of those who are.

Her candid admissions of her own struggles with depression and anxiety have provided freedom for me and I’m sure many others who struggle with these kinds of demons. Knowing that someone of her intellectual and spiritual caliber has the same issues as myself gives me a sense of being “okay” in that mental illness doesn’t prey on those who are weak. It just preys on people. And being honest about it is liberating. 

I do not feel the need to put on a mask with Susan. That may be the most beautiful part of knowing her and having her for my priest and friend. 

Susan, I love you. I appreciate you. Knowing you has changed my life in so many ways. And I’m so very thankful for you.

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