I’ve been avoiding this post like the plague ever since the Holy Spirit put it on my heart. I’ve come up with all sorts of other neat ideas for posts and God still nudged me towards this. No, this is not my last post (although that will be coming soon enough).
Writers are made completely vulnerable through their writing. We put our entire selves into everything we write – wear our hearts on our sleeves so to speak. One thing I have always been aware of is the power of stories. While fictional stories can be chock full of Truth, it is of imperative importance that we as Christians tell our stories. Even more specific than this, we need to tell our love stories. Everyone is touched by a good love story. So Christ has been telling me over and over, tell our story; it is the greatest love story ever told – my personal love story with Christ is wrapped up in the story of His mystical bride, the Church. It is unfortunately similar to the love story of Israel – who was continuously unfaithful and often strayed far from God.
God wants to convey a very important message through my story: his call is a gift, not based upon our own merits. No matter how unfaithful we are, how sinful, how broken, we each have a specific and unique vocation. His call is always there no matter what incredibly stupid things we do. It is a gift – I cannot even begin to stress the importance of this.
God gave me this precious gift of my calling in high school. Did I treasure this gift, cultivate it and learn how to use it in the manner it was intended? Honestly, not really. Mostly I peeked at it a couple of times and then ignored it until about two years ago. On the outside, I said I was discerning religious life, that I was excited about it, but deep down, I wasn’t convinced. I wanted to feel loved, wanted to know what being in love felt like. I didn’t believe the Truth that God could fulfill me completely. I was lonely. Like many young women, I looked to boys to fulfill me emotionally, and eventually physically.
After Months of feeling like this, a slow downward spiral culminated in one summer of hitting rock bottom. A boy (disguised as a man) suddenly gave me the attention I so craved. I am now ashamed to admit how quickly I attached myself to his arm and like having an out of body experience(probably induced by alcohol), I watched myself become a different person. When this relationship (I use that term very loosely) ended I was left broken, dazed, and not knowing who I was.
Yet, through confession, good friends, and prayer, God healed me. I was able to go before God, my pride completely gone and admit I knew nothing. My illusions about myself, faith and love gone, he was able to teach me His Reality. Looking back, being totally empty allowed healing to happen relatively quickly and prepared me for what God had in store. A mere two months after that summer, I was invited to visit the Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth. I was surprised by the joy that overwhelmed me. It hit me: God is still calling me. It’s as if he was saying: like Israel, I will always take you back. I still want you for my bride. My vocation did not lie with that community, but I was surprisingly ready! God wasted no time and shortly after led me to the TOR Sisters.
Anyone looking at this timeline and seeing the radical switch from the lifestyle I had been living might think I am running away. The Truth is that God converted my heart, captured it, and now I can truly say I am in love with Him! Once I opened my heart, he rushed in and didn’t waste any time! Plus, God is outside of time! There was no room for wallowing in guilt and self-pity – ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!
Before my sinful relationship that summer, I had this vague idea of my identity as a beloved daughter of God but it wasn’t a Truth planted in my heart. The same goes for chastity and the calling to religious life. I really thought my faith was built on rock, but it turned out to be a house with a foundation of sand. Distracted from God so easily, my house crumbled in no time.
While contemplating this recently, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what had changed after that summer, until I read Lumen Fidei – Pope Francis’s encyclical.
“we need knowledge, we need truth, because without these we cannot stand firm, we cannot move forward. Faith without truth does not save, it does not provide a sure footing. It remains a beautiful story, the projection of our deep yearning for happiness, something capable of satisfying us to the extent that we are willing to deceive ourselves. Either that, or it is reduced to a lofty sentiment which brings consolation and cheer, yet remains prey to the vagaries of our spirit and the changing seasons, incapable of sustaining a steady journey through life.”
This is the key to the change that occurred – God granted me a renewed Faith based on knowledge and Truth. I had nothing left, stopped “trying” so hard and God granted me a deeper gift of Faith. Being a perpetual student, God gave me this knowledge in a literal way. I really delved into Theology of the Body and read books like Discovering the Feminine Genius by Katrina Zeno. This has continued through the past year and my Faith is continually expanding as I learn more. However, in the end it is a gift – I cannot stress this enough. I did nothing to earn this Faith.
The most recent book which has been leaving my brain on the floor is The Foundations of Religious Life: Revisiting the Vision. It dives into some complicated details of the theology of Religious Life. One element discussed is the importance of personal conversion, which is somehow tied up in the conversion of the whole world. This part hit me particularly hard:
“The Religious is called to recognize sinful personal choices as the “o happy fault” and become a dispenser of good through one’s own human condition – to allow Christ to use hummannes as it is, as his own instrument in the redemption of others. The very process of being personally released from sin while learning obedience to the Father triggers the means of redemption within others.”
I read this and knew that this post had to come eventually. Not just this post, but telling the story God is writing through me, for the rest of my life. God has brought so much good out of my mistakes – even the redemption of others (I have no idea how this works!)
Your calling is a gift. Faith is a gift. All you have to do is say, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.”