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Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Shadow and the Glory of the Cross

I have been limping this road to Calvary for a very long time, even before I knew that this was the road I travelled. And today, even as I saw the Glory, I felt the cold shadow of the Cross fall upon me.

I had my interview for AMU's Institute for Pastoral Theology this afternoon. The interview was set yesterday, but unbeknownst to me, I had been scheduled to attend a "web conference" at the very same time. As I told my co-workers, "too bad, I'm busy", my phone rang at 1:00 on the dot: because Professor Bushman is, as he says, "very German."

The interview went well, and as he's already had me in his class and thus is familiar with my work as well as some interaction during class, our conversation was helped along. It was the most interesting interview I've ever had and it was the most productive lunch hour I've ever spent!

And at the end of it, he officially welcomed me to the IPT program as an MTS (Masters in Theological Studies) grad student.

The financial discussion was part of it: IPT offers a 1/3 scholarship for those who take the full course load of 6 credits. I explained my current situation, planning to leave my job, unknown what this new one might pay IF it is meant for me, etc, and the fact that even if I were in my same position, I would struggle to cover the costs. So the scholarship is awarded, first under merit by virtue of my first papers as well as application/interview impression, and secondly, financial need. I am to let him know if circumstances change. Agreed.

The finances have always been in question, and long ago I entrusted this to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I will not falter now. Now that I'm accepted formally, I'm one step closer, and the next step has yet to be discerned. All money belongs to God, so if He wills this for me on behalf of his Kingdom, then it will be done.

I had referred to the shadow of the Cross, and just after this interview and the subsequent joy, the shadow fell over me. It has always been there, but it is the nature of shadows that we pass through them (or do they pass through us?).

First it was about some file reviews for work. I have been struggling for a long time and I took sudden vacation in March to deal with the burnout that nearly made me literally walk off the job. I have a good Manager, he and my direct Supervisor knew I was burned out, and they have done what they can to help. But I am struggling and even though I am working myself to death, I can't seem to meet the numbers. Not in any category. My most recent Personnnel Evaluation was disastrous. I was once one of the top performers, even broke a record...and now I have fallen so low!

And even though I desperately want to quit this job, and even though I think being fired would be merciful, that pride within me struggles for I have put nearly 5 years into this company, I have lost nearly 5 years of my life working in this position, and it is physically painful to think of walking out in shame rather than triumph. But I have to wonder if that very humiliation is what is being asked of me?

During Holy Week, especially on Holy Thursday, a prayer that continued to come to me until I prayed it over and over was "Let me be crucified with you. Let me die with you." I didn't want to pray that prayer, but I had to obey.

That prayer is being answered, and the shadow of it is chilling to the bone.

Just after my interview, I brought the requested files into my superiors, and only about 20 minutes later, I was called into a closed door meeting. I knew without a doubt the judgment to which I was walking.

En route, I came across a mother and her son, and had to go around them. I cannot help but be struck by their presence in my path.

I entered, and was bidden to close the door and be seated. My Manager before me across the desk, my supervisor to my right, I got "the lecture." This is the talk given to all those who are sliding and can't seem to get up. This is supposed to be redeeming, but, in reality, when most of us get to this point, it's actually a sign of things to come.


As my Manager spoke, I nodded, held back the tears, the agony, the humiliation, and reminded myself to keep my eyes on the Cross. I refused to let go of the Joy of my recent news, and the Hope of another job; I listened, nodded, responded, and endured. This is happening by God's will.

My Manager went into a spiel about how this is not personal, he and they all really like me, want me to stay, he sees me as the "spark plug" that usually keeps everyone going and they recognize that I'm at a very low point. I was actually shocked that, even though since my vacation my demeanor has been much better, apparently my burnout is still all too apparent, especially to those whose job it is to review my work.

They know I'm working hard. They know that I'm not consciously throwing my career away. They know I'm struggling and they know it's out of character for me.

My Manager reiterated that he will write me references, no matter how many hoops he has to jump through to get it approved through HR.

Of course, at this point, now I'm crying, and that kills me because I have always been an emotionally-driven person but keep it, especially tears, under wraps when in a professional environment. The only other time I have cried at work was when I learned of my Grandmother's death. I have to tell him to stop because he's making me cry, and I turn it into a joke, saying, "This is what girls do!"

Somehow, though, even in their humiliation, the tears were freeing. I am who I am, not the robot the company wants me to be.

They gave me examples of others, including themselves, who have hit rock bottom but were brought back and found their niche, and they were trying to encourage me to stay.

They are aware of a possible pending job, they are aware of the direction my life seems to be taking, and they are happy for me...but they still have to do their job, which involves an impending disciplinary action, based on performance, which will eventually lead to termination.

I told them very candidly that I am leaving, no matter how they try to make the job "better." I explained that I am trying to move on to something I'm truly good at.

My Manager told me, "You ARE good at this!"

I told him, no, I'm not. I've been trying to overcome my natural weakness for nearly 5 years; this isn't my area. It's never been my area. It's never been my gift..

He told me that if I ever get to the point that I really can't do this anymore, they'll understand, he'll help in any way he can and he wants to see me happy.

I explained that this is what I'm telling him; I CAN'T do this anymore. This job is all about numbers, and structure, and absolutes. It's not that I don't need structure for I do, but worst subjects, and for almost 5 years they have ruled my life and the measure of my worthiness in my employment. And it's a losing battle. I can't overcome this weakness. I have given all I can, and I can't do it any more. I'm worn out. It's not who I was designed to be.

I have to go. It's time.

I gave him the time frame for the position for which I'm interviewing, but said that whether I get the job or not, I'm leaving. I will give notice, but I won't be staying. They agree that I'm not a slacker, he told me that he thinks I have a lot more character than that, and we discussed the remedial consequences of my present failings that I will be addressing with them in the next few weeks.

These are the dreaded "short-term objectives."

I have met Pilate...and I have been passed to Herod.

How will Herod judge me?

I know that God is opening doors before me, even as this one is slamming shut. He is calling me to something else, and I know that what is happening now MUST happen because there is no other choice. I know that ultimately there is glory in this, but I am having a very difficult time in seeing it, and so I am trying to walk in absolute trust.

Yes, there is hope with the potential new job, but is that my place? Is that where I'm being sent and for what God has been preparing me? Or is the interview only a stepping stone and is my current crisis a valley of death through which I must pass before I meet even a bigger Cross with a different type of Glory?

I knew this was coming, for with great consolations come great trials, and this trial is very real, very dark, very ominous, and very final. I've seen this place before, but this is the first time I've seen it through eyes unified with those of Jesus.

I flee to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, because, like Jesus, I have seen the shadow of the Cross and the suffering it entails, and I must go somewhere for comfort and for assistance. She knows of this Cross and where it leads, and even knowing the ultimate Glory, she is united in her own maternal suffering. So I flee to her, and I beg for her intercession and assistance.

The shadow of the Cross is so cold...but without passing through this, there will be no resurrection and no revelation.

Our Lady of Perpeutal Help, pray for me!


Anonymous said...

As I read your comments tonight, and the lines you've written elsewhere, it seems you have a fairly good sense of what discernment is all about. I note you've referenced a Jesuit or two at different places. St Ignatius gives us an excellent source for learning more about the proper making of choices in his "Spiritual Exercises." There are some great abbreviated versions out recently that many find helpful.

We cannot discern the outcome - we can only discern our next step. You mention consolations, and Ignatius does a wonderful job of helping us through not only the high times [consolation] but also helps us pick our way through the low times [desolation].

That is enough from me - for you've not asked for any counsel or advise and here I am sticking in my two-cents worth. Please forgive my boldness and intrusion.

What I hear mostly is a request for prayer - and you got it! Some day I'll share some of my experiences - only to affirm that G-d is in control.

His love is everlasting.

The great Jesuit dictum is
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

and that is the key to good choices.


Warren said...

All I can say, dear sister, is that you are being loved, and prayed for by many people right now, and those prayers can hold you up. May the Lord bless you, may Mary keep you save.

How blessed you are to have realized now, while you are yet young, and full of strength, that nothing you have is truly yours to keep, or to lose.

It's all your Grace, Lord.


Adoro said...

Uncle Jim ~ For the Greater Glory of God! :-)

Your words are not an intrusion in any way and I welcome your nickle and I owe you change. I need prayers...lots and lots of prayers.

God is doing great things in my life, and with these great things comes great suffering because that's how it goes...whether it's greater holiness through trial, or spiritual attacks on the path to following God's will, I can't do this by myself. Without the rest of the Mystical Body, I am nothing. Without Jesus, I am nothing.

It's been a roller coaster this week, and believe me, I'm holding Our Lady's hand tightly and she is gripping my palm on one side while I can feel the wounds in Jesus' hand on the other!

But my pain is my own and all I have to offer, and my joy is a gift from God, and all I have to offer.

I grew up on welfare, but I think I'm only beginning to understand true poverty, and it has nothing to do with money.

Ultra ~ You are such a blessing to me! Where would I be without your prayers!

I'm so grateful to have brothers such as you both!

paramedicgirl said...

Adoro, I will pray for you. You are being led by God, and it's good that you recognize that. I'm glad you are not afraid to close one door and see where the next door leads you. You are also a very talented writer, and that should help you win the scholarship. Also, your faith is strong, and you are putting your trust in God. God will provide.

Adoro said...

paramedicgirl ~ It's not just the scholarship...I got that, but then there's the other 2/3 I have to cover.

And I'm about to lose my job. And that's not just about the money, but the absolute humiliation.

And I'm hoping for a new job, one I'm interviewing for next week..but if that's not in God's plan...and the door closes...

Is all lost? Or is this just God's way of forcing me to trust Him completely?

The only thing I can do is to go through each day, take it as it comes, become smaller so He can become greater...and trust, trust, trust.

I have a really hard time with the trust factor.

Cathy said...

You are SO in my prayers.

Fr. V said...

Even more prayers from Ohio!

Melody K said...

I don't know what to say, other than, we've been there, and there is life on the other side. But it is so hard while it is happening.
You have my prayers. God is holding you in His heart.

Unknown said...

I'm so happy for you, Adoro, with regard to your acceptance into AMU's program.

I'm so scared for you, Adoro, for the rest. I will pour on the prayers for you.

I'll also look at some other angles.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Over Lent I read the Autobiography of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, in it she asks the Lord to give her a portion of His suffering and the sufferings of those in Purgatory. He delivers and then some.

As she is now a Saint, we can see that her sufferings had a greater purpose. Without her we may not yet have the knowledge of His Sacred Heart burning with Love for us, yet tortured with our rejections.

Where I'm going with this is there is a purpose. You are on your way to something great. I've always known that, now I'm even more sure of it. He has revealed the Cross to you. This may sound lame but you asked for it and you got it. Now, you should be honored.

You are in my prayers. I'm still doing the Novena to St. Joseph and the Litany of Loreto for your interview next week.

Congratulations on your admittance! I'm so happy about that!

Adoro said...

Thank you, everyone, for your prayers. Much appreciated! I also offered prayers for all of your intentions today.

Cathy ~ I didn't want to pray that prayer, I really didn't. But it wouldn't go away. So finally I made it mine and offered it back to God. But I really thought it had already "happened" as part of the Triduum/ Resurrction (Had a wonderful Easter, nothing like it ever in my life). I actually thought that it was an example of trusting God to not give me what I'm not ready to handle.

And now he whips out the Cross on me and says...nope, you didn't get off so you take it back?

And I can't take it back because God's hand is working in this and if I take the prayer back and say "no", then God will not be able to carry out what he wants to do through this. He won't infringe on our free will...He is asking for my cooperation.

You know, if I hadn't taken this class, I would not realize that this is what's going on....

Anonymous said...

Oh Adoro! You are going through some tough things yet you pop over to my blog and hold ME up! Surely such goodness will be rewarded!

The best thing I can do for anyone is pray for them at Adoration and this is what I did for you tonight.

Prayers continue my friend.

Adoro said...

angela! NONE of us is in a vacuum!

Thank you for your prayers. God is so good to us.

Anonymous said...

ramblings of a loonatic [me]

the cross is pushing through the current difficulty

the cross is in leaving the occasion of the current difficulty and straining on to what lies ahead

our choices are beyond our control - they get made for us [like someone else deciding I need to lose my job]

we stay on the current road, and with all the bumps comes the blessing

we need to detour to get to the destination

we learn from our mistakes

our mistakes do us in

faith is ALL we have to cling to because our choices seem unclear

BUT IN THE END, our Lord works with us Rom 8:28

Unknown said...

God promises that if we follow him we will never walk in darkness.

We want a floodlight that will show us clearly every pitfall that is in the way until the horizon.

At times He in His infinite wisdom gives us a penlight that shows us only the very next step we are called to take in faith.

Your way is clear, step out in faith.

He will make a way where there is no way.

I have lived that promise and am living proof that God comes through at every turn when you are willing to follow His lead.

Surrender to the Divine Will looks like failure to some because you are walking away from a job into "whatever" and waiting for God's time to be right.

I will keep you in my prayers.

Adoro said...

Thanks, uncle jim. You're not rambling!

angelmeg ~ thank you for your wise words and your prayers. Very much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Dear Adoro,

I feel very bad for you. As an employee I have been through this sort of rejection and humiliation and as a sueprvisor I have had to walk others through rejection with (hoepfully) no humiliation thogh that is an unavoidable part of rejection, it's a part of the human condition. But oh how memories flood back to me reading your words! And my heart aches for you.

Perhaps if it is any consolation at all, there is the third meditation of the sorrowful mysteries. When Christ is rejected by the world, and then crowned with thorns, spat upon, and mocked in order to heap humiliation upon rejection! Just another reflection of how in G-d's perfect plan Christ experiences so many aspects of human suffering and triumphs over it.

I wish you all the best and will pray for you.


Adoro said...

Thank you, Winnipeg. I appreciate your prayers.

This whole thing has been an experience of walking through the sorrowful mysteries and I have been praying them quite a bit. The good thing is that I have more understanding of this situation just becase of hte class I took this semester! LOL! God sure has the timing down...

God bless you