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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Intimidated

Today I received a packet of information from the Dominicans with whom I will be residing (outside the enclosure) for a few days one month from now. Yes, I've been to their blog, I've been to their site, and we've exchanged emails, but until recently, the real possibility of a visit hadn't materialized.

I think the reception of the packet made me realize that somehow, this is the real thing. All the prayer, all the angst, all the agony, all the preparation that has come before and will come...is for this. (At least for now!)

After I graduated from college and filled out applications for police departments, it didn't feel "real" until I got the phone call from Captain R., telling me that I'd passed the interview process and they were extending me a conditional offer. I had to pass a physical, a psychological, and a background investigation. The latter came in a packet of 80 pages...literally, 80 pages, going all the way back to my childhood!

I remember the time I took to fill it out as completely as possible, the angst at not being able to provide some of what they wanted, meeting with the Background Investigator (who later became my first Field Training Officer), and finally, the conditional offer was fulfilled and I was given a start date. I arrived, my uncle drove my mother there, and they witnessed one of the most auspicious moments of my life: I was very solemnly sworn in as Police Officer. Finally! To Protect and To Serve, maybe to die.

But that didn't last long. Three months later, I was looking for another job, another career...and seeking God in my humiliation.

Fast forward a few years. A boyfriend encouraged me to train for and take the Fire Department. test, and I still remember visiting him at his assigned station, where that day, there just happened to be a Recruiter. I filled out a notification card right there in the station, and began to train. It was the most intense physical training of my life, all done independently, which pushed me into a level of ability maybe only elite athletes obtain. I knew then that I could do ANYTHING and began to consider training for the Ironman Triathlon. Or, at least, half that.

(Um..no one can maintain that level of training without a very serious goal!)

Then, one day, my friend called me to say that a certified letter had arrived from the City and that since neither of us had been home to sign for it, I had to pick it up at the post office. My boyfriend (the firefighter) drove me there to get it on a snowy April morning. My heart was in my throat. I hadn't realized this could actually HAPPEN! The odds were against it! 3,000 applicants to begin, the number had been cut first through the written test, then the physical, then the interviews. I was one of the few to receive an offer. I was stunned. It's a moment that changed my life forever, and I knew it; I could not turn it down.

I admit now that I wanted to turn it down, just as much as I wanted to accept it. My interior agony was so apparent that even my boyfriend who knew me so well commented that he thought I'd be happy.

I wasn't. I was terrified...and yet...knew I had to accept this step. I don't regret it, even now.

That lasted a year, and then I was out looking for another job. This time it was a physical injury sustained in training. I STILL don't have 100% range of motion in my thumb, and THAT problem was as a result of the surgery, not the injury!

Collateral Damage

The reality is that as we go through life, we are torn down, rebuilt, and often damaged in the process.

One of my biggest challenges has been that collateral damage. I look at my "big careers", dreams I've had since childhood, things I never thought I could do I finally did...and realized they weren't for me. I'd put all I had into those things, and even though I was not practicing my faith for the most part, I was praying. Sincerely praying. Sincerely desiring to do God's will, wanting Him on my side.

Do you see the problem? I was praying...but for the wrong thing. I was praying that God's will be mine. Not the other way around. I was like Martha, telling God what to do.

But God is faithful, and perhaps things have come around again, this time from another perspective.


Intimidated by Reality

As I said, today I received a packet of information from the Dominicans, an Order for which I have a particular affinity, an Order that has a special place within the Church, a charism of ancient importance, and Saints of historical significance.

I have not read the entire packet yet, but only glanced over it, looked at the horarium (daily schedule) and the information on aspirancy, postulancy, etc. It's laid out very clearly. I looked at the schedule and realized that for a few days, I'd be getting a taste of it. And I was intimidated.

For a moment, I felt "trapped." What if I hated it? What if I wanted to pray, but couldn't? How would I handle such structure when the life I live now is barely structured at all? How would I handle all that time of silence and prayer?

I remembered receiving the notifications from my previous careers, and this...this visit is naught but a visit. An Inquiry. A taste of a life I know little about. It's not even akin to an interview, for even though I will meet the Sisters, and certainly we may be sizing each other up to a degree, it is more friendly than anything else. It is a mere introduction to friends I know are friends without even having met them in person.

A Vocation is not a job. And perhaps that's where I've always been wrong.

When I look back at the careers I've had, I realize that it's not that I was seeking a career...but rather, a way of life. One of the things I loved about law enforcement is that cops are cops "forever". It's one of the things that attracted me. I wasn't seeking something for 9-5, but something that would define me. And to a certain degree, it did. Leaving that life was a brutally painful experience, but one I needed. As to whether one is a cop forever?

Just ask my last supervisor, who once told me, "You shouldn't confront people so directly in person! Do it on the phone. You're not carrying a .9 mm anymore!"

He was right. No, I'm not a cop anymore, and I will never be again. I don't even identify with them, but the experience has placed an indelible mark upon me; one that makes me both more critical and more sympathetic towards police officers. And I respect the good ones all that much more now.

Firefighting...same thing. It's not just a job. Ask any firefighter; it changes them somehow. For me, having come from law enforcement, it was part of the same thing. But for others, it leaves a mark. It's a way of life, never limited to the hours of employment. It's a rare firefighter who leaves the station and doesn't switch into "on duty" when the situation requires it. In fact, it's part of the ethical and moral code that those who can help....MUST.

I realize I was never seeking a job. I wasn't seeking a circle of good friends. From the very beginning, I have been seeking my Vocation. I have been desiring from the very core of my heart and soul to dedicate myself unconditionally to something, to someone, and I finally understand that this seeking is...God.

That's what a Vocation is about. That's what we are all called to do. Yes, we can have jobs in the world, but we ALL have Vocations that trump everything else. A married cop is married before he is a cop. (The reason for high divorce rates in law enforcement couples is not the Job, but the failure to recognize the priority of Marriage OVER the Job!)

So it is that this evening as I glanced over the materials I was sent, I was intimidated. This time, it isn't about a job I could leave at will. It isn't something I found on careerbuilder or monster.com. It's not a "hot job" to be found on some other site.

It's not a job.

A Vocation is life itself, not just for me, but for the Church.

One of my problems is that I tend to become overwhelmed by the immensity of things. When I look at the overall process, not only do I see the level of committment, but the very magnitude paralyzes me. It is there that I have to remember that discernment goes step by step, and like any way of seeking holiness, it is about God's presence in each individual moment. He reveals Himself to the degree that we are willing to reveal ourselves. Our Lord is a perfect Gentleman and gently leads us, but never against our will. The very moment we say "No! This is too much!" He stops, waiting. And in fact, as God cannot be surprised, we often find that He has stopped long before we did, for He knows when we are trying to push beyond parameters He already set.

We often tend to look back and see God patiently waiting for us at the pasture fence, smiling fondly in His love for us. It is we who panic, and without cause.

It is we who see the reality of true freedom and run for the false protection of a barn about to collapse.

It is we who flee at the first hint of real love...for we don't know what love is truly about.

Yes, I'm intimidated, especially by the importance of this decision, one which I've not yet been asked to make. I'm excited to go, excited to meet the Sisters, excited to have this very spiritual adventure.

It doesn't matter that I'm intimidated: I know that My Lord awaits.

He always has.


10 comments:

a newly consecrated virgin said...

Adoro,

I remember my own discernment very clearly, so I’ve been following your “monastic adventure” with great sympathy!

I know that when you start visiting convents it can seem sort of overwhelming. But one thing that helped me: when you visit a religious community for the first time, think of it more in terms of having a chance to meet some great people, as opposed to regarding it as THE big moment to decide your entire future. If you take the latter attitude, you’ll be too nervous to think straight; but if you’re in the former state of mind, you’ll learn a lot and be enriched whether or not you eventually wind up discerning with the community more seriously.

Anyway, wouldn’t you agree that meeting cloistered Dominican nuns is an objectively cool thing for anyone to do, discerning or not? ;)

Adoro said...

ANCV ~ Actually, that's the EXACT attitude I'm taking towards it. It IS objectively cool, and that's why I write about it, and what I use to ground me. Even if it's not where I'm called, I know my life will be better for having met these incredible women! :-)

Please understand that while I do write what I "feel" and experience, there is more to the story and the sentiment than appears in my blog. :-)

It is true that it's "overwhelming", yet it's also true that My Lord Awaits...that cancels out anything else. You know that well! :-)

KAM said...

Thanks for the great post. You put so much of your life 'out there' for us, I must thank you. I think you'll do fine. You most certaintly seem ready for this next step in your life. Sometimes it takes what seems forever to figure out the road we're on, and as in my case, it worked out well. Like you say, God is waiting. He waits for us all, whispering at times, opening our eyes to events and scenes we might otherwise have missed. Your search has lead you to where you should be. You know that. Take up that Cross and walk through the next door...

Inillotempore said...

Adoro, Great post. I had no idea you were a cop or firefighter.

I pray for your discernment as you enter the convent.

Please pray for me, at 42 years old i still do not know what I want to do when I grow up.

Adoro said...

KAM ~ Thanks for your comment, and yes, I really am looking forward to going. :-)

Inillotempore ~ Don't jump ahead too much..I'm only going to visit! If there is to be an entrance, it will be at LEAST a year from now, probably more. (I own a house, stuff, debt that exceeds any ability to pay it right now...etc...)

Prayers for you, too!

Inillotempore said...

Adoro : I pray for your discernment as you enter the convent ---for a visit.

I am reading the life of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus and how the Martin family had 3 daughters enter the Carmelites (how wonderful). I would be very proud to walk my daughter down the asile to become a bride of Christ.

We're in the same boat, my job is up at the end of this month and we'd like to move closer (at a time when houses are not selling)to the orthodox catholic school that we're sending our children to (Ite ad Ioseph). God is good and we trust in Him and the intercession of our friends in heaven.

In corde Jesu et Maria.

Melissa said...

I'm so excited for you. Regardless of the eventual outcome, I'm sure you'll have a fun, fantastic, faith-nurturing time. And I love those Summit Dominicans! They always looks like they're having a great life on their blog.

Augustine from UK said...

Adoro - you have no idea how much what you wrote about seeking something that would define you and the numerous painful reconstructions you went through struck a chord with me.
After working as a teacher and musician I have finally got round to admitting a vocation to the diocesan priesthood. I can't go through my whole life living merely in order to sustain my existence - surely the point is to exist in reality in order to truly live? Therein lies the peace of Christ.
Please keep sharing your thoughts and feelings with us - it is a great comfort to know that we "discerners" are treading in footprints close to yours, asking questions just like yours, and experiencing doubts and fears just like yours.
Offered a small prayer for you whilst playing the organ for Adoro te on Corpus Christi. Seemed appropriate somehow!

YouKnowWho said...

Hate to tell you this, but this is NOT your decision. The decision has been made by God. He calls. You respond. As long as you see it as a decision and not a repsonse, it will be agonizing. Don't agonize. He is a God of Peace. Just tell Him, it's Your call... just speak loud enough for me to hear, please."

BLESSINGS all the way.

Adoro said...

Inillotempore ~ Prayers for you. Such tough times we live in, we all have to pray for each other. We'd all be lost, otherwise! I'm sure St. Joseph will help you!

Melissa ~ That's what I think, too! And they do look like they're having fun! Their vocations DVD is wonderful, and all I could think was, "They're hilarious, I love them already!"

AugustineUK ~ Your own comment is a great comfort to me. It's good to know that what I'm experiencing is what others experience, too. And the fact that we have different political borders yet one Faith also reveals the transecendence of what it means to be Catholic in a world that tries to politicize all.

God bless you in your discernment and thank you for praying for me. You'll also be in my prayers! (I'm a huge fan of St. Augustine, btw...) :-)

You Know Who ~ But it IS my decision...to cooperate. It IS my decision...to go. It IS my decision..to trust. God has chosen my Vocation long ago, at my very conception, He knew what I was supposed to do. But He gave me the free will to accept or deny Him.

My prayer is that I'll figure out what He's asking and DECIDE to agree with Him, no matter what I think I want! ;-)