Tuesday, June 16, 2009
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!
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.