Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Advancing the Quest
Sometime tomorrow morning, I will load up my car with a duffel bag and a backpack and drive off into the wilderness of...southwestern Wisconsin.
Ok, so I'm not that GREAT of an adventurer, so what?
It's not about the physical distance...at the heart of the search for God is how far we're willing to go spiritually, and whether we can die to ourselves enough to follow where He beckons.
I'm a little worried, though, about the practical parts of this trip; I think my car needs brakes and I'm hoping I won't need an entire expensive brake job when I get back. (I'm afraid of BOTH expenses, but brakes are kinda essential). More debt. And of course, ever since the engine rebuild in January to replace the craced cylinder head, I'm wondering about another engine breakdown as I travel alone in a state hours from the help of family and friends.
So...indeed, I go into the wilderness in a way maybe not many do, and there are no sojourners on such a pilgrimage who experience exactly the same thing, find the exact same trail or who can map it out for another.
Discernment is so deeply personal that only God knows the route, the signs, the pitfalls and the final destination to be found on this side of Heaven.
In some ways, I wish I was making this trip through the eyes of a curious author and had as my goal a sort of spiritual documentary. Of course, for my blog readers that's largely what I've provided, at least to your eyes and hearts.
However, it would be far more descriptive and detailed, with character sketches and expositions of the different spiritualities, devotions, and practices, etc. if this were truly of that documentary category.
Where I go, although my musings may contain parts of documentation sufficient for the idly curious, my focus isn't on the superficialites, but the depths that cannot be described in any words in any language. These retreats are a true search for meaning and vocation in the most fundamental of ways. I go to find God, to find out if this is what I was born to be, if I was brought into this world in order to enter the silence and prayer of the monastery for the salvation of souls. Am I to enter the heart of the Church, hidden but constantly beating and giving life to the other parts of this Mystical Body?
I don't know. I can't know, not unless I go to find out.
I've written before that I've always felt like a fish out of water. I've never "felt" like I belonged in this world or to it. I went through a period of time where I felt like I wasn't wanted anywhere, valuable to anyone. Sometimes I STILL read the scriptures and psalms that speak of the Father's house having many mansions, and doubt creeps into my soul.
"There's room?" I hesitantly ask. "For me?"
And I huddle outside, in many ways refusing to hear the answer, preferring the bitter cold of winter to the warm solace of the heartfire that constantly burns for those desiring to bring their own coal to the fire that is their source of life.
I have a little more courage now, though, having received heartfelt invitations of those who have seen the little coal that is burning through. If I don't do something with it, it will die. So I have responded to those invitations, embarking on a journey that has been filled with dark valleys and beautiful vistas....but none of those latter meant for me. Or maybe just not yet. I haven't yet found the summit.
The most subtle invitation came from my first visit, where first Mother, the General Superior, and one of the other foundresses, on the day that I left both told me that they had room for me there. I had a place, if I wanted it. The door was wide open to me, and remains so. The warmth of the hearth for my coal that will be left black and cold if I don't do something with it so as not to smother the heat.
Like a vocation, a coal is fragile, too. It can be smothered. It will always remain what it is, but without fulfilling its purpose, it remains in a state of potential and will never be completely consumed in the fire it was meant to enter into and become. Even if that coal's destination is to become a diamond, again it must be compressed and consumed in a different manner to become alight with a fire of a different kind.
I don't yet know where I belong, but it is comforting to know that there is a place for me, somewhere. No one has rejected me. In this quest for God, I honestly have found nothing but love in all directions.
I pray this next experience is a good one, too. Perhaps I will arrive and know immediately that it will never be my home. Yet don't we all visit beloved relatives and in so doing, take a bit of their own hearts with us when we depart?
Or will I arrive and in the next few days of silence, solitude, and discernment, will Jesus be revealed to me in a way never considered?
Will I find home? Clarity?
I don't know. But I go, and as I did before, I take you with me in prayer, too. No pilgrimage is ever undertaken alone. A true pilgrim takes the world on his shoulders; it's part of the job.
Please pray for me, too.