Thursday, September 17, 2009
Please Don't Break My Heart
I never thought I'd write about this particular topic, but in speaking with a friend tonight, someone discerning the priesthood, I realized that it's not something that belongs to me alone. He revealed he has the same deep fear as I, and together, we think that others experience the same thing.
It is because of this that I've decided to put this "out there" in hopes that it offers some comfort to someone, just so that you, and maybe we all, can realize we're not alone.
I watch the reasons why people come across my blog, and I can't forget the day someone found it by typing in:
"Why is vocational discernment so difficult?"
I don't know who asked the question, or why, or from what perspective, whether from honest seeking from their own agony and looking for help, or from a standpoint of derision. After all, our hugely secularized world thinks it's just a "job" to enter religious life, and they speak of it in those terms. They don't ask the deeper questions, looking only at utility, at functionality, but never theology, eternity or conversion of heart and soul. The questions of the world don't address the whole person, but only look at the human being as a convenient (or inconvenient) machine to be used and tossed aside.
Those who are truly discerning their Vocation are looking deeply into God and into themselves, trying to find out not "who they are" but rather, the very reason God called them into existence. They are looking for their true mission in life, their very BEING, realizing that, fundamentally, they are Called to something that long transcends this world and their very lives.
Discernment is a process by which a person bonds closely with Our Lord and with the entire Church, past present and future, and in so doing, sees far more than he ever realized possible. It is awe-inspiring, it is is painful, for they come face-to-face with themselves and the questions that are most fearful to address. The questions most people want to avoid...and do avoid. That's why it's so painful. Not just because of the questions and resulting discovery of Truth, but because that Truth is rejected, not only within themselves as they try to flee that purifying light of conscience, but because the secular world has no sanctuary...and finds need only to attack, never to accept.
That's why it's so difficult. That, and far more.
I've never spoken or written of this before, and find it hard to do so now. But maybe it's important.
This summer, it was only through God's grace and some massively generous souls that I was finally able to visit some religious communities. I wanted to go, I was ready to go, and spiritually prepared. I had a lot of support from all sides, even my family. They weren't thrilled about the distance, but understood I needed to go.
I won't lie; I was apprehensive about this very new experience, and even more so as the plane drew closer to the East Coast. As it landed and we taxied towards the gate, I was nearly in tears as my most heartfelt prayer finally came to the surface and I let it come, praying it with my entire being: "Jesus, please don't break my heart."
There it was.
Jesus, please don't break my heart.
My heart has been broken enough. I can't take any more. I'm tired of being lost, I'm tired of being alone, I can't keep doing this. I'm weary from the battle, I have scars that are still bleeding, and if I take another hit, I fear I will fall and never rise again.
I prayed this, knowing the battle wasn't over. Hoping maybe I'd find my way home on this trip, realizing it's NEVER been that easy and I wasn't about to put my trust in that idea. Praying for strength to continue, no matter what.
There was nothing else to do; from that point forward, I was no longer in control, so I offered myself completely to Jesus, stripped before Him, laying everything bare, sharing my deepest, deepest prayer: Don't break my heart. Beat me, kill me, abandon me, I don't care. But don't break my heart. Not that. Break everything else, but don't reject me. I can't take it. Please.
Don't break my heart.
I knew that I'd broken His Most Sacred Heart so many times, and that my prayer was presumptive. How DARE I say such a thing to the One who was Crucified...for me? But love reveals itself in all its facets, and it is only by Our Lord's Grace that I was able to allow that very very deep longing to come to the surface, and to plead it before His throne...right there in that little tin can of an airplane.
There are many who will understand this prayer; there are many who won't. There are many who will misinterpret it to mean something it does not, and so I must define it as clearly as I can, although it will STILL be insufficient.
My prayer was one of Trust.
It was not that I was asking that THIS community be the RIGHT one. I was not arriving out of expectation of it being "perfect." I was asking for the very presence and blessing of Christ in my visit. I was asking to be shown the way to Him, to what He was calling me to be.
I didn't know if I was called to religious life or something else, and I didn't think that a discovery of NOT being called to religious life would be a bad thing. At the time I thought it WAS my calling and of course that's why I was there.
In my heart of hearts, though, as they say, I was simply asking that Our Lord not reject me, no matter what happened. I was begging for His presence and guidance wherever all of this would lead, for His comfort, and learning to trust that I truly WASN'T alone.
Jesus did answer my prayer.
It was, as I have written, an agonizing week and I expected it to be so. I spent a lot of time searching the depths of my soul and my relationship with Our Lord, trying to die to myself in order to live for Him. The daily routine alone demanded this. It made me think of prison and purgatory as I gave up my own will and freedom to willingly live in accordance with the structure of the convent. I even remained obedient to the boundaries given to the Sisters, those that did not bind me as a visitor. I could have left at any time, called a cab, asked to be taken to the airport, walked up the hill from the convent to investigate a berry bush, etc. And there were a couple days which, I admit, I desired only to be heading home. I couldn't wait to get "home."
But where was "home", really? Home isn't were the "heart" is, for the heart is so often wrong. Home is where God is...and that's what I was trying to figure out. How to get to Him, in spite of my broken, distorted heart that does not know love.
Jesus was made manifest, though, through His Brides, none of whom knew my agitated state and who would not have changed their demeanor if they had.
At that convent, I met some wonderful Sisters who received me enthusiastically and made me feel like family. They let me know that there was a place there for me, room in God's mansion. Many rooms. I was advised not to be afraid to answer God's Call, and every need I had was met, even those that were unexpected and forced me to depend on their own charity.
My life is better because of that week, because of that experience and knowing those dear Sisters. I can't imagine my life now without them. It was a great privilege to be one of them, even though I was apart from them. I was on the outside looking in yet experiencing all the warmth and joy of that life so many never see or experience.
But that wasn't the end. I can say the same about each visit this summer. Each was a direct encounter with God, answering my most heartfelt plea, all from different angles. I loved each convent or monastery individually, and loved Christ more because of them.
In each was His response to that little prayer of mine, asking Him not to break my heart.
"I didn't call you here to break your heart. Please don't break Mine."
I knew Jesus was with me, wanted me there, and spoke through His dear Brides. They wanted me there, too. Each invited me to deeply drink of God's Love, and, without pressure, to discern whether I was called to their life or some other.
It was clear that Our Lord was speaking to me, not as Master to Slave, but as a beloved daughter, as a possible spouse...to Him...or someone. It was clear, ultimately that I simply didn't have the foundation to accept or reject anything. I was there to meet Jesus, to speak intimately with Him, and to learn to let Him be the guide, even if it made no sense to me.
Truly....NONE of this makes sense to me.
If I were in charge, I'd just choose somewhere and go, on my own time and when I chose.
Instead, God has given me impediments or opened doors as HE has chosen. HE has chosen my closest friends, HE has chosen my circumstances. He has made connections, drawn lines, and has asked me to follow. He has asked me to give up the wheel and let Him drive. Not because I can't, but because without headlights, He can see so much more clearly than I.
Jesus is asking me to trust.
It is only in trusting that I can give Him my heart. If I hold on to it, broken, it will NEVER be healed, I will never be made whole. If I don't let Jesus take my heart into His own hands...I will die.
My prayer, that day on the tarmac, was my offering. I gave Jesus my heart, entrusted it to Him with my breathless, tearful words: You can have it...just don't break it. I want my life to be yours. I want to live ONLY through YOU and in You.
I gave everything to Jesus in that moment, knowing that only He and I would understand that offering.
I still don't know what God is calling me to be. It's a constant battle not to give up. It's a constant battle to just NOT jump to a random decision among a plethora of good decisions...and some bad ones.
There is only ONE thing that I can say with certainty, and that is that Our Lord has not left me alone. He has not broken my heart. He has not rejected me, no matter how much I deserve it in every moment.
We who are discerning, in the depths of our hearts, we know we're broken. We are seeking God with everything we have, laying ourselves upon the altar and asking to enter into His sacrifice in any way He chooses. Deeply we fear that He will reject us, just as the world has and other people have, many times over. Not a single one of us has ever NOT experienced rejection of some sort.
The only thing I know now is that God is in charge, I've turned EVERYTHING over to Him, and He has promised that He will never reject me and will never break my heart.
Thank you, Jesus. I trust in Thee.