I have been reading He Leadeth Me this past week and I can’t tell you just how great of a book it is. Last Sunday my life hit this all-time low where I really felt as if I was at a crossroads in several parts of my life. I had no idea which way to turn and I really felt as if God was standing there waiting for me to make some kind of huge decision. I am not Mary for sure, but I did feel as if God was asking me a question and waiting for me to say yes or no. The only problem was that I didn’t really understand the question and I could really see where the road to “yes” was going to lead. I felt as if I was blindfolded and expected to decide which way was the right way to turn. And that scared the shit out of me.
My therapist asked me how I felt about it all and all I could say was that I was scared. I was scared that God didn’t really exist and I was also scared that He did and I was failing Him. She mentioned how that sounded a lot like Jesus during His agony in the garden. I had not thought of that but as I did, I imagined that Jesus did understand exactly how I felt since He had even asked for the cup of suffering to pass Him by, but ultimately He wanted God’s will to be done. What I realized is that I have never really 100% submitted to God’s Will. I have always had all these conditions and I have always had to keep some small control (if I’m honest, a lot of control) in everything that I do for “God’s sake”.
Fr. Walter Ciszek writes about how he realized just how much self was involved in every choice he ever made even if he was saying that he was doing God’s will. I recognized myself in that. So much that it scared me. I have spent these years after my conversion claiming that I wanted to share Jesus with the world, while it is true that I do want to do that and God put that desire on my heart, at the end of the day it is all about me. I wanted to do it so that I would be holy, make myself worthy of love, and be applauded for how great I am. In front of giving God glory was me wanting praise. Not just praise, but money. Money to take care of myself, because God is obviously not going to, sure He said He will take care of everything, but He didn’t mean the light bill.
What I have always wanted out of life was happiness. Happiness meant a nice house, no suffering, a fireplace, people falling over themselves to be around me and my kids all having everything they could ask for. All of that is the opposite of what life with Christ has been. We had that for about a year and then it all slowly started to get taken away or lost somehow. I have spent a lot of time whining about it and complaining to God about how unfair it all is. I have made Him lists of all the great things that I have done that means His allowing me to suffer, after all the suffering I have already been through, is the rudest thing He could ever do to me. I have doubted Him and I have seriously considered leaving the Catholic Church and giving up this entire Christian thing. Last Sunday I came pretty damn close to despair. I didn’t even cry or fight or make a scene, that’s how defeated I was. I get why people leave the Church. Who wants to suffer like that?
And who ever talks about suffering like that? Until I read He Leadeth Me, I had not read anyone else describe the thinking that’s behind the suffering of someone who has given everything to be Christ’s. It was only after reading it that I realized just how much I have kept from Him. How many conditions I put on my love of Him and how much I think that I have to work for Him to love me back.
This Lent I didn’t give up anything except the idea that I had to earn God’s love. I have been working on accepting my life, my suffering, my faults and my gifts while accepting that God loves me more than I think He does just as I am, not as I think I should be. I do not have to do things to be loved by Him. That is harder than giving up anything. I have realized just how much Jesus knows the way it feels to wish that He didn’t have to hang on a Cross but at the same time realize that God’s will is the way to the Cross of salvation. He said “pick up your cross and follow me” and I have spent most of my life running away from that cross or whining about how heavy it is. For the first time in my life, I am learning to embrace it. Reading the story of a Catholic priest who wanted to tell people about Jesus and ended up in a Siberian Labor Camp has made me realize that I’m not the victim of God’s unfair expectations, but I am blessed that He loves me enough to help me work out my salvation in trembling and fear. I would never be able to explain how that works, but I do know one thing: God does not ask anything of me that He Himself did not take upon Himself to do.
The Christian life is the greatest struggle; it is a battlefield. Dying to self is the way to holiness. I have realized this week that holiness is not the same as happiness the way the world presents it, but it leads to the happiness we were made for; the happiness of being a part of the life of God.