Generally, people do think it’s crazy when they hear I’m praying and pondering about the religious life as a possible (or even likely?) future for myself. Understandably. The things I would give up on for this.
And yes, I’m very much aware of it.
I do have days, like today, when my heart hurts knowing that I’m not in a relationship. The need to love and be loved doesn’t just go away, just because I may be called to dedicate myself to my relationship with God only. For some, this may come easily, for some it doesn’t. I have asked God for love all my life, and that’s the thing I’ve never been given – I’ve been in relationships, though. I’ve insisted against my better judgment and without asking God at all, very much out of anger and frustration at times. And that’s what the experience was like as well in the end. Misjudged, painful, and loveless.
So that’s where I’ve been. And I have yet to figure out if the message in this is that God wants me to accept the single life for the sake of a religious vocation, so I’m able to dedicate everything I am and have to God and to service – or that I’m just one of the many people who are single because it’s difficult to find someone good to be with. Or because I’m so messed up that it doesn’t work even if I met someone good – that’s what I wonder on my more unhappy days. Just a normal human being then. And the only way to find out in the long run is to try my vocation with a community, I’d think.
And yet. In the last weeks, I’ve found myself daydreaming and nightdreaming of this beautiful house I could have, and the garden, and the art studio and the library and writing room… My life.
I could probably have many of these things in the house of a religious community! It wouldn’t be mine, though. None of it. I wouldn’t get to make my own decisions about a lot of what I do or how I do it. I like artistic whimsy but whims will be a rare treat, I’d think. Or not? I won’t know unless I try.
I don’t have answers. I do not know.
I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know
As you might have noticed, discernment is not really a stress-free occupation.
I came back from retreat with God’s “Be Still” echoing in my head (!) and in my heart. And I try to hold on to it. Just now, it’s not the time for decisions. Just now, don’t move. Just now, be. And let it be. God is doing whatever needs doing. And I sit and wait it out.
I read one of Nicola Slee’s poems that very precisely describes this experience (“Prayers from the Ark”). Stuck on the ark, surrounded by endless floods and no chance to get out and onto solid ground. Sending out the dove, waiting for it to get back. Waiting. The bird comes back. Waiting. Sending her out again. Waiting. Longer. The bird comes back with an olive branch…
It takes so much time. It’s exhausting. And I don’t have a clue what I’m doing here. I am sure to upset my family if I go ahead with all this in the end – and I try not to worry about that too much yet. It will be hard enough when the time comes. Just now, I have a stable job with an unlimited contract, life is alright apart from this and that. If it wasn’t for God, life could be so fun and easy – …you’d think. No. A lot of this is just an expression of who I am. It’s very natural for me to want depth and meaning in my life. And faith is what has offered me that. So this is the road I walk down. If things had been different, depth and meaning could be in a relationship now, a different kind of commitment. But life is what it is and was what it was. And God is doing something with who I am and what I have, and I try to let her.