Days before I left for San Lucas, Guatemela, on an international missions trip with my parish, my life felt like it was completely unraveling. Most notably, I received a notice that my marriage had, officially and finally, been annulled. After ten years of being divorced I did not expect the mix of emotions that came over me. Relief, anger, and sadness wrestled with each other. Relief that I could remarry in the Church or join a religious order. Angry that I would not get the life that I had dreamed of with my, one and only, husband and a house full of children. Sad that the man I so desperately wanted to love God the way I loved God was now pushed even further out of my life. What little sway I held as “the first wife” or “mother of his children” was gone.
When I stuffed my belongings into my backpack just hours before heading to the airport, I kept praying, Christ, I want to meet you. I didn’t want to think about my ex-husband, or my work, or my kids, or my family, or whether I should join a religious order. For months, I had been struggling with how to gently let my family and friends know that I wanted to talk about my interest in a vocational call as a religious. In straight forward language I wanted to say, “I want to find out more about becoming a nun!” Not “Hey, I’m moving in to the convent next weekend. Bring your truck for a moving party. Pizza’s on me!” I didn’t want to think about how my decisions could hurt others and change their lives so drastically. I just wanted to meet Christ in a real way. Whatever that meant.
So, with all that swirling around in my head (And much more! But hey, it’s a blog post not a novel 🙂 ), I found myself in a country 2,000 miles away from home with 16 other beautiful souls willing to step out of our everyday lives and be open to the graces that God had for us. For me, this trip meant surrendering to God in a way that was scary and exciting all at the same time. Could I trust Him to work through me and me actually stay out of His way? Could I trust that He would really take care of me? Would He ask me to do something I really didn’t want to do?
Flannery O’Connor says endings should be both surprising and inevitable. I’m ready to find out where this trip to Guatemala will lead this girl from Oklahoma. 🙂
Lake Atitlan, San Lucas, Guatemala
Sitting in the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville, I watched as catechumens and candidates stood before God and the congregation to go through their Rite of Election, an affirmation of the intention to join the Church. I reflected on my Rite of Election a year ago at Christ the King. My sponsor placed her hand on my shoulder as I signed the Book of the Elect (a tangible sign of my fidelity to my intention). My heart filled to the point of bursting. My head swirled. Cliché, I know. J A feeling of light permeated every part of my being, and I thought, This is what it feels like to wholly join your life to another!
A year has passed and I can say I am still very much in love with God and his Church. His love has never wavered for me. Gazing up at the crucifix in this beautiful cathedral, I am reminded He still pursues me and longs to have a relationship with me even on the days I am grumpy, a bit sulky, and demand my own way. Contemplating his sacrifice for me, my heart aches. Pondering his time in the desert where he faced temptations, I cannot hold back my tears. He knew the pain and agony that was to come, and he had the power to change what would happen. Yet because of his love for me stayed faithful to His father’s will. This is a gift I am unworthy to receive but will accept it as His grateful child and allow it to transform me.
Nashville Trip 2015
A year ago I sat in pretty much the same spot I am right now (my big, brown comfy chair) and pondered what I should give up for Lent. This would be my first real attempt at Lent because I wasn’t raised in a household that observed Lent or any religious traditions beyond Christmas and Easter and those were just an excuse to exchange presents and eat chocolate bunnies.
My first Lenten experience didn’t feel like I “gave up” anything. I was still going through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and spending lots of time in prayer deciding if I should become Catholic. This time was filled with parish mission services, soup dinners with special speakers, and the Stations of the Cross. These were all new and exciting things to be a part of. But most importantly I received a new understanding of the relationship I could have with God, if I would allow Him to truly be a part of my life. It seemed I had gained so much during this time of self-denial and penance. But what had I given up? Wasn’t I supposed to deprive myself of something? Punish myself for the wrongs that I had done? Maybe I had missed the point of Lent.
As I am about to embark on my first Lenten season as a Catholic woman, my notion of what this season means has been completely transformed. Lent is not about giving up chocolate or wine or swear words for 40 days only to return to these things on Easter Sunday. It is also not a time to punish myself for every transgression I’ve ever committed. This time is about conversion. A time to turn away from sin (the things that take me away from God) and turn back to Him. A time to go into the desert, into the wilderness, into the darkness and wait expectantly for God. To venture into the wilderness, there are aspects of my life that must change. Things I need to “give up” to hear God’s voice. After much prayer and an attempt to bargain myself into a “doable” sacrifice, I was left with the only thing that brought peace. It was total and complete. Will it be hard? Absolutely! Will I slip up? Probably. But I trust when I come to God with a contrite heart and ask for forgiveness, he will forgive me, pick me up, and set out with me once again. Will I share it on my blog? Not this year. 🙂
As the darkness begins to surround me, I believe that God will draw close and guide me until the light returns.
Thanks to MD for the beautiful photo!