A week or so ago I watched on television "The Nun's Story" with Audrey Hepburn. The heroine became a nun so she could be a nurse in the Congo. Again and again the lesson was taught her that in joining the convent her first purpose must be to become a good nun. Our heroine has trouble with this throughout the movie and in the end realizes she must leave the order.
My heart broke for her. All that she was told, about putting discipline and obedience to God above everything else spoke to a place deep within myself, at least a wish that living in the world could afford me a life of putting God first, putting obedience to a rule of life first, trusting God so much that it would be okay to leave a piece of work or even a person at a particular time to attend to prayer, trusting that God would take care of that which I had left for the moment.
I find it hard to write what I felt, to explain the longing that still remains with me over a week later, to articulate this in a way that does not sound like giving up, or running away; to articulate it in a way that is more like running toward.
This longing comes at the same time we heard in one of our Lenten classes, The Radical Jesus, our presenter's understanding of what Jesus meant when he said, "Your faith has made you well." She said Jesus was saying that, for instance the woman with the hemorrhage, always had it in her to be healed of her bleeding. She needed no intermediary.
Well, leaving aside all the years the woman spent seeking doctors who could cure her, to no avail and to her own impoverishment, essentially our presenter was saying that we don't need Jesus or God. God has placed within us all that we need, if we will have the faith to believe that. Our presenter did not say this in so many words, but the idea that I might not need God hit me like a ton of bricks. If not God, then I am left with only myself, and what is God for, then?
And I was struck with those same bricks again: God is for worshiping. Full stop. For adoring. For praising. For thanking.
Would that I could reach such a place in my search for the Face of God that worship of God alone would be sufficient. But where does that leave most of the world? And does Jesus not say "Come unto me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest."
Taking all this together, I believe this: that God in Christ Jesus through the workings of the Holy Spirit continually invites us into relationship with That One Which is Holy, and a relationship includes adoration, certainly, and also taking and receiving of burdens for sharing. We take on Haiti, Jesus takes on my fears. I also realize that if my relationship with God is solely about my dependency on God "fixing" things, it is very one dimensional, and not a true relationship at all. I want more than that.
And so I am back to that kind of surrender expected of the nun. I remember reading about this movie, which I had never seen even though it dates back to the 1950's, and hearing in what I read that the heroine was right to rebel and the convent was archaic and even cruel in expecting a nurse to leave a patient on the first stroke of the bell calling her to prayer. After seeing the movie, I became impatient with our heroine. The nuns set to teach her were not as uni-dimensional as I had thought they would be. If they had been, I would not have been drawn again to a longing that has arisen in me from time to time over the course of my almost 65 years in this life.
I remember telling my Baptist grandmother when I was six years old that I wanted to be a nun. I remember that the day before Newlin asked me out on our first date I had just made the decision to tell my priest that I was going to begin the journey to becoming a nun. I still have the dream that it might be God's desire for me that should Newlin pre-decease me I would spend the remainder of my years as a nun. Of course, I could just be given to romanticism, which of course I am.
And still, it could be deep calling to deep. "You say in my heart, 'Seek my face'. Your face, Lord, do I seek." (Psalm 27:8) This is true. This is still the core of the depth of my being, as poor as I am in realizing it in my daily life.
Lent is nearly half over. May the Holy Spirit bless you with the kind of troublesome thoughts that serve to draw you closer to God. I know She has so blessed me!