December 2, 2014
Today’s Writing Prompt: In the heat of living, what do you want to understand about your life? What one question has been underlying your journey through life-and why? What have you already learned in answer to that question?
How am I to live out my call to serve the Creator and humankind?
People are a little squeamish about using the word “call” to describe the almost imperceptible feeling that God is calling you. When I was growing up, the Catholic Church had ads inside the city buses, which showed either a young woman or a young man in shadow, with a dove over one shoulder and the single question, “Is God calling you?”
It used to be official teaching that the highest call for a human was for a man (only a man) to become a priest. Then came the “religious life,” nuns and brothers living in community and either focusing on prayer and contemplation or splitting their time between prayer and activity, usually teaching or nursing. These communities have been thriving since the third century with the Benedictine monks and later, nuns. Thy lived celibate lives, and took vows of poverty and obedience. Poverty means sharing everything. Obedience meant… well, obedience to the Superior, to the hours, to the bells to the lights out, to the Holy Rule, to any priest, to the Pope.
The next level of call was to married life, of course with the expectation that the faithful couple would give birth to as many children as God sent. I thought of this as somewhat off, but single persons were only to remain so if they were caring for aged parents. How you met a husband, how you got into the seminary …. Well, that was left to God, too.
We have learned a great deal. Being single, which I am now, and have been since my sad divorce, enables me to concentrate more on my work, on helping others, and in keeping myself sane and healthy. I do spend time in silence, in reading, etc., and then there are the dishes and the laundry, which exist in every state in life.
During my convent years, my chronic depression, left untreated, melted into despair, and caused much distress as well as the accusation that I must be stuck on myself. Never was it considered that I was a survivor of a most horrible childhood, which still affects me even now.
Suddenly – no, he did not ride a white horse, nor was he particularly charming – a young man came along and soon we were married. He said he was a strong Catholic, but he was not. He was abusive, mean, violent, etc. Fast forward now because I don’t want to tell that story again. One thing I want to say is that while I was home taking care of our children, I was able to resurrect my passion for writing, and working in secret, and very hard, I was published regularly for my self-help, “inspirational books.” When, one day feeling discouraged about the writing game, I decided that everything I write would be with the intention of help others. In addition, life changed… not overnight, but within two years, my first book was published and thirteen more have followed.
As I’ve said before after the divorce I was really isolated as my ex-husband kept the children away from me, the children whom I had cared for night and day since their birth, whom I had taught, had listened to, whom I still cherish. I tried for the third time to do graduate school, working on a Certificate in Pastoral Ministry, which was a great program in developing counseling skills.
Bottom line, I decided to apply to seminary, and was accepted. I graduated with a Master of Divinity degree, and plenty of experience working in the inner city. I was qualified to be a church pastor and counselor. Of course, during my studies, I read about the shabby way the people treated the Prophets like Jeremiah and Amos, who wanted them to shut up or be killed. That was serving the Lord. Actually, I was able to mesh that Biblical info with my life, which was certainly not a joyful jaunt on the way to “wholeness.”
I was finally able to address the stuff of my childhood with a terrific therapist…. I worked hard! He worked hard! My friends stood by me. My parents and I were not speaking. The children were not speaking to me.
Skip ahead 20 years to now. I still believe I am serving the Creator and all God’s adult kids. I don’t think God is anything like I imagined, if there at all. I don’t think we are sinful, guilty creatures. That is rubbish! I teach; I serve as a counselor, particularly for other clergy who are learning the importance of self – care.
This is not what I planned. This is a messier version of the well-ordered life I wanted. This is a crazier (I use this word not as a mental health term but as slang for “confusing”) place than I ever expected to be, geographically, mentally, and emotionally.
The miracle of the grandchildren is an unexpected joy, and I love them so. I also realize that life is constantly changing and it’s better to focus on today than to worry about tomorrow. If only I could tone down the past, I would be calmer, more myself, less that frightened girl whose life I used to live.