Rend Your Heart, Not Your Garments

Rend Your Heart, Not Your Garments March 26, 2012
Let’s start tearing it up.
Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. – Joel 2:13

This Lent, I decided that I was going to focus more on internal penance while not forgoing externals. I simply felt called to put more emphasis on charity and regulating my internal state of being, rather than external penances. 

Little did I know that this Lent would be one big roller coaster ride of travel, family emergencies, illness, and discernment hysteria. Yes, I said hysteria. (God always gives us a bit more than we think we can deal with during Lent. And in my experience, I always freak out a bit more than necessary too.)

I officially have about one month and two weeks to determine if I am going to be moving on to novitiate – the next phase of “nun training.” Some may say, “You have had two years to discern, how can you not know by now – what’s your problem?” And I would say, “Right you are bucko – maybe you can ask God that question.” 

Of course, I cannot really blame God. I am stubborn, deaf and blind when it comes to vocational discernment. I demand signs but really my knees are shaking and I’d rather just stay in postulancy for an indeterminate amount of time. A ten year postulancy is starting to sound nice to me.

When I was in the Holy Land last year, we visited the Church of the Annunciation, the spot in Nazareth where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she, a virgin, would give birth to Jesus, the Son of God.

I was scheduled to be a lector, or reader, for another Mass but I fortuitously ended up doing the reading at the Church of the Annunciation. I read from the letter of Isaiah in which the Lord says to King Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as Sheol, or high as the sky!” Ahaz responds and says, I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!” And the reading ends, as many of you may know, with the Lord giving Ahaz a sign anyway, (which is a prophecy of the future birth of Jesus).

After I finished reading at the Mass, I stumbled to my seat in a daze. I knew God was saying something big to me about my vocational discernment, but I had no idea what. Should Ahaz have asked for a sign? It seemed to me that his response was pretty pious, basically “Oh Lord, I trust you enough, I will not ask for a sign.” And I recalled parts of Scripture where Jesus seems pretty fed up with people asking for signs (i.e. Mk 8:11-12). Yet, God gave Ahaz a sign anyway – what did that mean? Was God telling me I should ask for a sign or that I should not ask for a sign? So, I did what any person would do, at least one desperate for some kind of direction from above – I started frantically looking up every Biblical commentary on this reading I could find.

What I found was surprising. It seems that Ahaz was not the pious man I assumed him to be. When God offers him a sign, Ahaz basically brushes Him off because he has already entered into negotiations with the king of Assyria. In fact, he has even begun despoiling the Temple of gold and silver to offer to Assyria. King Ahaz already had his ducks in a row and he didn’t want God messing with his plans. He did not want to see a visible sign of the power of the God of Israel, because then it may require him to follow God’s will. And Ahaz seemed pretty satisfied depending on his own craftiness.

The grotto where the angel Gabriel
appeared to Mary in Nazareth

Ok, so I figured I didn’t want to be like Ahaz so I started begging for signs. And I want to make it clear – to God more than you dear readers – that I am not asking for little nudges, or whispering, gentle breezes. I need a big, divine kick in the bum. 

But so far, no lightning bolts from heaven.

The thing is, I am beginning to realize that if I ask God for signs, I have to be ready for what they mean for my life. That is, after all, why Ahaz refused to ask for a sign. He didn’t want a sign messing with his pretty little plans with Assyria.
So, as my deadline approaches, I ask God both for a sign and for the courage to follow whatever that sign means for my life. And I ask, with the desperation of someone who likes to know her future at least a couple weeks in advance, for the prayers of anyone who reads my blog – friends and strangers alike. Please pray for both Cheryl (my co-postulant) and I, as we discern our next step in our journey with God.

Dear Jesus, this Lent please give all of us the courage to follow you in whatever way you ask. Help us to both have the faith to ask for signs and the courage to follow through with what your signs indicate we need to do. Amen.

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