|Doin’ a jig on my path to God
The path of the just is like shining light, that grows in brilliance till perfect day. – Proverbs 4:18
First of all, don’t let the title of this blog post worry you. I am not going all Friedrich Nietzsche on you.
When people find out that I am in the process of becoming a religious sister, they often ask me difficult questions. I don’t mind this; I like to live an analyzed life and if they ask a question I have not considered, all the better.
The most common thing I am asked about is the problem of evil. I respond with the normal answer, “For God to bring a good into the world – our human freedom, he allows evil to exist. If we could not choose evil, we would not be able to choose good.” This is a typical answer to the problem of evil but people rarely seem satisfied with it. I am beginning to think that this is because in order to understand the beauty of freedom, it is necessary to move beyond the simple choice between good and evil.
No worries now, I am not saying there is no difference between good and evil. There is a universal morality. But, when I speak of going beyond good and evil, I speak of entering the dimension of the moral life that involves choices between one good and another good, or sometimes the good and the better. I discover this beautiful world more and more as I discern religious life. St. Augustine spoke of it when he wrote, “The beginning of freedom is to be free from crimes… such as murder, adultery, fornication, theft, fraud, sacrilege and so forth. When once one is without these crimes (and every Christian should be without them), one begins to lift up one’s head towards freedom. But this is only the beginning of freedom, not perfect freedom.“
I know there are some people who think that discerning religious life is about finding out what God wants for you and following it. Period. Some even suggest that it is a sin, at least a venial one, not to enter religious life if that is what God wants. I am not denigrating this point of view; this is how I felt when I entered the discernment process. But I have not found this to be my experience.
As I approached the time of deciding whether to enter novitiate, I reached a point of hysteria. I did not feel God clearly calling me to either religious life or married life and I still resisted the thought of religious life very strongly. I was confused and a bit angry. I had entered the convent in good faith. When I entered, I felt a deep resistance to religious life but I asked God to change my heart if He wanted me to become a sister. I wanted Him to make me want it. He’s God after all, I figured this shouldn’t be too hard. At first, I felt God answering my prayer but after a while this change in my heart reached an end point. I had made some progress but I was still stuck at serious resistance.
During Holy Week of this year, the postulants went on retreat and I needed to decide whether to apply to novitiate the following week. I set about my retreat seriously. I expected God to tell me what to do, and told him so frankly. I figured it was not too much to ask the Creator of the Universe. Being told what to do by the most powerful, omniscient being in the world, it sounds like a good thing right? It is a good thing, but God showed me an even better thing.
During the retreat, God clearly communicated to me that he was inviting me to religious life but it was just that, an invitation. He basically said, “I will bless whatever choice you make as long as you live your life in relationship with me. That is all I want. I give you the invitation to religious life as an extra gift, one that you can accept or not.” As I thought about this invitation, I realized that logically in order for me to be able to freely choose religious life, in order for me to truly love, it had to be an invitation, not a command.
Sounds simple right?
Simple maybe but it rocked my world.
At first I thought, “Really?! I can leave and you won’t be mad at me? I’m packing my bags!” But I decided to sit with what God told me for a while and I realized that I really had not known God very well. This God of freedom was a new face of the God I already loved. I was intrigued, and hooked. I knew even though I still was feeling resistance, beneath that I felt a tremendous peace and a desire to spend more time getting to know this God of so many beautiful faces.
This experience has reminded me of a saying my mother always told me, “You can follow God but He does not expect us to walk lock step down the path. He lets us dance.”It’s true; our God of freedom lets us dance, and we are happy as long as we are dancing with Him.