Every year we have this Christmas play with all the kids of those we serve.
Sheep munching on potato chips, angels with their wings all crooked… you get the picture. The speaking parts are always chosen ahead of time so that the kids can learn the lines. One year, Mary—who was played by this sweet girl from the Bronx, got a little mixed up in her words. The angel said, “You will conceive and bear a son and you are to name Him Jesus,”… and Mary responded, with all the sass and attitude she could muster, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to MY Will.”
Well, that was the disposition of heart for so much of my story. I thought, I have a desire to do good things.. a good will, so let me find what I can judge to be the best good, and surely it will be God’s will. I grew up in a Catholic home, made good grades, and loved people, so I figured that the greatest “good” would be to become a Doctor, utilize my gifts of science, have a lovely, large family and live happily ever after. So, I set to it, and for a while all was well. It was while in college that the balancing act began to really take its toll. This tension inside began to rise inside my heart.
After graduation, with applications to Medical School ready to be sent, I took a risk and went on a retreat with some friends in Spain. Sometimes the Lord just needs to put you in a totally different environment in order to get through. He wasted no time. Day one of the retreat, as I was kneeling before our Lord in Adoration, describing to Him this tension in my heart between Serving the Church, doing prolife work, and striving to be the “best” applicant for medical school. I said, “Lord, I just don’t understand why there is a tension and a conflict here.” And I heard in my heart, “That’s because it was always your plan, and never mine.” With that, I was struck to the heart by the truth, and realized that I had desired something good, but that I had never stopped to ask the Lord what He desired for my greatest good! I realized that He had a plan for my life, that I sincerely did not know what it was, and I received a desire to ask, trusting that His will is my greatest good and my greatest Joy.
With that grace freshly imprinted on my heart, I headed home to a lot of question marks… what do I do? How will I know what God is calling me to? Spiritual direction and a more regular prayer life were necessary aids on this journey. I started listening, and I began to recognize a desire for more.
Eventually, I was teaching at a Catholic school, and continuing to desire God’s will. One day, it hit me that I was willing to put all the ‘cards on the table’, except for religious life. I believed, “It could never satisfy my desire for deep love,” and “I was made with a mother’s heart. God wouldn’t put that desire there if He didn’t intend to fulfill it with children.” But with more prayer, I realized the Lord inviting me to give Him the greatest amount of freedom in my life. So I decided not to renew my contract, and to spend the summer in Spain walking the Camino.
My intention for this pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James was to place my life in God’s hands. But a funny thing happened. The longer and longer I was on the walk, the farther and farther I got away from
my original intention of walking. I became attracted to the social life and ‘vacation’ spirit that many pilgrims take. I didn’t want to appear ‘holier than thou’, so I wouldn’t pray the rosary or look to be too committed to Jesus. It was a lie, and thankfully, after much turbulence, my friend was able to convince me to walk ahead and leave the people that I had grown attached to behind. So great of a mercy this was, that I was able to enter into the Cathedral of St. James on July 4th, and realize my desire for freedom. I went to confession that day, and as I was sitting in the pew waiting for mass to start, having reached the end of the journey, I was exhausted. Totally spent. Physically I could have run a marathon that day, I was in the best shape of my life, but I was spiritually exhausted from running from the Lord. Right then and there, I felt His gaze as kind, gentle and with a sort of, “What took you so long?” He had been waiting, waiting only for my freedom to choose Him, and with that choice came the peace and confidence of knowing that I was being invited to become His.
After the Camino, I returned and for a while just pretended like the graces of Spain were a dream. But the truth of what happened was imprinted on my soul and I knew that I had to ask Jesus about the logistics of what this call meant for my life. I began to discern actively, and was able to come on a retreat with the Sisters of Life. I was totally thrown in awe by our life of prayer. I realized that all these years I had been desiring to ‘do something good’ for God… when all along He was calling me to simply “BE HIS”. I realized that it was not about what I DID, but WHOSE I WAS that mattered. Jesus was very present to me on the retreat, and spoke to me in the language that I understand, and can always recognize as Him… music. There was a song on the radio at the time, you may have heard it, “A Thousand years” by Christina Perry. One night during the Eucharistic healing procession, I knelt before Jesus and heard in my heart that song, but the words had been changed to, “I would have died a thousand times for you”, and looking up at that monstrance, seeing Him look at me, totally poured out in love, that those words rang through the depths of my heart.
All my life I had desired to use my “good will” but that night I saw that God’s will, was that I simply allow Him to love me. That I receive His totally given, irrevocable, and extravagant love for me… and I began to say ‘yes’ to that. Not that I was always sure, but that I was open to Him loving me more and more as His love came softly and began to speak louder than all of my doubts and fears. I now realize that I EXIST TO BE WITH HIM. He has rescued me from restless seeking to ‘do good’ and proclaimed the truth that ‘I am VERY GOOD’. His will is my greatest good, because it is love and mercy itself.