At the end of the book of Tobit, the archangel Raphael reveals himself to Tobit and Tobiah. He tells them that they must proclaim the wonderful things that God has done for them:
“A king’s secret should be kept secret, but one must declare the works of God and give thanks with due honor.” (Tobit 12:7)
I’ve been asking myself if it is appropriate to be sharing my spiritual journey in as much depth as I have decided to do here. This is the verse that comes to mind. I know many who find it difficult and even recommend against speaking about their spiritual lives in depth. There is a truth to this, and so there is a level that must be kept between me and the King of my heart. Yet, just like so many people in the Gospel who are healed by Jesus, I feel a great need to speak out what God has done for me and continues to do in me.
I once compared religious brothers and sisters in their monasteries, convents and habits to the picture of a spoonful of cereal on the box that has been “enlarged to show detail”. We are all called to live the Evangelical Counsels. Religious are called to live chastity, poverty and obedience in a visible, radical manner. It is especially their role to be lights, to be beacons. There are many different kinds of candles in the Church. There is the big Easter candle, the prominent altar candles, the continuously burning sanctuary lamps, the various votive candles. There are also tapers of various sizes that are carried in processions or used to transfer the flame from one candle to another. There are matches. It is all the same flame, the same light of Christ. Whenever I played with this image, I most often decided myself to be a taper candle carrying the flame from one candle to light another. Other times just one little light walking among many others.
There is a tension between being a light set on a hill and praying to God behind the locked doors of our room. There is a time for everything and ours is a “both and” religion. So I suspect that we need to find how it is that each of us is called to practice both teachings at the same time. For me, I try to let God be my PR person. I simply tell myself to do what I believe to be his Will and let Him take charge of whether or not it is noticed and, if noticed, how it is received. It is not easy to leave this in God’s hands or to find the courage to do what may stand out, but I try. I feel strongly that avoiding something because it might be praised or criticized is as bad or worse than acting only to be praised.
So at the moment, I feel called to speak. I have learned that God loves us even when we feel like we are natural disasters. I can think of no better way to invite others to let God work through their weaknesses and entrust themselves entirely to his patient paternal love than to share my own experience. Until I could accept that God accepts me with all my dark areas, I was constantly falling into judgmental thoughts, defensive attitudes, and fear of the new and unexpected. Acceptance of God’s merciful all-powerful love is the path to compassion, the path to freedom. Following this path is not clear. It takes many forms and we are given very real choices. When I was very young, I learned how to play blackjack. We kids were told that the dealer showed all but one of his cards for the other players to use as reference. As a child, I did not want to be dealer, none of us did. So, the dealer would have two hands, their own and one with the cards up belonging to “Mr. Dealer”. Nowadays, I find that I don’t mind so much if it is my turn to have a few of my cards showing so that others can better gauge their own hands. (By the way I feel I should mention that we bet with poker chips and whoever had the most was the winner. There was no gambling involved.)
I have already written the first draft of the first part of the story that I described in my last post, 31 chapters. I enjoy the writing so much that I find it not only energizing, but restful. I also am seeing new patterns and new layers in my monastery fiction. I hope to be able to share it as soon as I have finished editing it. I recognized pretty quickly that the first part is more of a love story than I realized back when I made it up. I further see how much my evolving understanding of the evangelical counsels permeates the story. The question of how to live the evangelical counsels now that I am home is very much on my mind. At first poverty had the spot light, but lately chastity is growing on my mind. So I plan to write my next post on being a spouse of Christ.