I couldn’t believe what I had just heard: “Be open to discerning everything all over again.”
How could this be happening?
I did everything correctly. I left my almost two-year-long relationship and found a spiritual director. I entered a house of discernment where I lived in an intentional community focused on prayer, service, and healing. Then, finally, I entered the Carmelite convent as a postulant.
This was supposed to be it! How could five years of discerning my vocation lead to this moment filled with uncertainty, disquietude, and confusion? Could I actually just get up and leave the very thing I had pursued for so long?
A Vocational Reality Check
I had been in the convent almost a year by the time I was having this very-necessary conversation with my former spiritual director. The Sisters were having their formal meeting to assess whether they would invite me to enter into the novitiate. At the same time, they were awaiting my “yes”—my fiat.
After the first months of learning and unlearning habits, missing my family and friends intensely, and the experience of culture shock (it’s really a thing!), I felt calm enough to begin diving into my new life. The more I dove, the more I could sense the lack of joy. I am a happy person by nature, yet I knew something was missing. Because I had many good Religious sisters and brothers in my life, I knew that I ought to have the sense of “being at home” and of profound joy even amidst hardships. Although this was not yet the case for me, I thought the day would come when the pieces would all fit together. Perhaps this was just a trial of my perseverance and faith? So I was determined to continue forward.
The Moment of Truth
Yet the wisdom of my Mother Superior was never lacking. She listened to my honesty and, after some silence, her response unsettled me. She reasoned, “It could be that this is just a trial, but it could also be that the Lord is trying to tell us something.” She called my former spiritual director and asked him to meet with me.
After Father’s words to discern everything again surprised me, I left the parlor and sunk into my assigned place in the chapel. I began to weep at the reality of what this could mean. How could I come to terms with leaving, if, in fact, the Lord made that clear to me?
I would have to begin again. I would have to go back home and tell everyone I was wrong. How could I go back? These were questions founded on my pride in that moment more than a true desire to follow the Lord’s will. Yet, I was in interior turmoil. My throat throbbed as I tried to hold back more tears while the heaviness of the decision and its implications bore down on me.
The Lord Speaks
In this very moment, I perceived the Lord speaking truth over me in His love and mercy. I was overcome with a sense of His fatherhood, His care, the fact that He knew me and loved me, and that I was His daughter. All of these questions took the back seat and I began to understand that what I thought was the most difficult thing I had ever done–saying goodbye to my family and friends and passing over the threshold of the Carmelite enclosure–was not actually it at all. The most difficult thing I would have to do now, thanks to my immense pride and fear of being wrong, was to actually cross back over that threshold into the world I left behind and say, “I was wrong.”
Confidence in Who I Am in Him
Although for a moment I was tempted to think that maybe it would be better to simply stay where I was rather than to “give up,” I knew that the Lord was inviting me to stand in courage and in truth. My decision to stay or leave could not be grounded on fear but on His faithfulness and love. I finally had to come to terms with the desires of my heart and the reality of religious life. I knew that the Lord was inviting me to make a free choice and to be honest about my desire for marriage, to own up to my longtime fear of displeasing Him that had followed me into the convent, and to truly trust in His fatherhood.
In this moment of anxiety and fear, light and clarity pierced through. I knew that I had to respond in faith. As His daughter, I was learning that I was not called to live and move under fear: fear of others’ rejection or disapproval or fear of the future. Instead, I was called to live from faith in the abiding and transforming love of the One who knows me better than I know myself.
The Lord was holding my future and He also holds yours. It is one that is full of hope.
What Decision are You Faced with Today?
Is there something on your heart right now that you know deep in yourself the Lord is asking you to do or to leave behind yet you feel frozen or afraid? I will share with you the tender words the Father spoke over me and I pray that you can sit under this word and receive it deep in your soul: “You are my child…”
May you be overshadowed by this declaration over you. The Father cares for you. You can trust Him with that decision that is burdening you or the fear that arrests your heart.
If the hard thing you are avoiding or afraid of has anything to do with your vocation, I would highly recommend spending some time with a good spiritual discernment book. This gem from Mother Clare, a friend and fellow missionary, addresses religious life specifically.
No matter what difficult step you are being faced with right now, no matter how uncertain the rest of the road may seem, take the leap. Shuffle that foot of yours even just a little forward. He will walk with you.
What are you discerning with the Lord right now? How can you decide in love and confidence as a daughter rather than in fear?