Saturday, April 08, 2006

stern as death is love

Both Wittingshire and Sexless in the City have recent posts that have made me think... and have made me remember my vocation.

Amanda at Wittingshire relates the life of a religious sister to the life of a stay-at-home mom, with the following dialogue from the novel In This House of Brede and from the words of a friend:
"Can you call it nonsense? All down through the ages, thousands of intelligent women have made it their chosen way of life."

"Because they had nothing better to do."

"On the contrary; because they knew there was nothing better they could do."

"It's the most important thing I could ever do, but some days it is so hard. I'm not capable of being loving every minute of the day. I don't have enough patience, or enough wisdom. I mess up all the time..."

"I can't."

"But I'm a better person for trying. Far better, because it makes me rely on Christ every day."

"I can't. So You must."
Meanwhile, Anna discusses hope found in seemingly unlikely places as God's protection thwarts our own plans to reveal blessings in disguise.

As always, Anna's post seemed to echo so perfectly where I am in my life... Yet even Amanda's post, different as it seems from the way I live my life each day, spoke to me, as I'm sure it speaks to every Christian, because at its root, Amanda's post speaks of the vocation of every Christian: the vocation to love. Each and every day, we are called to act not out of selfishness, not out of a need or desire to be loved, but simply, without fear, to bring Christ's presence to those around us. As a single woman, I am free to do this in ways that a religious sister or a mother is not able to do.

My call to live patiently as a single woman doesn't make sense in the eyes of the world. It does seem like nonsense, doesn't it? "You need to advertise yourself," my friend says. In a sense, she's right. If I really want a boyfriend, I do need to advertise myself. But like Anna, I find that what I really want... what I've really always wanted... was not a boyfriend, but a husband and a family and the ability to live in patience and act in love until that day comes.

In the meantime, I am learning so much about myself and how to love. I am learning about who I am, finding my identity in Christ. He asks me to set Him as a seal on my heart, to take my identity and confidence from Him and His love for me.
Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm;
For stern as death is love
Song of Songs 8:6
And as the Lord delights in me and rejoices over me, I begin to realize that if this is how he loves me, how can I fear to show that love to others? I have so often hidden my love - love for my family, for my friends, for those whose lives affect mine deeply. Why should I fear to show this? I am learning to let go my fears of rejection, my fears that they will not appreciate or value this love. How does Christ love? His sacrifice on the cross... his quiet, even unnoticed presence in the Eucharist... when does he demand recognition in return for his love? So if this is how my God loves me, then let me be as bread to those around me, unnoticed, but equally unashamed to offer myself. My worth does not arise from the esteem of those around me, but from the seal that I wear on my heart, the mark that says, "look! my God rejoices in me!" As I grow through all of these things, I am learning the truth of the words that St. Paul wrote:
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. - 1 Corinthians 7
I have seen this to be true in my own life. I have a freedom now to serve the Lord in a way that would not be possible if I had someone else to think of and to arrange my life around. I realize more and more each day that this IS the most important thing I could do.... but at the same time, it IS so hard... I fail so often. "I'm not capable of being loving every minute of the day. I don't have enough patience, or enough wisdom. I mess up all the time... But I'm a better person for trying. Far better, because it makes me rely on Christ every day."

These last words are the words I have learned to speak to Christ every moment of each day, "I can't. So You must." And slowly but surely, I am learning to take both my strength and my identity from the Lord.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my will. All that I have and cherish, you have given to me. I surrender it all to be guided by your will. Your love and your grace are wealth enough for me. Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I will ask for nothing more.
~St. Ignatius of Loyola

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