“A life lived in honest search of the Lord is never wasted, and is never wrong.”
Today I stood outside St. Edwards Church here in Nashville, and I looked at a tree. The bark was peeling, a sight that was sad and beautiful at the same time. Sad because the tree was losing its covering and protection; beautiful because now I could come up and put my hand on the bare face of the tree, exposed and vulnerable. I could see beneath the rough, textured exterior to the smooth layer underneath.
As I considered this tree, I thought about how much it is like the soul, and how that peeling is like the Lord stripping away our pretenses, pride and sin to reveal the beauty underneath it all, to reveal who we truly are. And then I laughed at myself because this was how I was spending my Saturday morning, with my hand on a tree, thinking about God.
After that a quiet, familiar thought came into my mind. “Maybe You did make me for religious life.”
I’ve been contemplating my vocation for a long time, going back and forth, convincing myself that it couldn’t be this or couldn’t be that for this, that, and the other reason. I’ve tried to force myself into wholehearted commitment to one or the other because sitting in the discomfort of not knowing was too much to bear. Usually when I start thinking about religious life, I start frantically examining my life and the ways I’ve heard God speak to me like I’m looking at clues for some kind of puzzle, trying to put everything together to decide if I need to start visiting convents and selling all my possessions. But today I just sat with the thought. I considered it, and I said, “Yeah, maybe You do want this for me. And maybe You don’t. Either way, You love me, and it’s okay.”
A lot of things about religious life makes sense. I have a natural aptitude and desire for prayer. I like structure and order, and I feel most at home conversing about and considering God. But there’s also this little piece of my own heart that reminds me that the life of prayer, of contemplation, of being with God at every moment as His Bride, is a calling for everyone. There’s something important about that for me, I’m just not sure how yet. Needless to say, I certainly don’t know where I’m heading yet, and that makes me uncomfortable.
Last week I asked the Lord about my vocation again (I usually bring it up on a daily basis), and I heard Him say two words:
These words are a challenge for me. I’ve been struggling to reach that point of true openness to whatever He wants, to be okay with not knowing the answer and waiting for His call, wherever or to whomever that might be. But today, after considering that tree and considering myself and how the Lord made me, I think that in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Our vocation is to seek the Lord. As long as we seek Him, and try to love Him, what we end up choosing is of little consequence. As my best saint friend St. Therese famously said, “My vocation is love.” Not one specific thing. Not one particular path. Just love.
Because of that, we never have to worry about getting it “right.” We don’t have to wonder if we’re somehow “missing” His call. He loves us and will not leave us even if we don’t do what maybe we were “supposed” to do. That brings me a lot of peace, and I hope it does for you too.
I don’t know what the Lord wants me to do with my life. I don’t know where He’s calling me. But I know that right now my calling is to be with Him, and that everything else will come forth from that. I just pray to have the openness and the stillness to sit in that, to wait patiently, and to pay attention.
I encourage you today to examine your heart, too. Look for the places where maybe you aren’t being open or you’re afraid of surrendering to uncertainty and what that might mean. Find the places that make you uncomfortable, where you are clinging onto a plan because if you let go of it you think you’ll be lost. Let the Lord strip away the bark that covers you up so that you can be open and exposed to receive new life, just like that tree.
Our vocation, our calling in life, is to live this moment in love of the Lord. Everything else is secondary. A life lived in honest search of the Lord is never wasted, and is never wrong.
Let’s pray for hearts that can live like this today.