Thursday, February 18, 2010

One More Time...

Do you ever have those shining moments of clarity that reveal you've got it all wrong? Last night I went to confession.  Let me tell you, I LOVE my parish priest, Fr. Norman. Going to confession with him is an absolute pleasure, and that's a gift, a priest that makes you feel so safe that you're relieved to go and unburden yourself of the yolk of sin. So I laid out my big ticket items--my venial sins get wiped out during the Mass, and I was given abundant grace. I mean, I had grace in the first place. It was grace that drove me to go to confession, but it's a wonderful thing to be able to be honest about the worst things about yourself, and be cloaked with love afterward.

One of the things he spoke with me about is Paul's thorn in the side, and he helped me imagine Paul and the conversations he must have had with God: "Oh, Lord, I've got this thorn in my side. Take it away." To, "Oh, Lord. Thank you for this thorn in my side that draws me closer to you." I think I have a few thorns in my side, and they do draw me closer to my beloved, but I'm known to ask him to remove them on the regular. And then I thank him. And then I ask him to take it away. And so on. Lord, have mercy.

Today's Gospel reading is from Luke 9:22-25:

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’
Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?’
Recently I read a stunning book by a writer I admire very much, Tim Farrington. He loves St. John of the Cross as I do. He's also no stranger to the Dark Night of the Soul--I don't just mean the poem and commentary St. John of the Cross wrote. I mean the experience. At some point, Farrington, who had the ambition most writers have full of dreams of being on Oprah and making the New York Times bestseller list, had to  do some business with God. He wondered if God had called him to be small, rather than large. He even entertained the thought that God called him to be a failure. Lordy, mercy! I've had this conversation with the Lord. Remember I told you my friend said I may have a vocation to suffer, and how I sorta wanted to kill him for even suggesting it? But a cross is firmly planted on my shoulder that insists on me being given to the broken, which requires me to be broken myself. 

Have I ever told you that I've felt jealous of the success of some of my fellow writers? That I felt angry that some people who don't particularly write beautifully experience wild success, while my sales numbers falter and my books become increasingly obscure. And you know what happens when you look at other people with jealously or envy? You stop looking at the Beloved, who has not forgotten you. This is hard to do lovies. A part of me is wicked ambitious.

But look at Jesus. His words to his disciples was that he was destined to suffer grievously. Rejected. But me, I've been unwilling to suffer or be rejected. And then I say yes to suffering and the little way. And then I say, "Take it away. I want to make it big!" In those moments I've got it all wrong. He's truly calling me to small. Intimate. Full of grace, and quiet, hidden beauty. And one more time, "No, I want the glory. I want to be a star."
I'm not saying that we shouldn't trust God for goodness and abundant blessings, but what I'm suggesting, to myself lovies, I don't want to preach to you, is that praying for the humility to accept the cross I've been given is a good thing, because like it or not, it's right there on my shoulder, and I've been dragging it around anyway, because it happens to be my destiny.


But all of us who follow Christ have crosses. Why is it so easy to forget this basic fact? 
The one thing I love about Lent most is the Way of the Cross. I can go through those stations like a pro! crying, and loving Jesus for carrying his cross, but when I walk away, I go back to my life still wanting my own cross to go away. 
What if I'm never famous, or popular, or win the award I'm nominated for? What if I get more bad reviews than good, and some people call me a heretic, or just plain ignorant and uninspired? What if the only people I reach for Jesus are the few who come to this blog? What if every writer I know succeeds, and all my books go out of print and the only thing I do is grow old living in a house of hospitality dressed in second hand clothes? 
Well, fame is over-rated. I LOVE this blog, and the people who come here, and despite myself, I think I did exactly what I promised Jesus I would do if he let me write: tell broken people he loves them. If anyone came to this blog and got a greater sense of the love of God in the midst of their struggles, I've done something beautiful for the Lord, which was all I wanted anyway. The house of hospitality is my dream. My clothes aren't great as it is. I love sharing Jesus with people face to face. To pass out coffee and soup, and love--now that's a great life!

I'll bet my hero Dorothy Day had a lot of bored days when her cross was the very thing she loved: offering hospitality. When she was getting cussed out, or worried about where the rent would come from, or disappointed with herself because once again she was angry or short with someone, I'll bet she felt the full weight of her cross. And maybe some of those times she had no Simon the Cyrene to help her shoulder it. 

We hate our crosses. We love them. We thank God for them. We beg him to take them away. It's all part of being human, and we can rest assured that Jesus walked the way before we did, and suffered more. That's enough to keep me going for today. And the rest? Well, I'll take it a day at at time, and I'll drag my cross wherever I have to. One more time.



GailNHB said...

Ouch, ouch, ouch.

I soooooo want my crosses to go away. I mean, I know I can handle them. I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. But I don't really want to have to test the validity of that statement. Can't I just believe it and let that be enough? Please??? I want these problems and these problematic people to GO AWAY! In Jesus' name, amen!!!???

Called to suffer, huh?
You mean this may not end until glory? (Whatever "this" is?)
Given the gift of suffering?
You mean I am really supposed to be grateful, even for this terrible thorn???
Really? Really?
Please be wrong about this, Mair.
Please be wrong, just this once!
Ouch, ouch, ouch.

You have certainly written some powerful words here on the blog and in emails to me and spoken words to me on the telephone that have turned my heart and mind and spirit towards Christ in ways I never experienced before. So if reaching souls for Christ has been your goal, you have done it, girl. You have done it well!

ragamuffin diva said...

I know, right? I didn't sign up for a cross? What happened to God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life? Crosses aren't in his wonderful plan are they??? But that verse! How do we escape it? Maybe God will give us plush, velvet crosses that are very comfy.

I'm telling you, Gail. Dude told me, "Maybe you have a VOCATION to suffer."I was deeply offended. But now... Giiiiiirl...

I'm just sayin'.

Christina said...

I like so how very real and open you are. I have read several of your books including Wounded just this week. Zora and Nicky is my favorite so far. You do show and tell broken people that Jesus loves them and I think that is a beautiful thing.

ragamuffin diva said...

Thank you so much, Christina. I am grateful that you've read my books, and blessed by your kind words. May God grant you peace.

Kay Day said...

called to be small? Called to be a failure?
I may have to read more about St. John of the Cross.

my head is kinda spinning.

Caldonia Sun said...

I hate my cross. It just got a bit heavier today and I'm not at all thankful, rather, looking for the nearest broom tree.

Thank you for writing so honestly.

GailNHB said...

Still shaking my head, girl. Called to suffer. To bear up this cross. This cross??? This one right here???

Hear me sigh and moan... girl, girl, girl, girl girrrrrrl.

I guess we have to do what the song says:
"Let us march on till victory is won."
Well, Jesus said that it has already been won, but let us march on till we see the end of all these earthly skirmishes and His flag is raised in triumph. Glory!

I pray that your headache passes quickly.

Anonymous said...

Thank you again!