Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What It's Really All About – Part 2

I have never been able to avoid suffering. In my life, the cross is real. Of course that's true for each person though it often goes unrecognized, relabeled as bad luck . But the fact of it remains and is so significant, I expect to experience it even in seeking to fulfill my vocation. If the cross is real then so is the empty tomb – facts generate facts. So I am not looking for Mr. Right, neither he nor Miss Right exists. They're lovely fantasies, nothing more. I have spent a great deal of time dallying with, wallowing in, comforting myself with such fancies: one of the first books I read was, unfortunately, Perrault's retelling of Cinderella: for long, I dreamt of and awaited my Prince. But the imagined brings only fleeting, barren comfort, a comfort that is, in the end, no comfort at all. The realization that I controlled my fantasies made them increasingly unfulfilling. There are those who prefer the control fantasy offers. Charles Williams examines that choice in Descent Into Hell, a book I highly recommend. But ultimately, fantasy is choosing less than nothing. I want more. Choosing more always includes choosing Calvary not as a final stopping place, but rather as necessary fact preceding the empty tomb.

Choosing more also requires saying yes to a vocation that "is love in its fullest sense, which is to say, not merely relational and social, but spousal, …full and complete communion with another. ...[We are not] called to be alone because 'it is not good that man should be alone.' None of us has a vocation to [isolation], without God or other persons, which is singlehood in its fullest extent." None of us is called to reject the other sex. Some are called to sacrifice marriage with the other sex and instead, enter into direct spousal relationship with God himself. But God calls none of us to decide that the other sex is irrelevant in our lives. Nor does he call any one of us to decide that such relationships are not worth the bother. "Male and female" he made us, of a woman was he born: men and women participate in each others holiness. When women reject men, they reject God who became man. When men reject women, they reject the woman who brought God into the world and so, reject God who became man as well. By taking on our humanity, God has forever made it impossible for us to reject one another without also rejecting him.

We have a particular vocation, a vocation tied to the relationship between male and female. Sin in this fallen world can present impediments to the manifestation of the results of that vocation but we have a Father in heaven who accepts our desire as fact. It is not given to us to control results but only to respond to the call. If we get up and, to the best of our abilities, seek to respond to his voice, even if we are too weak to get far, even if we find our paths blocked by insurmountable barriers, even if we die along the way, our Father counts our desire as accomplished fact. But, if we say, "It is impossible!", if we decide not to try, then we choose less than nothing; we choose death.

Spousal relationship is really all about holiness, being made able to spend an eternity in the relationship that is utterly self-giving, utterly creative, utterly love. It is essential to being conformed to Christ's image. Spousal relationship means making a conscious commitment to embrace the hardships of life. Not just my own personal hardships either. Nor is it just embracing hardships in a fashion that I can control, making a commitment that I can resign when I'm tired or if something else more important comes along. Rather, it is vowing to embrace the hardships that come in consecrated relationship, relationship that once entered into becomes necessary fact in our relationship with God himself. Such embracing begins as unconsecrated men and women whose hearts are and remain open to respond with Fiat!: this is the first hardship we must embrace. We are here to learn to "bear the beams of love," to bear the brightness of a relationship that would utterly destroy us unless we have become something more, a something more that only comes from the kind of self-giving that counts neither the cost nor the passage of time but trustfully waits with open hearts to be disposed of in consecrated relationship as he sees fit.

1 comment:

UltraCrepidarian said...

I can't think of much to add, what you said is nearly perfect, and exactly right. I'll only add that I really love the following simple prayer of self-abandonment, to God's will:

Lord, Grant me to love you always,
and then do with me as you wish.

This prayer, prayed in all sincerity, means laying our lives, our hopes, or fondest and most sacred desires, which all in all are none to difficult to guess, at the feet of a God. Then we must ask ourselves, what kind of God is this? Is this the terrible God of Jepthah's imagination? Is this the merciful God, whose mercy is no less terrible than Jepthah imagined him? Can we rest in his severe mercy, burned by the fire of his love? What if there is no more consolation than this? What if there is no more warmth than this? What will we do? Even though he slay me, yet will I love him?

I don't know if I can do it. But I look at mother theresa, and I cannot despair. Look, that Grace we need is right there, waiting for us to reach out and seize it.