She must learn again to speak
starting with I
starting with We
starting as the infant does
with her own true hunger
and pleasure
and rage.

-- Marge Piercy

I Choose the Narrow Gate

The jig is up.

The bullshit has been called.

I've asked God to show me the places in my life where who I am is not in alignment with who I want to be.  And shown me He has.  He's shown me that I've been acting -- not always, but too often -- like a stubborn, petulant child in my relationship with Him...making excuses, letting myself off the hook, justifying, passing the buck.

It's time to grow up.  And for this awareness, I have Jane de Chantal to thank.

In a 1632 letter to one of her spiritual directees, she wrote: "But you will have to remain firm, dearest Sister, and no longer waver in your good resolutions, for from now on you cannot be excused."

The letter is long, filled with wisdom and compassion, along with some gentle(ish) guidance for getting and staying right with God. She does not go into detail, but it's clear from the tone of the letter that the author is intimately familiar with the life circumstances of the woman to whom she's writing, and that they have been corresponding for quite some time.

The first time I read it, I felt like it was written to me.

"...from now on you cannot be excused." Over the past few weeks, these words have reverberated through my mind and through my life. Without guilt or judgment, and with a matter-of-factness that has delighted and confounded me, I've recognized how I've wavered in my "good resolutions," how I have not "remained firm," how I've not done better even when I've known better.

The words in that letter unlocked something in me that had been forgotten, something I was obviously ready to remember.  And so I've quietly but clearly drawn a line in the sand and am moving forward with a new level of commitment and integrity in my relationship with God.

From now on...

I cannot be excused for not trusting myself. There is no human whose job description reads "save Alizabeth."  Nobody with all the answers or the ability to fix everything.  Because there is nothing to fix and nobody to save.

I cannot be excused for hiding behind my humanness. I can have my human moments.  I can fall apart and rail against and resist.  At times I won't FEEL like praying, but showing up kicking and screaming is still showing up.

I cannot be excused for shutting down to what I'm feeling, no matter how challenging those feelings may be.  The more I allow and respect them -- without constructing stories to explain or make sense of them -- the more open I am to letting God communicate with me in the language He knows best.

I cannot be excused for not letting myself want what I want.

I cannot be excused for buying into ideas of God that I don't believe. A harsh, punishing, demanding, judging God?  No, thank you.  Believing that God is good is easy when my faith is strong.  When it falters, I have to choose what I want to believe.

I cannot be excused for saying "I don't know" when what I really mean is, "I'm afraid of the truth."

I cannot be excused for perfectionism or self-judgment or any form of comparison that leads to the conclusion that I am less than, more than, too much or not enough.

I cannot be excused...and I no longer want to be.

But always and no matter what, I am forgiven.  Nothing I do or don’t do is going to change the fact that God is infinitely merciful and patient, generous and kind.  God will be the same even if I ignore everything I've just written and return to business as usual.

Except I can't do that.

Because when God forgives, it's my job to receive His forgiveness, to forgive myself, and to accept the invitation to walk closer to Him going forward. As Michele said in her last post, He redirects me to a higher path.  And He will continue to redirect me until I become willing to walk that path.  

This is not about good and bad, right and wrong.  It's about honoring the longing within me for a deeper, more authentic relationship with God.  It's about opening my eyes to the ways my relationship with Him is reflected back to me in Technicolor clarity in my day-to-day life.  It's about holding myself accountable, holding myself to a higher standard, giving myself room to grow.  It's about making it possible for God to meet me right where I the dark, in the light, in all the shadows and in-between shades of gray.

It's about choosing the narrow gate...even when it seems another way would be easier.

* * * * * 

 Amma Theodora said, 'Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate.
Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter's storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us...

(Theodora 2) (Christine Valters-Paintner's Desert Fathers and Mothers, Early Christian Wisdom Sayings)


Exprayeriment #18 -- Praying the Hours: Terce

Exprayeriment #17 -- Praying The Hours: Lauds