By two Leonie’s Longing writers.
Among the reasons for leaving religious life, the one that gets the least attention is that of being asked to leave the community.
Perhaps you know you: were too young, unhealthy, didn’t fit in, broke a rule, were unhappy, had conflict with your superior, had a misunderstanding, etc.
Or maybe you were like me and you weren’t told why you needed to go. You were simply asked to leave.
Even for those who have either discerned themselves or with the community to leave, there are still those looming questions, the “what if’s” or the “if only’s.” These questions, especially for those of us that are still wondering why, can echo in a seemingly empty soul.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and the evil one is all too willing to fill in that empty space of unknowing or uncertainty. He relentlessly lied to me and I had incredible difficulty fighting it. My sense of isolation and shame didn’t help.
These lies can include:
God doesn’t love you.
You weren’t good enough.
There’s something wrong with you.
How could you ever think you could be a sister?
They shouldn’t have let you into the community in the first place.
That peace and joy you experienced before entering was fake.
God doesn’t have a plan for you.
Only a really bad person is asked to leave a religious community.
Do these sound familiar?
So what is the truth? How do I combat these lies?
First of all, we must remember one simple fact: GOD IS GOD. Okay, I know you all know this, but sometimes we forget that God is bigger than our sins, failures, weaknesses, etc. Years ago I was told about a homily and it made an impression on me. In it the priest said: “God is big. God is bigger than big.” This is a simple reality, but one we often forget.
Besides this, who are we to call certain events and people failures? God often uses these “failures” to reveal his glory. It is easy to doubt that God is in our messes. But I would argue that it is exactly those places in which he wants to dwell.
These few little truths may help you combat the aforementioned lies:
- God STILL has great things planned for you. (We can’t “fail” our vocation. We can’t “fail” God’s plan for us.)
- Even though we are not religious anymore, that does not mean we are less valuable to God. Lumen gentium argues the exact opposite; there is a “universal call to holiness,” i.e. that holiness is not reserved for priests and religious. Furthermore, it is the laity that is given much of the task of preaching the Gospel and bringing Christ to others. You are given a special mission in your present lay life! You can reach others in a way that you couldn’t as a religious.
- Your fundamental identity as a Daughter of God and your relationship with God is UNCHANGABLE! You still belong to Him and are no less in His Eyes. He is arguably even closer to you in your suffering and pain, your grief and loss, and your shame and isolation. He experienced all of these things and is with you so intimately in these moments.
As we have reflected in the past few months on the mystery of the Resurrection, let us rise up out of those places that are dark, the “tombs” in our soul. Let us believe, without necessarily seeing, the good that God does with our “tragedies.” The Resurrection is proof of this reality that takes place within the human heart, within your heart.