“Come, let us return to the Lord, for it is He who has rent, but He will heal us; He has struck us, but He will bind our wounds.” (Hosea 6:1)
We know by faith that God has a plan for our lives and that nothing happens unless God wills or permits it. But for so long after I left the convent, I had a hard time having the faith and the humility to accept and believe that this goes also for my weaknesses and mistakes too. In many ways, my time in the convent was very beautiful and full of many graces, but I cannot deny that I also experienced a lot of emotional and spiritual pain while I was there, as well as after I left. For a long time I felt much guilt and shame. I was convinced that it was my personal incompetence that was the sole reason that everything happened the way it did. I felt like I had messed up God’s plan for my life. I knew He’d draw good out of it, somehow, but I struggled to forgive myself for messing up the way my life was “supposed to” go.
Did I make a mistake in entering the convent? Was I supposed to have followed a different path but I was just too blind to see it? Or was perhaps this indeed God’s plan for me, but through my own fault I ruined it? These questions tormented me.
A few months ago, in a flash of insight that I knew could only have come from the Holy Spirit, God gave me the grace to understand my past and especially my time in the convent in view of His love, mercy, and providence, and most especially, His desire to bring me deep inner healing.
I realized that everything from my past, particularly my experiences in the convent, was all part of God’s plan to bring me where I am today. He knew that my time in the convent would bring to the surface and open many of the wounds that I carried inside, many of which I wasn’t aware of previously. I realized that as painful as it was sometimes, it was necessary so that Jesus could begin the healing process in me. I think that this was a big part of why He called me to that particular community, as well as back out to the world: precisely because He wants to heal me!
One comparison I use to try to understand this is to think of God as being like a surgeon. A surgeon’s desire is to heal his patient, but in order to heal, the surgeon must make an incision so that he can access the underlying problem that the patient has. That is to say, the surgeon must wound the patient in order to heal him. As the prophet Hosea writes, “Come, let us return to the Lord, for it is He who has rent, but He will heal us; He has struck us, but He will bind our wounds.” (6:1)
God does not heal us in spite of the crosses we bear. He heals us precisely by means of those crosses. Even when it feels like the crosses we’re carrying are our fault alone. They say hindsight is 20-20, and looking back I can see much more clearly both my shortcomings as well as those of my former community. It’s a constant temptation to beat myself up for not seeing all that ahead of time – but looking at it from deeper perspective, I truly see God’s providence at work even there. God’s plan isn’t conditional on our perfection. As St. Paul says, “God works all things together for good for those who love Him.” All things – both the positive and the negative. Nothing, absolutely nothing, in our lives takes Him by surprise or leaves Him scrambling to figure out how to fix it. What at first seemed to me like “plan B” for my life was really God’s “plan A” after all. He knew beforehand all about everything that would happen and has led me through it all, both good and bad. He knew about all of it, and it was all part of His plan from the beginning to heal me and bring me closer to Himself, because it was necessary for the negative things to come to light so that He, the Divine Physician, could begin the process of healing me. He permitted the imperfections of it all because it was all part of His plan that is leading to something so beautiful. One thing in particular I’ve learned these past several months is that God is indeed guiding me and healing me, in His own time and in His own beautiful way, even, and perhaps especially, when He does it differently than I would’ve expected. But I see now how even our imperfections are incorporated by God into the tapestry of His loving plan for each one of us. May God fill your heart with His healing and peace!
Thank you for this article! It is beautiful. I too struggle with blaming myself. Sometimes I can’t seem to move beyond regret in my decision to leave. It is all mysteriously part of His plan. We have no idea how even what seems like failure is part of His way of healing our hearts.