Am I Not Here?
I have a confession to make. My name is not really “Guadalupana.” However, Our Lady of Guadalupe played a role in my name in religious life and I am going to pray that she guides me in this blog post; to share what is on my heart!
Near the end of postulancy, I had a “home visit”. During this visit, my beautiful maternal grandmother whom I was very close to gave me a book about Our Lady of Guadalupe titled “Am I Not Here?” This encounter and book are special to me. It was the last time I saw my grandmother alive; she ended up passing away during my first year of novitiate. As my grandmother pointed me to Mary, Mary would want to point us to Jesus. Am I not here? This is true for Our Mother but also for her Son, Jesus. He is here with us and wants us to more deeply know of His love and for us to receive it.
God is Love. We hear this phrase often. I’ve said it often. Yet, here is confession: A part of me struggled with this even though I’ve had many graces that should lead me to do otherwise. I won’t go into the details why, but off & on during the past few months when hearing Gospel passages where it sounded as if Jesus was “yelling” at the Pharisees, fear & worry would surface and a question which was semi-hiding in my heart would come out. How would Jesus treat me? Would He have treated me, for instance, in the same manner as a sister who at times had lost her temper at me over little things? Were they little things? Is God displeased at me? Does He look at me like His beloved daughter and treat me gently or does He look at every mistake I make waiting to “pounce”?! This uncertainty that was in my heart would cause me to lose my peace when “bad things happen” or when someone would speak harshly or when hearing certain Gospel passages. Uncertainty can lead to a cycle of questioning God’s love, being hard on self, & being unforgiving towards others when it arises.
A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with a priest for spiritual direction that had a really good impact on me as well as a meditation and talk on the topic of “Forgiveness of Self.” This brought greater clarity, peace, and healing to my soul. This post would be too long to share everything (and it is probably too long now!), but here are five main points from this night that may be of help to anyone else who has been in a similar situation (religious life or not) or who has had similar questions lingering in their hearts.
- I tried, I desire to love & serve the Lord, and I need to enjoy His Company.
The priest told me how he had suffered through novitiate. Novitiate is a drastic shift. We are not sure what to do. He reassured me that I had given it a sincere try. He said that I love God a lot (I do?!) & God appreciates it (yay!). He told me that in my desire to love & serve God, be careful not to get over analytical. Drop it when I start to worry & analyze. Worrying is a cross that is self-afflicted. Enjoy God’s company. I’m not a Pharisee. I need to distinguish shortcomings from hypocrisy; which entails not trying & only being interested in the facade. Let God love me. I cannot earn God‘s love but I don’t have to; He just loves me.
- I am not closing the door on God & He will make something beautiful out of all of this.
The priest assured me that by closing the door to religious life, I am not closing it on God. Rather, God has closed the door on religious life for me. (In the past, being told that would have bothered me…I would have felt rejected by God. However, now it brought me comfort. God has not rejected me. God knows what’s best for me. As I typed this, I recalled something a religious sister shared with me after I had told her that I was not called to make first vows. This sister told me that while she was before the Blessed Sacrament & telling the Lord that she didn’t understand why I wasn’t called to vows, she heard the Lord say: “I know better. I will take care of her.”) The priest also told me that I had a rough journey and it’s a mystery why God allowed it, but He would only allow it if He can draw something good & beautiful from it and it was not a punishment. Confide in God’s mercy & grace. He is a loving God.
- Have a healthy social life & be open to God’s will, which may be to marriage.
Have the freedom to enjoy self without worry. Also, we love Jesus by doing His will, such as getting married. If it’s not His will, He’ll let me know. God willed me to exist and He is involved with the dating process because He is involved in my life.
- Let go of shame and welcome “DTC”
In Luke 5:1 (the calling of St. Peter), St. Peter told Jesus to depart from him because he’s a sinful man. (Peter was hard on himself. Jesus instead told Peter to not be afraid and that he’ll be catching men. Jesus held Peter still. Peter could have given into great shame. Shame: “should have mastered everything”. We tell ourselves that we should have been better by now, etc. Rather, I belong to the “deserving of tenderness club” (DTC)! I deserve to be affirmed and to affirm self. Self-inflicting torture can take up room where the Lord wants to dwell. Don’t go to bed without forgiving yourself. Wrap yourself in your Father’s arms and let the Lord affirm you. Let Him show you how He sees you.
- Accept God’s mercy and love.
One way to accept God’s mercy is to accept Him looking at you. Look at Jesus crucified & take the time to let Him look at you, to accept the gift of Himself on the cross. He loves you by giving Himself to you. It’s done. You’ve been forgiven. We can use a crisis to reaffirm our identity: I’m a beloved daughter of God; You gave Your life for me. It’s an opportunity to go deeper through the struggle. There may be lies such as “I’m not worthy to be loved” or “there are so many things I didn’t do well.” Reality: You are a beloved daughter of God and He loves you. St. Therese of Lisieux offered herself to the love of God, not to His justice. God has a lot of love to give but not enough to receive it. St. Therese’s Little Way, confidence in God, acceptance of His love, being His child. She accepted to be loved. Receive His love.
We can always go deeper into the reality of God’s love for us. “Am I Not Here?” Yes, Mary is with us. Yes, God is with us. Yes, all those in Heaven are with us. They want us to know that we are not alone in our struggles AND that God wants to set us free from the worries that stop us from enjoying His Company and to be at peace. “…the thing that disturbs you, the thing that afflict you, is nothing. Do not let your countenance, your heart be disturbed. Do not fear… Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you…” – Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego (1531)