“I thought my life was falling apart, little did I know that it was then that Jesus was answering my prayer to deepen my faith.”
“Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Savior; in suffering love becomes crystallized; the greater the suffering, the purer the love.” -St. Faustina #57
For years I have prayed to deepen my faith, to know and love Jesus more intimately. I began this prayer in earnest at a time I was working in youth ministry and started attending daily mass. I had just returned to my home town after being away for 25 years and my husband and I began our lives as empty nesters. I was blessed to start a youth ministry program at the parish I grew up in and was eventually hired as the youth minister. My life was full of good works, appreciation, and I never felt more at home. Daily mass and frequent reconciliation really changed me. I felt so connected to Christ that when we had to relocate to Indonesia, I cried for weeks at mass and while receiving the Eucharist, though I did not know why.
In contrast, my life in Indonesia was immersed in privilege. I longed to serve the many poor I saw, but as stranger in a foreign land, I did not know how. Though I tried my best to serve where I could, my life became about what “I” was accomplishing and doing. Gone from my life were the familiar blessings of my parish, family, and friends. Even mass was sometimes unsafe to attend and it took over a year to arrange a gluten free communion. I became fixated on helping my husband, pleasing others and not making diplomatic mistakes. The vanity of not disappointing anyone and my work became idols that I worked tirelessly to please. Idols are not faithful; they do not give back; they consume you. I allowed myself to be consumed until I was completely empty. I was lost and did not know how to get back home to Christ.
I thought my life was falling apart, little did I know that it was then that Jesus was answering my prayer to deepen my faith. He took me into the desert to see and remove the veils that covered my idols. He helped me to see how I was being used, manipulated and lied to. I wandered so far from Christ and into the vanity of accomplishment. I found myself in the middle of the dessert alone with my self-sufficiency, having long forgotten that Jesus was always with me, in me. Here, alone and helpless in the desert is where Jesus helped me to truly love and trust in Him. One by one, I let go of the many people and things I held on to, until I had to trust Jesus.
Journeying through the dessert with Christ helped me to find myself again and open my heart to humility. By surrendering my pride, my vanity, my will, Jesus found the space in me to fill with His will, His work to help others, His grace that others see in me and which I could not see in myself. The most loving God of my heart, cleared my confusion so that I see could see the blessings in my suffering, the kindness of my faith sisters, the guides who point me to the right path and the angels who comfort my tears. In my poverty, Christ is using my suffering to witness to others who see the Holy Spirit in my struggles and prayers. This so humbles me because I often feel desperate and am just trying to survive. What I did not realize, is that “I” could not do this, He could only do this through me. This is all Jesus and a little good will from me. He did not force me, He waited for my prayer, my permission and my surrender. He waited for me to knock and He opened the door. Then he waited even more patiently for me to walk through and into His will for me.
I use to believe I could do anything and came to the place I thought I could do nothing. It is here the Bridegroom called me and in my littleness He has shown me my true self, without ego or a false self, without my needy self. I am letting go of the vanity and am learning to love freely. It has taken me 10 years to arrive at this time of blessing. My suffering has been all the suffering of my thoughts, of attachment, and of the abandoning of these attachments. I figure I am halfway through the desert, resting in a temporary oasis. I now need to cross the other half of the desert. Though it will be difficult and at times scary, I know Jesus is with me and nothing will separate Him from me. I will not have to jump into darkness alone, but will jump through a veil and into the light of who I am, into a life of fullness and promise in Christ, my Savior and Bridegroom.
Our Bridegroom waits to fill all of us in our wanting. So dear sisters, want a lot, want all of Him, make room for Him, the one our heart loves. He is standing at the door, waiting to open it for you. Go and knock, enter, seek and find Him. He waits to love you fully.
Life is difficult, God is good, pray BIG.
Josephine Richards July 2020