Among the many things I was raised to believe about myself was that I lacked an enduring love and loyalty. That I gave up on people too quickly, so I was not a person anyone should look to for a hand to hold in a crisis.
I carried that belief within me into friendships, and later, into prayer life, all the time trying to right that wrong.
By forcing myself to remain in deadly relationships because I believed I was the sole author of all that was wrong about it.
And by continuing with prayers long after the call of need had passed and evolved.
Not surprisingly, I careened from one wreck to another. As I endeavoured to smoothen the path for others, I wound myself into knots that grew tighter and tighter even when I saw I was going nowhere but south, into the pit of unnecessary pain. The window of rescue flung wide, I turned away from. The open door to freedom I ignored, simply because I believed that it was my personal flaws that made me want to take leave of a situation, not the situation itself.
Over time, through a series of miracles, cords were severed and I was taken to a different school where I began to learn who I really was. That marked the beginning of the end of detrimental relationships, and I slowly learned to loosen and escape the black grip others had over me.
But one cord from the past remained. That one made me a prisoner within my own prayers, to my own prayers.
When we’ve seen the inside of any prison far too much, there will be birthed within us a strong desire to free other imprisoned souls in various other prisons. And I found the recitation of various novenas very efficacious towards that intention. So, every time a pain reached me and couldn’t be dislodged after some prayers, I sought the power of novenas.
While most were said for the required 9 days, there were others that I prayed – for difficult people, for children other parents struggled over, – which stretched on for months on end. I went to them, day after day, month after month, tugged on not only by the determination to spill light and love into wounds, but also by covert hope that I will be rewarded with the knowledge that my prayers had been answered.
It is this erring pursuit of subliminal self-seeking which took me into landscapes so arid they ultimately dried up every rivulet of love and mercy within me. After much time had passed and seeing no discernible change in the person or situation I was praying about, I had to drag myself to the novena, just to be faithful to it.
To not be who I was told I was- fickle, disloyal, lacking in compassion.
It made me dread prayer time.
I wanted so much to be over and done with some of those novena prayers because I could sense new needs coming up which I had to somehow either squeeze into my prayer schedule or keep waiting.
Or totally ignore, hoping someone else would take it up.
Yet, ending the novena was not an option, simply because I didn’t believe I had discerned it right; I thought it was my fickleness, my lack of loyalty and compassion for suffering souls that made me want to leave a prayer need and move on to another call. I saw the call to prayer as a duty I had to lash myself to.
I failed to realize that praying for my fellow sheep was a mission to shine light, GIVEN me by my Shepherd. And that after a time in a certain part of a pasture, He would call me to another area of need which would require a move to a new meadow.
I failed to see that to move, I first needed to leave.
Soon, however, it came to a point where I had to admit to myself that something was very, very wrong if prayer was tearing me to bits. There was also much guilt over the bitter way I was praying for others. I saw it sully and stain my prayers. It wasn’t right.
Somehow, my bitterness of spirit as I walked in the fields of pain and need constituted a far worse disloyalty towards others. I needed to discern what had gone wrong with me.
So, back to heaven’s door I went, a changed person. Broken, bewildered, penitent. No longer powered by my own desires.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I began to learn the lesson others guided by wisdom have long understood and obeyed: that when I answer the call to love others, I am shining the Light God Himself has asked me to.
It is not my light. It is not the light I think I should shine.
It is the Light received from the Almighty.
It is the Light of Mission Willed for me.
And this flame of mission can burn strong and steadily. Or it can change from time to time. Lights are given to be shone for the sake of Love, as Susan Skinner reminded me.
I cannot, must never, choose which light to shine when or for how long, because I am the hands and feet of Jesus. To lose myself in the Divine Will is to go where He wills me to go, and to stay in one pasture of pain only for as long as He wills.
And when He sends the angels to lead me elsewhere, I must learn to trust that the Light I held and shone for a time will now be passed into other faithful hands. In the shift of sands, I might be given this same light to shine out once more, or I might never see it again. As I learn to discern my mission at any given time, so must I learn to leave it when called.
After all, what is faith but to know that I am one of many in the vineyard, there to shine the Light of Mission pressed into my spirit by One whose wisdom I will never surpass.