The Imprint of God
by Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.
Although there is something that is uniquely ours, most of us spend the major part of lives looking for it. Long before we knew about things religious, this quiet and faithful companion was there. Early on, it shaped our actions and our lives. One could call it our “Way”. Although there are many things we choose in life, this is not one of them. It is God who gives us our special Way. This gift is not really a map, or even a predetermined blueprint. It is more like the imprint of God. It is also that which gives shape to our very own spirituality, by which we mean our unique response to God working within us. Gradually, this Way brings us to our purpose in life. Furthermore, it is in this Way that God chooses to be with us most closely.
Bigger Than The Call Of Carmel
During her short life, St. Therese, the Little Flower, searched and searched for what her call might be and found it in the Little Way of love and confidence. Actually, this call was bigger than Carmel, since it was meant to impact the whole world. As she herself said, the whole world would come to love her. Very likely, all of our calls are bigger than what we might imagine. Nevertheless, most of us struggle just to get through the Little Way of each day. In several of her writings, St. Teresa of Avila points out that God leads different souls by many different paths. In The Way of Perfection , she writes: “It is important to understand that God does not lead all by one path.”* Although this is certainly true, we do have a tendency to go about life as if there were only one path, namely that path familiar to us.
Periodically, I find myself coming back to Tolstoy’s Three Questions . There was a king who had three questions that haunted him: What is the most important time? Who is the most important person? And what is the most important action? In the end, it was a hermit living in the mountains who gave him the answers: The most important time is this moment. The most important person is the person before you. The most important action is mercy and forgiveness. The story is rendered even more poignant in view of the fact that the king, who became ill in the process and who was subsequently taken care of by the hermit, had been responsible for the death of the hermit’s brother. The hermit, himself, had fled to the mountains in an effort to save his own life. Such a story can send one meditating for a long time. Very likely, the first two answers would be pretty much the same for most of us. It seems, though, that the third answer is related to the uniqueness of our Way and to our natural approach and response to things that happen to us.
Does The Way Change?
Does the character of the Way change as we go through life, and is it consonant with what has been all along? Carl Jung seems to think that, at midlife, our values are completely reversed. What served us well up to this point no longer holds. We could ask whether or not such a thing occurs, periodically, all along life’s way. At any rate, it seems good to examine our beliefs, aspirations and attractions from time to time to see if anything has changed. If there is a change, it could be that we are being invited to something new along the Way. For most of us, there is anguish in surrendering what was to what is. However, a certain peace settles in with the surrender.
As mentioned above, we do not choose the Way. Along this line, there are enough times when God’s Way takes us through sickness, disappointments, loss and the like. We wish it were not that way. In Psalm 81, God says, “ I relieved your shoulder of the burden. In distress, you called, and I answered you concealed in the storm cloud.” Truly, sometimes our God is a very hidden God. Teilhard de Chardin says that God speaks to everything and everyone in a language they can understand. Suffering has its own language. God speaks even there.
Recently, a friend told us of a poem he had once written for his mother. In it, he referred to his mother as being the one whose pulse gave birth to his own pulse. Being caught up in the mystique of the moment and somewhat missing the context of the poem, at first I thought the speaker was referring to the pulse of God. It is such an awesome and unbelievable thing to think that the pulse I experience in my own person may also be the pulse of God. Still, this has been true since the time each of our Ways first began.
*St. Teresa of Avila, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Volume Two . Trans. Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. ( Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1980 ), p. 99.
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