Friday, May 25, 2007

God's Whispers

I remember almost seventeen years ago, right at the beginning of seventh grade, Sister Otilie gave us an in-class assignment to complete that had to do with what we wanted to be when we grew up, what we wanted to do in life. I sat there staring at my blank sheet of looseleaf paper for about fifteen minutes before I took a deep breath and wrote:

I think I want to be a nun.

I turned it in, just like that. No explanation, no elaboration, nothing. Later that afternoon, she pulled me aside to inquire about it.

S.O.: "Do you really want to be a nun?"

Me: "Um, maybe." (I was thinking that so far, life hadn't thrown too much my way. I was tall and gawky, not pretty in any traditional sense of the word and didn't think that I wanted to get married and have kids.)

S.O.: "Well, it's something you need to give serious thought to. You're very young and you don't want to rush into a decision."

Me: "Um, yeah. It was just a thought."

S.O, smiling: "I hope you weren't just trying to get extra points. It was only worth five, you know."

Me, blushing: "Um, no. No. I just, I mean, I don't know what I want to be. I'm only thirteen. Right now, a nun seems like as a good an option as anything else. I don't know if my parents would like it, though."

S.O.: "It's fine that you want to make your parents happy, but what do you want to do?"

Me: "I don't know. Probably something helping other people."

S.O.: "What's God telling you to do?"

Me: "I don't think God is really telling me anything. It's not like He calls me up and says, 'Hey Martha, you really need to tie your shoes before you fall.'

S.O.: "God speaks to all of us. We just have to pay attention when He speaks. God doesn't usually shout. It's usually more of a whisper."

Me: "Well, I guess I better start paying closer attention."

It was an interesting conversation, to say the least. It's stuck with me all these years.

Eleven years after that conversation, I got married.

Three years after I got married, I got pregnant.

Obviously, I didn't become a nun. I did, however, end up in a profession where I help others. A lot. Every single day. It's fulfilling, and yet, I've never quite felt like I'm on the right path. I always feel like I'm sort of walking parallel to the path that God had in mind for me.

I'm doing a lot, and doing it well, but something is still missing. There are days when I feel empty and alone and confused and scared...and I try to push that away, because I know that those feelings aren't God working within me.

For years now, I've been doing what I think I'm supposed to be doing, doing what I think others think I'm supposed to be doing. I'm pretty sure God has been talking to me, but I haven't been wearing my "listening ears."

Tonight, as I rocked my daughter in my lap and read her a chapter from Charlotte's Web, I heard God. I'm not crazy. It was a firm and commanding whisper--like a voice, but not really a voice, maybe more of a feeling--telling me that in that moment, I was doing exactly what He intended for me to be doing. It didn't matter that I didn't clean up the mess we made when we were coloring or that I hadn't gotten to the dishes yet or that I'm discouraged in my job and really unhappy with the doctorate program I enrolled in a few months ago...

God told me that it's all okay. I'm doing what He wants me to do and in the long run, that's all that matters. What an enormous sense of relief and peace.

Too bad I didn't get it back in seventh grade.

1 comment:

Catherine said...

I considered being a nun, too. Sometimes I still do. I wish it was like olden days when, after our husbands died in the crusades we could just join a convent. I think that'd be nice forty years from now.