You Are Worth Hurting For

My last post was about my clothing ceremony in our Carmelite Community last month. Being part of this community has been interesting for me. To be perfectly honest, there is still a bit of the high school rebel in me that hasn’t died. That high school rebel wanted nothing more than to go against the grain at all costs, and was wary of joining anything. This is because it wasn’t easy for me to make friends growing up, and the friendships I had were those made and matured before I was six. I made a few other friends through the years, but they weren’t the kinds of friendships that really stuck.

When I came back to the Catholic Church, I was really happy for a while, but then I could tell that God was calling me to something more. I talked to Father Patrick about it because I thought I wanted to be a consecrated virgin; a woman who vows to be “in the world” as a representative of the Church, and a bride of Christ. That sounded really cool to me, but at the time I was maybe twenty-two. Father Patrick said I would need more structure and guidance, so he pointed me to Carmel. I was skeptical, but when I went to my first meeting at our community, I knew I had found what I was looking for.

It’s really the best of both worlds. I have the freedom to work and play and, largely, to pray how I want, but I also definitely have structure. There are things that I’m supposed to do every day, and though I thought it would be a burden, it gives me a sense of purpose. I had been wary of joining a community because I wasn’t sure it would be conducive to making authentic relationships. This past weekend we had an Advent/Christmas party, and I sang, while another of our members played guitar. Many of our members have heard some of my original music, and some have read my blog. I don’t know everyone exceptionally well, but yesterday I realized that I consider these people family.

Our aforementioned guitarist had printed off the lyrics to one of my original songs and when everyone sang it, it was almost like an out-of-body experience. An entire room was singing one of my songs. We won’t see each other again until after the New Year, and that’s really what I want to talk about. Our community has been welcoming to me from the beginning, and even at the first or second meeting I attended, I felt like I had found “home” this side of Heaven. At the party, with everyone singing my song, I had that feeling again.

Recently I realized something surprising. If I were to leave, I would be missed. I say this is surprising because I’ve learned something that I don’t like to admit: I have wounds from when I was bullied as a kid that seem to only have surfaced relatively recently. Within just the past few years, first Jesus, then this community have taught me that I didn’t value myself enough, and actually, I’m pretty awesome. I don’t know how many times I have to read, or hear song lyrics, or what have you, that reiterate what Jesus silently says to me from the cross: “I died for you. You are worth dying for.” That is an objective Truth that I can’t argue with, even on the days when every fiber of my being wants to. Over the past year, whether they know it or not, my community has silently said to me in various ways, “You are worth living for,” and I can’t argue with that either.

I am part of this community, and we are living in a world that suffers. To live for anyone in this world; to have real relationships with them, tends to mean hurting for and with them, too. This has been a tough year. Members of our community have suffered greatly. We are a family, not by blood, but by choice, and that means we share that hurt. I wrote in my last post that Love carries me. I meant that God has carried me, and continues to carry me through a lot, but the love of my community really carries me, too. It has also changed my heart because to be loved has serious healing power, and makes a person more loving themselves. To be more loving means one is more able, more likely, and more willing to hurt.

I can attest to the simple fact that it’s worth it. A relationship in which all parties know they are worth hurting for is a huge relief and fosters emotional and spiritual growth and openness. I know this simply from experience. Our culture is not conducive to building these kinds of relationships. Without even getting into specific reasons, it is evident that between social media and politics, we tend to come into conversations with strangers with immediate and unwarranted skepticism. It is our impulse to find out what they are wrong about instead of looking for things we have in common. I disagree with my best friend on basically everything, but she is still my best friend because we still have a lot in common. Most importantly though, she and I have always shared each other’s hurt.

I am wary of giving advice, but I think I can offer some here. Think about your relationships, in whatever form they may take. If you find that you have not been willing to share the hurt of others, think about why, and think about whether you are happy or not. Conversely, think about whether you have relationships in your life where others have been willing to share your hurt. Sharing the hurt of another doesn’t seem like it would produce happiness. It does not produce pleasure; it produces a kind of joy in knowing that you are helping. Knowing that someone is willing to share your hurt results in relief and validates that it matters, and it does matter. In either situation, if you find that either you don’t have anyone you suffer for, or you don’t have anyone who suffers for you, pray.

Know that it still gives Jesus relief when you reflect on His Passion, and know, too that you can offer your sufferings, whatever they may be to the Father, with Jesus’ suffering. Remember that He suffered, and chooses to suffer for you and with you, and know that you can complain to Him. That has been a difficult thing for me to learn. He’s not going to tell you to quit complaining. He gets it, and He knows that what you’re dealing with sucks. Don’t worry about how you say it. You can tell Him, “Lord, this sucks.” Speak to Him like you would a friend, because that’s who He is. Lastly, if you don’t have someone you suffer for, or who suffers for you, ask for some. I can tell you from experience that God will bring them into your life.

The Things We Hear And See In Dreams

In the past 3 years or so I have had 3 very important dreams.

The first was in my Freshman year of college. That year I had joined a small group (which has since disbanded), to pray and study the Bible together. One night we read a passage where Jesus says “Don’t be afraid. Follow me.” That very same night after I went to bed I had a dream where I was in the dark and I couldn’t see anything. I wasn’t afraid, but I was lost, and I was trying to find my way out– wherever “out” was. At one point, even though it was pitched black, I saw a faint silhouette appear in front of me. In a man’s voice, the silhouette said, “Don’t be afraid. Follow me, and I’ll lead you out.” I followed him, and eventually we saw a light in the distance. The man then said something along the lines of, “Follow me, and be a bridge for other people to come.”

The second dream happened right around the time my grandfather passed away in November. I’ve already mentioned this in an earlier post, but I’ll go into some more detail here. I should preface this by mentioning that I dream about the same weird city a lot, and something is always going wrong there. I’m always in some sort of peril. Well, this time I was in a suburb of that city. At first I was just playing some sort of game where I had to run around and find things, but then I began to feel feverish and I knew that I was actually looking for something very important, and if I didn’t find it, something very bad would happen. Well, I was running out of time, so I decided to run into the all-night subway station. When I reached the bottom of the stairs that led to the platform, I fell down. A moment later there was a man standing over me. He was young, and very well dressed; in fact, he looked like anyone you might encounter on the street, but I was absolutely terrified of him. He picked me up, and I tried to escape at first, but then realized it was pointless, so I walked along with him up some stairs and into a strange, dingy hallway. Up ahead we saw an open door and heard what sounded like a fight. When we reached the door, we saw that two young men were beating up a girl who looked to be about my age. The young man who was escorting me asked, “Would you like me to spare her life?” I said “Yes, of course.” The young man took a step forward, and suddenly the other two men were gone. He told the other girl to head back to the train station where she would find help. Then I realized something. I looked at my escort right in the face and said, “You’re Death, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” he said.
“And you’re not awful.”
“No, I’m glad you don’t think so.”
“And you’re taking me away.”
“Yes, dear.”
“But… you’re bringing me to God, right?”
“Yes.”
That was when I woke up.

The third dream I had was just a week or two ago. Over winter break I read a book called 90 Minutes in Heaven, which was about a pastor who was in a terrible car accident, and actually died for 90 minutes. The EMT’s said that his heart had stopped. While he was out like that, he saw a piece of heaven and heard wonderful music. Miraculously, another pastor came upon the scene of the crash, climbed into the back of the wrecked car and began praying for him and somehow, his heart started beating again. After I read this book I was jealous. I’ll admit it. I wanted to see a piece of Heaven too. I prayed to God and said, “God, I’d really like to see or at least hear something like that, but if this story is going to be all I get for now, please just help me let that be enough.” A while after that (last week, maybe), I had a dream. Once again I was in complete darkness, except this time I was laying down. I couldn’t see anything, but I could hear the most beautiful music ever, and somehow I knew that I was hearing angels. Then the music changed to earthly worship songs, then it changed again to secular love songs, and as this was happening, it began to get lighter, and then I woke up.

I have vivid dreams just about every night. I don’t always remember what happens in them, but I know I have them. Most of them are just insane and don’t make any sense, but sometimes I get these little gifts while I’m asleep and they make me feel awesome for days, if not years on end. I’ve recently decided that everything is awesome; freaking awesome! Yes, bad things happen, but 1) God doesn’t make bad things happen, and 2) it could always be worse. Furthermore, there is nothing that is broken that can’t be fixed, and if we can’t fix it, God can and he will.

I had a thought at first, that maybe these dreams were just coincidence, since many of my dreams have to do with things I’ve recently seen or read or done, but I’ve decided that I no longer believe in coincidence. everything happens for a reason, even if that reason is simply to start something else. We can take things as random, or we can take them as inspiration. I prefer the latter.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!