In the third grade, my personal relationship with each member of the Holy Trinity really began to blossom and take shape. To say we were “besties” was an understatement; they were my ALL. Yes, at the tender age of 9, I was beginning to understand that Christ truly was “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) This was, by far, the toughest year of my life, and in turn also became one of the most memorable. The crosses handed to me that year left me on the verge of despair with no other option than to lay all my hurt and brokenness before the Lord. In this daily submission, the Lord carried me through that difficult year and the ones to follow.
As the years passed, I continued to mature in my faith. My desire to study the Catholic faith was obvious to all around me. Earning the superlative “most likely to become a nun,” it was no surprise that I ended up at a Catholic University studying Theology/Religious Studies. This major was a perfect fit, providing me the knowledge and space to really own these teachings. With my zeal for the Lord and the knowledge I was gaining, I was on fire! Then… Sister came along.
This Sister was one of the faculty members within the Theology/Religious Studies department, yet I had never taken a class with her. She was also my advisor, with whom I had only met with a couple of times. In the fall semester of my junior year, she stopped me in the hallway, handed me a quotation, and told me that I needed to hear this message. She also said I should consider taking her Women of the Church course as an elective. The quote was from a book entitled ‘A Return to Love’ by Marianne Williamson although it is often misattributed to Nelson Mandela.
“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
What a powerful and encouraging message! Then I remembered what she had said, “it was a message that I needed to hear.” To put it lightly, I was steaming. First off, this Sister really didn’t know me. Who was she to say, “I need to hear this”? She obviously didn’t know I was “besties” with the Trinity, nor did she know sainthood was “my thing.” What nerve she had giving this to me with such certainty. With that, I crumbled it up and tossed it in the trash.
Over the next couple of weeks, those words haunted me as if they had been etched in my brain. In the silence, I would hear them repeat over and over again. The thing is, as much as I hated to admit it, this Sister knew me much better than I knew myself. I am not sure if this quote was meant to encourage and uplift me, but what it actually did was give me clarity. I was on fire and ready to take on the world, but there were obstacles that I was more than happy to ignore. This experience gave me insight into some of the demons I would have to battle along the way. My journey would have me battle pride, fear, and self-doubt daily, even to this day! While I will never have all the answers, I have learned a great deal along the way.
The starting point for me is the practice of metanoia, which is Greek for “change of heart” or, as we would call it, conversion. Both John the Baptist and Jesus would call us to this as they proclaimed, “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17). Here, John the Baptist and Jesus were urging the people to have a change of actions, mind, and heart. The beauty of our faith is that we aren’t expected to have this change over night. There isn’t a moment in the day where I feel as if I have this pride thing taken care of for good. At least that is not my experience. It is a daily call to metanoia, a daily change of heart that leaves us utterly dependent upon the grace of God and draws us closer to Him in the process.