There is a great story about St. Teresa of Avila that is credited to her about the time she fell off her horse and landed in mud. At that moment, she said to Jesus, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have very many.”
I was reminded about this quote last evening by my husband as he sat and listened to me cry my eyes out. I rarely give into the temptation to feel sorry for myself. I find it a waste of time. However, tonight, my pile of frustrations and disappointments overflowed into a flood of emotions I could not contain. I felt like St. Teresa, being thrown from a horse and landing into a puddle of mud.
See, Teresa wasn’t grumbling over the fact that she landed in mud or fell off her horse. There had to be more. I am certain there was a collection of difficulties and struggles that grew into a sense of frustration. The Lord was probably stretching her faith and testing her fortitude, ultimately making her into the saint she would become.
It’s not always the large struggles in our lives that lead us to the greatest waver in our faith.
I am a very blessed woman. I am fully aware of that. In the two greatest areas of a woman’s life, I have been granted immense favor, completely unwarranted. My marriage is a gift that brings great satisfaction and happiness. Furthermore, I am clued into how “lucky” I am to be granted the privilege of mothering nine dear children, while so many struggle to have one.
However, I still feel burdened by disappointment and struggle. I have many areas in my life that I desire to see reach greater success, find better answers, or be made simpler. I have many prayers that I feel go unanswered. After a while, the build up of these vexations causes me to cry out to the Lord and wonder if he really cares for me at all.
It’s embarrassing that such petty struggles can cause such a test in my faith. I have lived through many great trials where God’s faithfulness has been proved over and over. Yet then comes a small, non life threatening trial, and I collapse. I cry out wondering if Jesus is my friend or foe.
Faith is not for wimps. Sanctity is not for the weak of heart. Perfection will not come along by accident.
Lately, I have asked myself if sainthood is what I really want. Sometimes I think that dying in a huge arena by the teeth of a hungry lion, defending my hope in my savior would be easier than living a hidden life, feeling that God is not listening, and surrendering my pride to the lessons of humility. Sure, I am willing to die for Christ, but can I really live this life of trust, humility, and faith? In the quiet recesses of my heart, where my need for recognition or acceptance lingers, and in my mind where a battle rages between my strong determination and my desire to just give up is where my sanctity will be formed. My martyrdom will not be found in a grand arena or a court of law, it will be in the small areas of my life, where confusion and fear reside. The death of my pride, fear, despair, and doubt will be much slower and more painful than the teeth of a hungry beast.
I want every thing easy. Yet God knows that easy would not be what is best for me. He created me to be strong and determined. He gave me a strong will and a stubborn disposition. He will use these small simple struggles to chip away at the parts of me that he desires to perfect. He will use my strength to keep me from collapsing while at the same time bring me to my knees so I can grow and mature.
I am sorry for this rambling mess. I have no great answers. In fact, I have very little peace. Yet, somewhere, deep inside, I feel a small flame of hope telling me that though I may not understand his ways, God loves me and offers me his best. He has given me the freedom to cry out and question. He is not intimidated by my tantrums. He patiently waits for the fit to calm down and gently gets back to work making me into the perfect tool he desires to use.
So peace will come. Today I will pick up my faith and continue the work I know I am called to do, regardless of results or encouragement. Though I do not see the end of this struggle, I can trust that it will finish in the hands of the gentle lover of my soul. Why? Because I actually do want to be a saint. It just hurts sometimes.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight." Proverb 3:5,6