Dear Mother Teresa,
Sometimes I pray to you, even though I am not Catholic.
As best I remember, these prayers began last year, when I began to pray more fervently about how God might want to use my life in the service of nonviolence. I would ask you to implore Jesus on my behalf for wisdom and an ability to recognize his plans for me. I knew that he would hear your prayers for me. I knew that he would listen and heed them.
I knew, too, that you would be sympathetic to my prayer — you, who had been granted a vision in 1946 as you made your retreat to Darjeeling and encountered in the train station the poorest of the poor. On that night, a firm conviction planted itself in your heart that you were to work among India’s poor, showing them the love of Christ and loving the face of Christ in them as you cared for them in their suffering. It was a conviction that never left you, though the road to realizing your vocation was long and arduous. You always knew, from that moment forward, what God was asking of you.
I was praying and waiting for a similar conviction in my own life last year, so I would ask you to pray for me, knowing how dear you are to Christ. You became a type of spiritual mother to me through those petitions, and I cannot thank you enough for your love for me and your prayers on my behalf.
Right now, Mother, I need your prayers again.
My interior journey for the past nine months has been full of immense tumult. Since last September, when I emerged from a summer of solitude devoted to prayer and the study of nonviolence, I have struggled to find equilibrium.
Until recently, I blamed this difficulty on the many commitments in my outer world that I seemed not to know how to juggle well. As you know, I am a contemplative creature by nature, given to a slow pace of life with plenty of time for reflection and prayer. When my pace of life increased tenfold last September, I felt like I began flailing about in unrelenting waves, choking on salt water and so near to drowning again and again.
I know it is true that I find it difficult to give my attention to too many things at once. But lately I’ve begun to believe that something more intentional is at work within this struggle. There seems to be a need to relearn old truths: to rediscover grace and realize anew my belovedness to God.
I believe this to be true because of the very old yet familiar circuit upon which my thoughts keep running. They are thoughts full of fear, of pressure, of anxiety. They tell me I must perform without stain or blemish. They compel me to seek approval and affirmation for every insignificant moment. They feed on insecurity, and they make me feel 19 again — rather than the mature and rooted woman I had slowly and gladly become these last twelve years.
I don’t like this reality, Mother, and I have fought with God for bringing me back to this very old place, a place I thought no longer held me, a place I know God and I had worked long and hard to overcome. But he seems to be showing me there is more to learn and overcome here, and it hurts. I feel as though my lover has wounded me. I feel like God has betrayed me.
When I read the letters you wrote to your spiritual fathers about the excruciating darkness in your soul that lasted decades of your life, I see just how far I have to go.
Although you felt abandoned by God, your response was unrelenting faithfulness and a determination toward cheerful adoration. I know your heart grew very heavy and the loneliness neared despair, yet you renewed your resolve of love and faithfulness to God again and again. You knew your darkness was his delight for reasons mysterious and beyond your comprehension. You shared in his sufferings in that place, and you felt it was your humble privilege to do so.
I am not responding that way here. As God is wounding me for my apparent good, I find myself shaking my fist, banging against his chest, crying out at his abandonment, and growing listless and despairing, often renewing an old and unswerving dependence on myself.
Here is where I need your prayers, dear Mother.
Please pray for me, that the face of Jesus would be my delight. Please pray that my love for him would grow. Pray that I would smile at him, and at others for his sake. Please pray for an increase of faith, and of strength to continue through this dark and undesired place. Please pray that I would know him to be near, even though he seems distant and cold and deaf to my pleas. Please ask for his forgiveness of my anger and unbelief, and especially my unfaithful love as I’ve been so quick to turn my back on him.
Mother, as you expressed in the midst of your own darkness that it would be your work in heaven to come light the lamps of those on earth who also walked in darkness, I ask that you would indeed “come, be my light.” Bring that light near, that I would see the face of Christ again and come to love him well.
Yet even if I do not see his face — if it is his will for me to believe in his love for me in this dark and difficult place — it is my prayer that I would learn to love him with a love that doesn’t require sight, as you so fervently did.
With loving humility in Christ,