I’m looking for someone I used to be….

If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.
  John 8:36

On my recent retreat, I thought deeply about the one thing which still holds me back from completely, unabashedly abandoning myself to my Lord.  And I know it well….FEAR.

It’s not that I am unwilling to carry the crosses which come my way.  But, the thought of kneeling before God, and deliberately speaking a total and complete surrender to Him stirs a visceral reaction within me, and I quake at the unseen dread I imagine will soon fall upon me. 

Whenever I do offer myself to Him, it is always with a slight disclaimer… oh, but please not that or I hope You won’t ask me for this.  Sadly, it is not a generous and courageous gift of myself to Him…. such as He has made to me.

I trust God… that His Grace will be sufficient for any adversity, but it is the anticipation which terrifies me.  And that is enough to restrain me, even  though I know quite well that my caution in no way affords me any additional control….and do I really imagine that I know a better path than the one my Lord has chosen for me?

Once upon a time, I stepped out into the unknown, and offered myself unreservedly to God.

It was the first New Year’s Eve after my adult conversion. I was then 26 years old, and totally consumed with this God of Love Who had truly come “bounding over the hills” into my life. I had also immersed myself in the writings of St. Therese, whose passionate and daring protestations of her love for God delighted my young heart, so close then in years to her own.

Putting pen to paper, I sat on the floor by our Christmas tree and filled several pages with effusive thanksgiving to God for all that He had done for me during the past year… His coming into the darkness of my life and filling it with the Light of His Love, the torrents of Grace He had showered upon me, as though beside Himself to make up for all the lost years…calling me to daily Mass and an irresistible attraction to His Eucharistic Presence…. the holy, paternal Irish priest who had taken me under his wing, and in whom I saw a reflection of my heavenly Father. There was so much to thank Him for!  My pen weaved into words the thoughts spilling out of my heart. And then, longing to make a return to Him, I ended my thanksgiving with an invitation:

“Even though I long to help save souls for You, I am too weak to ask You to send me suffering, but I simply want to say that if You desire me to suffer something for love of You, let it come, and I will know from whence it came.”

The following October, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was completely unexpected. My doctor was shocked. Young women simply don’t get uterine cancer of the type I had. And then there was the cure…a total hysterectomy, which would remove not only organs, but also my cherished dream of bearing children.

When the nurse phoned to ask that my husband and I come in to see the doctor, she didn’t say why.  But somehow, I knew.  My sister was sure that the procedure I’d had the previous day had revealed something related to why I hadn’t been able to conceive in the four years we had been trying. But I knew better.

I locked myself inside my red and white bathroom and cried aloud to God, “I can’t have cancer. I can’t deal with it. I just can’t.”

And then, for the very first time, I heard an interior voice, clear, riveting, incredibly powerful, yet reassuring. “Yes you can,” the voice said. “Yes you can.”  And I walked out of the bathroom and got into the car with my husband. The doctor was nervous, but I was strangely calm.  Because I knew.

And yes, I dealt with it…dealt with it in a way which surprised me. With a peace and calm and strength which can only come from the Lord.

But, you don’t forget something like that. You just don’t forget. And the devil knows well our weaknesses, and how to exploit them.

My earliest memories from childhood are of lying in a pool of blood on my pillow. I suffered severe nosebleeds for the first nine years of my life. Because of this, I was anemic, and my mother hovered over me much more so than over my sisters. I was her “sickly” child, or so she unintentionally made me feel.

Yes, the devil knows our woundedness, and that terrified little girl who woke up in pools of blood, long ago learned to fear what could happen to her body…how little control she had, and she has been trying to protect herself ever since.

But somewhere inside of me there is also that brave, 26 year old…the one who stared down fear and surrendered herself, not to sickness and suffering, but to the Will of the One she loved, whatever form it might take.

She’s the one I’m praying to find.

And when I do, I will borrow her strong heart, and take my wounded child by the hand and together we will go before the One Who came to cast out all fear….

We will kneel before Him and say,

“I am Yours. I give myself to You completely.  Do with me whatever You Will.”

And this time, I mean it forever…..


16 thoughts on “I’m looking for someone I used to be….

  1. Oh, Patricia! Simply one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I have ever been blessed to read. I love you heart. I was wondering about the abandonment issue, but then you generously explained the experiences behind it. This post is a great witness. One of our priests fought against stage 3 colon cancer last year. In one homily on carrying our crosses he mentioned, probably second hand read it somewhere, but he mentioned how when we get to heaven we will meet people that are there because of our prayers and because of the suffering we offered for the good of souls, or for specific souls.

  2. Thank you, Colleen. I love your heart too! I’m grateful that you understood where I was coming from….how this fear of mine is rooted in past experiences, which so often we can’t really address intellectually, because there are such deep emotions involved.

    I agree with your priest who fought colon cancer last year (and I hope he has recovered.) But, you know what else I think?

    I really believe that God in HIs Great Love knew what I would soon have to face with the cancer and infertility, and He didn’t want me to face it alone. And so, He came into my life 18 months earlier, and drew me to Himself and revealed His amazing Love. Then when the suffering came, I immediately had Him to turn to. I don’t believe “it” happened because I prayed that prayer, but rather that He arranged it all in such a way that it would be much more meritorious, than if “it” had simply happened to me without my little offering….without His Grace.

    His timing is perfect and He does all things with Infinite Love.

    And of course, this applies to everyone……such gracdious Goodness from Our God.

    A big hug to you, dear Colleen. You are such a blessing to me.
    Love you,

  3. Patricia…Somehow I think you knew exactly what makes my “leaves tremble a bit” ..I’ve been trying to explain it to myself, but I see you did a much better job. When you’ve been through something so deep, it never leaves you and oh does the devil know..But then your gift of faith as a young woman…becomes the full sail in the wind of the storm. Fear is a big one for me…Thank you for being open with it, because in so doing, you give us all strength to face the truth.I’d like to borrow her strong heart, too.

    Love you +

    • C, I apologize for taking so long to respond. You see, my husband is recently retired and although it’s fun, I’m still trying to figure out how I can bi-locate to the west coast time zone so that I can find those two quiet hours I seem to have misplaced : )

      Caroline, I thought about you so much while I was writing this post. I said to myself, “If no one else gets what I mean, she will.” You are so right….it really never leaves, and the devil loves to exploit that wounded place. But yesterday, while I was thinking about all of this, I felt as though the Lord was casting His Light and saying that He understands everything….that He looks beyond the emotion of fear into the desire He sees in our hearts. Essentially, I felt that He was helping me to understand that just as I would not expect my own wounded child to run as sure and as fast as my healthy child, neither does He look upon us as all the same. The devil seeks to discourage us…saying what a disappointment we are because we cannot be as bold as some others may seem. But God knows why, and He loves our efforts, which may actually cost us more than those of someone who has not been held hostage by the terror of death, disease, violence etc.

      I understand this. I believe Him. He is so pleased when we try to offer Him our best, where we are, at this moment in our lives. Meanwhile, I will keep praying to find her heart….and I am praying for you too.

      Love and hugs,
      Patricia xo

      • Patricia, How wonderful that you now have this time with your husband..Enjoy every hour you can with him. The Lord will multiply your time somehow..

        “He looks beyond the emotion of fear into the desire He sees in our hearts. Essentially, I felt that He was helping me to understand that just as I would not expect my own wounded child to run as sure and as fast as my healthy child, neither does He look upon us as all the same.”

        This is so beautiful…I can’t yet express how hard I have tried to run and how hard the enemy worked against me so that I could not..The battle itself almost crippled me…I think somehow I knew He understood, but I wasn’t willing to see myself ….no, accept myself….as such a wounded child. But the truth is …I am.
        And that is how I will come to Him. I think you have given me the offering I will take to Him for Lent. . Conversatio; as St Benedict says, constant conversion. I’ll unite it all to His suffering .

        Love you and +

        • Caroline, if you only knew how awful I am at time management! But it is great having my husband home. We met friends for a nice lunch today…….
          I feel so close to you on this topic. I understand how hard you have tried to run. I too am always trying to keep up. But it’s not an excuse to see the truth as a reason why something is so hard. I didn’t mention in my post that I have also suffered with panic disorder for 30 years…another encounter with fear.
          I’m not going to beat up on myself anymore for not being able to pronounce those abandonment words without “trembling leaves.” The Lord loves us when we tremble too…maybe even more, since He too felt fear.

          When we are little, helpless, fearful, we need Him so muchl .And that is a great gift … to feel our need of Him
          Much love,
          Patricia xo

  4. Oh, can I relate to those “conditional” offers of self-abandonment. I’m still making them sadly. “Look, Lord, whatever You will for me I will accept, but I really HOPE You don’t will such and such. Please, ANYTHING but THAT”.

    Having read St. Therese as much as I have, I know what she would say about your great trial when you were still so young, that God hated to have to give you that trial and turned His Face, as it were, finding it unbearable to see one He loves so much suffering. And how right you are about His wisdom, bringing you back to Him first because He knew how much you would need Him.

    The following was our daily reflection today, and it’s fitting given what you have posted here.
    “If in the midst of our storm, we seek calm, God will give it to us. God takes no pleasure in our turmoil but rather delights in our joy.”

    Even when that joy comes through suffering.

    God bless you, my dear little friend of such enormous faith!

    • Dearest Joyce, I hope you read my comment to Caroline about time disappearing with my newly retired husband…… : )

      Welcome kindred spirit! It’s the “letting go” that is so very hard! LORD, increase our trust….
      There have been few comments on this post, and that makes me wonder if others do not struggle much with this abandonment issue (or possibly, no one is reading mhy blog anymore! LOL!

      Thank you for that beautiful reference to Therese. She had such a delicate way of phrasing everything. I can imagine God’s Own Heart breaking over our tears and suffering….like we would with our own children. I love the part about Him “turning His Face…” And, “seeing” Him do that would make you want to smile bravely though your tears, so He wouldn’t be so sad.

      Your daily reflection was indeed fitting, and so true. It’s so sad when people think that God is all about punishing us and making us suffer.

      God bless you too, my strong and wise and most kind friend!
      Patricia xo

  5. Patricia,
    You’ve given me much to consider here both in the post and in the comments about how God gave you the grace to bear your trial and if you hadn’t the grace first, how differently things might have been. Thank you for being so open and honest about your trials and the beautiful way that God brought you through it all. You’ve touched my heart!

    • Truly how good and generous God is! He arranges matters so that we may reap the most benefit. To this day, I regret not sharing this thought with a dear lady, her eyes glistening with tears, as she told a group of us that she had offered herself to God, and her husband had died shortly afterward. She felt that she had caused his death.

      I started to speak and to reassure her that it was more likely that God had only wanted her to receive more merit and give Him more Glory, by inspiring her to make that offering before taking her husband to Himself. But, I didn’t know her very well, and she was much older than I and so I said nothing. Yet, I still remember and wish I had tried to comfort her. I don’t think God would be offended by such thoughts of Him…that He is so abundantly Good as to provide for us in this way. I even like to think that Therese would agree with me : )

      I am so happy you stopped by! You always touch my heart too, dear Anne.
      I am still reading The Reed of God…..drinking in the beauty. Much to think about there as well!

      Love to you, dear friend,

  6. The road to growing in holiness IS the road to abandonment of OUR will, a road we are all called to travel. Your words remind me that I am not alone on the journey, and am not alone in feeling some of the bumps and mistaken turns. I think I was firmly started on my journey, as you were, when I discovered the Prayer for Humility. I had great difficulty praying it sincerely, asking for difficulties to come my way, so that I might accept them. The more I prayed it, however, the easier it became to handle those difficulties, and perhaps I became lost a little less frequently. Now I simply pray the Prayer of St. Francis each morning: Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace. And on some days, He does.

    I wish you peace on your journey.

    • Welcome Tom, and thank you so much for your wonderful comment. I so appreciate what you said about praying the Prayer of Humility, with difficulty at first. But then as you persevered, God rewarded your efforts. That is so important to remember….that if we just make an effort in good faith, God will do the rest.

      I know that Prayer of Humility. That is a tough one : ) How we all need it though!

      I started reading your blog today, and was struck by your kindness….it would seem the Lord is answering your daily Prayer of St. Francis.
      God bless you, Tom.

      Peace always,

  7. Thank you dear friend for sharing such personal pain and triumph with us.
    My heart is moved and I marvel at how the Lord uses tragedy to bring out such beauty in souls such as yours!
    I understand the desire to abandon oneself to the Lord and the trembling that comes with it.
    And I’m also looking for the “someone-I-used-to-be” too.
    She used to be sure, settled and determined to walk the one path, and she was at peace.
    But the years brought “life experiences” which she was unprepared for and she ended up lost in the Confusion Forest of doubts and doctrines and can’t seem to see her way out.
    She glimpses the exit but hasn’t been able to break through the brambles and undergrowth yet.
    It gets dark in there at times…and she is afraid of the dark.
    The sounds of the forest have unsettled her, and for years now she also has had panic disorder which sends her whirling, gasping and palpatating with fear.
    In spite of all the times she has seen the Lord’s efforts to rescue her..
    In spite of how desperately she wants to stay safely at His feet -never to move away…
    She finds herself losing ground and drifting on the winds of confusion and scrupulosity.
    She tells others to “keep their eyes on Him” and “hold on” while her own white-knuckles weaken within and her heart beats madly – afraid of losing sight of Him.
    She is so weak.

    But the memory of her stronger days and clearer faith keep her tied to the pursuit of His grace, and she believes that one day He will lead her out of the forest and she won’t be crushed by shadows any more!

    • Trish, your comment is absolutely beautiful. You could use it as a post on your own blog!
      Oh dear friend, perhaps you are simply experiencing something of the dark night either of the senses or the soul. Have you ever read in spiritual books about the paths the Lord often leads us down as we journey closer to Him? St. John of the Cross has written a masterpiece on the dark night of the soul. But there are other books which present this topic in an easier format….The Fire Within by Father Thomas Dubay is excellent. There are many others. If you like, I can email you a list.

      Your dark, confusing forest which you can’t seem to escape from reminds me so much of this state of soul. Of course, this is only a suggestion of what your problem might be. I will certainly pray for the Lord to help you find some answers.

      A special big hug to you for enduring the dreaded panic disorder. I am much better now…but years ago, this was a major problem for me. I hope and pray that you have been able to find treatment to help you.

      Hang in there, Trish. God loves you so much, and He is right there in that forest with you, keeping you safe…even though you may feel lost.

      Much love,

  8. Wow, this was amazing and beautiful! I really appreciate your honesty and openness with this post. Thank you! And your prayer at the end? Definitely one that we all could pray every day.

    • Welcome K! Thank you so much for stopping by, and for taking the time to comment. I appreciate your kind words so much. I agree about praying that prayer daily. God has a way of honoring our words…even when we have to force ourselves to say them… and slowly changing our heart to truly embrace them. He loves our poor efforts.

      I have been to your blog, and will definitely pray for your vocation. What JOY for you…to have this option still open. God bless you!

      In Christ,

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