“What you do matters—but not much. What you are matters tremendously.” (Catherine Doherty)
Today I wrestled hard with my heart. I am not sure if my will or my emotions won or if it was a draw. Nothing causes you to face what you really are like rejection. My life has been a school of rejection. I never quite connected the dots until my spiritual director pointed it out and suggested I read On The Cross of Rejection by Catherine Doherty. (You know how the backside of every crucifix is empty? That’s the cross of rejection reserved for true disciples.) I read it two years ago, right before I officially separated from my husband. This book cut like a knife and healed like a balm.
And the lessons are not finished. They are like a spiral staircase going ever deeper. I have to circle back around the same theme, as God reveals me to myself and draws me a little deeper into his Sacred Heart. The thorns encircling the Sacred Heart go deep.
Now that I am divorced and I am trying to reconcile that reality within myself, while still living faithfully to my marriage vows, I am faced with a new kind of rejection. This time it is from people, who in their attempts at righteousness, forget that charity includes believing the best in others. They offer fraternal correction that reeks of accusation and calumny. It leads to despair, depression, or to self-centered naval gazing that takes my eyes off Jesus.
My instinct is to defend myself. Yet the Holy Spirit whispers, “Make peace with the fact that you will be the villain in someone else’s story.”
I try. And it hurts. And I keep trying. I try to accept the rejection while at the same time finding none of my identity in the false narratives that caused the rejection. Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey wrote in Jesus King of Love, “…in order to know yourself, look into the divine mirror of the eyes of Jesus, the Sun of His Heart will show you what you are and at the same time He will comfort you with the vision of its mercies.”
I can see myself in truth AND be comforted by His mercy. Any supposed “fraternal correction” that leads to despair and not to hope isn’t from the Sacred Heart. As Thomas Merton wrote in the Seven Storey Mountain, “The mere realization of one’s own unhappiness is not salvation: it may be the occasion of salvation, or it may be the door to a deeper pit in Hell…“
So I wrestled in my heart with wanting to defend, to get angry, to explain myself, and to put others in their place. But the thorns of the Sacred Heart restrained me. Reject the lie. But accept the rejection.
Perhaps in this way rejection may become redemptive.
Two years ago, eleven days before everything came to a head and my husband moved out, I wrote in my journal:
If Rejection is the way to salvation, leave me.
If death is the path to life, kill me.
If your road to heaven is my personal hell,
Then take what you need and I’ll see you there.
I want all the pain to be both redeemed and redemptive. But if I want the end, I must accept the means, ie rejection. It all, as usual, comes down to my fiat. Will I say yes? Will I be willing? Will I look at Jesus and say truly, “Let it be done to me according to your word”? Do I have the courage to say it and mean it?
An Opus Dei priest once told me in spiritual direction, “The Holy Spirit grows Christ in us at the pace of our consent.”