Talked out

I’ve had a lot of interviews over the past couple weeks, interviews with several Jesuits, a wonderfully funny nun, and a few doctors. They’ve asked a lot of questions about a lot of things and I’ve said a lot of words back. I think I’ve talked myself out, if that’s possible. I guess there’s a limit, even for me.

There’s been a lot of questions about the vows in particular. How do I see poverty, chastity, and obedience? What do they really mean, and why are they so fundamental? How do I see myself living them? What is it about my call that feels particularly fitting to the Jesuits?

Like I said, I feel talked out. These are easy questions, but the answers are not short and simple. It takes time to explain fully the reasons I see obedience as the cornerstone of an active faith, to split apart the different forms it takes in our lives and differentiate and explain the necessity of each. I can’t rely on theological answers like that anyway. Instead, it takes even more time to convey the sense of helpless panic that hit me in the Navy, where I had no control over my life or death and the only choice I had in the morning was which of the same uniform to put on. How long does it take me to show how that helplessness transformed into a peace and a beauty of simplicity and acceptance. How long it takes to demonstrate how all these little moments in my life when I have stopped thinking and planning ad infinitum and simply listened with an open heart… Moments of obedience to God are easy to recall, but never simple to explain.

There’s no quick way to talk about how living in poverty is more than a simple rule for emulating the life of Christ, or how it brings a closer relationship to the poor, suffering, and meek in the world, or even how removing the clutter from your life removes the noisy barriers that keep you from hearing God’s whispers like Elijah. Indeed, to really explain my personal relationship to the vow, I need to talk about my time in Alaska, my constant yearning for movement, the deep quiet of meditation I find in long car rides or sitting alone in an empty room. It takes so many words to draw these pictures and make them accessible and clear enough that they can be felt. How can I make you feel the amazing power of Grace that fills me until I am overflowing with the essence of everything, the mystical numinous power that terrifies me into awareness of my smallness and yet embraces me with a personal affection more powerful than any single love. Or how I see the shadow of a flower draping across newly fallen snow, and it is a metaphor for the calling I feel. Unencumbered. Profound. Draw me a haiku that can bring that depth in 17 syllables.

Flower shadows on newfallen snow

And there is the ever present question of sexuality, as pervasive in interviews as it is in society. Where do I begin to talk about celibacy and its neighbor chastity? Do I repeat them the go-to reply of religious, that living the life doesn’t make you love less, but opens you up to love everyone even more? It is true, but again it is only part of an answer. It is the answer of the Church explaining a doctrine, not of a person explaining a call. Why am I called to celibacy? Because God has shown me that is the type of Love I excel at and find true grace in. I am not just a bad boyfriend and a good friend, it is deeper than that. I am called to celibacy because I have an affinity and natural skill at it. Sexuality and individual romantic love doesn’t bring me closer to God the way it does so many people. But it’s also hard to explain, as you can probably see already. It takes time and energy and a deeply reflective emotional examination that pulls and pulls at you. It’s exhausting.

So, as I said, I’m a little talked out these days. So in closing, let me just say: things looking good, need sleep, prayers welcome.