In the Garden of Souls
I recently read the book “Left to Tell” by Immaculée Ilibagiza. It’s the incredible story of how she survived the Rwandan genocide in 1994 by hiding in a bathroom with several other women for 3 months. During this ordeal, she had incredible experiences of the presence of God, of true meditation, and of miracles. The book was totally wonderful and I couldn’t put it down. I read the whole thing in less than 24 hours, including me staying up waaaaaay past my mommy bedtime because I just had to know what happened next.
The book has tremendous insights into forgiveness, trusting in God, and prayer and so many things spoke deeply to me. I was most amazed at how her faith could be so strong and deep and her prayer life so intense in a time when things were more horrible than anything she could’ve imagined in her life or than I could ever imagine having to experience.
I’ve used this book and what I’ve read as a reference point a lot lately. When things have gotten challenging or difficult for me (which, incidentally, they have a lot lately as I am basically single-parenting for a month while my husband is away working), I try to find all the things in the situation that I can be thankful for. I try to immerse myself in prayer or at least point my thoughts towards God when I am starting to wallow. I try to be a woman of faith.
I recently had a really, really, REAAAAALLLLY rough night with my children. And, being without my husband, it compounded the fact that I had no relief during that night and knew I wouldn’t have any the next day, either. Anyone who has children can understand what a bad night with kids can be like. You love your kids more than anything, but you reach a breaking point. You start begging God to make the crying stop, to have mercy on you, for guardian angels to comfort the kids, to please let you have sleep so that you can parent well the next day.
I was pushed to my limits and beyond and I had a lot of not very friendly words with God that night. I’m convinced I was wrestling with some demons, too.
But, eventually, the hours passed and the crying stopped and the children rested (though, I didn’t really). And, as I laid awake with my thoughts, I cried at my weakness and lack of faith. I thought of Immaculée and how strong she was during something that was truly from the devil and lasted for THREE MONTHS (not just 3 hours). I thought to myself, “The Lord barely gives me trials in comparison to what Immaculée and so many people suffer. How could I ever hope to attain heaven when I can’t even make it through a tough night of parenting?”
Suffice it to say, I was disappointed and ashamed of myself.
The next morning, I prayed in thanksgiving for the new day, for my beautiful children and their happy little faces, and I asked God to forgive me for all the unpleasant things I had thought (and, some which I spoke allowed) the night before. I prayed for the grace to be a better parent and to somehow come to an understanding of how I could ever reach sainthood when my struggles, trials, and life seem so small in comparison to what so many others live through.
And, God in all His mercy and kindness, gave me some words of comfort and a reminder of how we are all called to sainthood.
“[Jesus] set before me the book of nature; I understood how all the flowers he created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.
And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden. He willed to create great souls comparable to lilies and roses, but he has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when he looks down at his feet. Perfection consists in doing his will, in being what he wills us to be.” (St. Térese of Lisieux)
I will probably never be a rose or a lily in Jesus garden of souls. I will never, God-willing, have to suffer something like Immaculée did that is so horrendous and agonizing that it must be shared so that others may learn and have their faith deepened. But, being a less significant “flower” doesn’t make my life or my sufferings any less important to the God who created and loves me. He glances down at my small life and hears my prayers.
It comes down to this – God has willed my life and sufferings to be what they are and my perfection, my sainthood lies in being aligned with that reality. It’s my job, now, to be the best little dandelion or daisy that I can be. Because, the garden of souls currently growing on the earth would be incomplete without mine, even if it’s not the prettiest or most noticeable one growing there.
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