What is the nature of your faith? Is it a belief in God? Something supernatural? Another person? Or yourself?
I have often explored these questions with thoughtful friends, which seem to arise more frequently as we age and experience life.
In Lying Awake, Mark Salzman explores the subject from the standpoint of a woman named Helen who became a Carmelite nun adopting the name of Sister John of the Cross. After 28 years in the cloister, she felt abandoned by the God she dedicated her life to serve. She wrote diaries, which were later published, providing a source of income for the cloister located in the Los Angeles hills.
Sister John became sick. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? Is this all there is? These questions tormented her consciousness.
Sister John had been abandoned by her mother. After so many years, she began coming to grips with her emotions about her mother as what she thought were migraines morphed into an epileptic disorder. It was as if her life could not really begin until the mystery of her mother was resolved. When it was, the painful knowledge was drowned in the drudgery of everyday convent life.
A confessor asked if her faith was simply self-devotion, as if Sister John worshipped projections of her own needs. She then asked: What is my dream?
Lying Awake is a lovely means of guiding you through your own emotions about faith and the purpose of life. You will enjoy its majesty!
As I read Lying Awake, I was reminded of the story of Punchinello by Max Lucado. It is the story of a carved wooden Wemmick, Punchinello, who, in his own eyes, had a paint job less attractive than the other Wemmick’s. The carver on the hill advises him to go back down the hill and discover other things that might differentiate him. In the end, Punchinello discovers that the carver (God) gave him a heart and feelings that were unique unto himself.
Like Sister John and Punchinello, we all need periodic re-examination of our faith and emotions.