Monday, October 7, 2013

Hope from Joan of Arc

Be free to be who you are.
What comes to mind when you hear that?
Well, I'll tell you what I think.
I'm 45 years old and I still don't know "who" I am yet.  So how do you "be" something you feel you haven't even arrived at yet?  And yet, I heard a saying once, "Wherever you go... there you are." 
I guess I feel that one fits my journey the best.

Some people spend LOTS of time figuring out how to "arrive".  There are books published, blogs written and spiritual seminars held all in the hope of reaching that "Nirvana, Heaven, Awakening, Spiritual Maturity. Whatever you want to call it. Maybe I'm just too much of a pessimist.  I really don't feel I'm going to reach that in my lifetime. Yet, at the same time I feel I HAVE reached it, many times. Does that make sense?
Wherever you go, there you are.

I think one of the hardest things for me is how I sometimes really have to struggle and fight to be myself. I worry about what people will think of me or I worry about losing my way and then having to "face the consequences". I have been burned many times by not being afraid to just be who I am and say what I think without worrying about who will be offended or think ill of me. 

I've had people turn away from me, gossip about me behind my back yet smile and act like we're best friends when I see them in public, unfriend and block me on Facebook, I've received veiled threats for things I have said or written, I've been told I'm not a good influence on "young people", I've been asked to "step down" from certain positions. All because I won't compromise on trying to find out who I am and what I believe about things.

It's hard to endure that sort of thing and not become bitter, consider people enemies or withdraw inwardly. I'm doing my best though,
I really am. I'm truly sorry if things I have ever said have offended you. If they do, call me up, let's go out for coffee, let's talk... HECK, I'll even buy.  My  journey is NOT about trying to take others down. Oh, I PRAY it is not.

So, what does this have to do with Joan of Arc? Well, first and foremost let me say that I DO NOT consider myself in the ranks of St. Joan!

About two and a half years ago I was going through some major life changes spiritually speaking. It was also around the time I had decided I am not going to try to hide or change the real me. Not for anyone. So I decided to go on a women's retreat... by MYSELF.  I went to Holy Hill for the weekend. It's a beautiful area with this ancient Catholic church set in a scenic area. While I was there I took a peek at the gift shop. I was fascinated looking through the various cards they have for Saints. One that really stuck out to me was Joan of Arc's.

It told her story of how she had grown up in France and experienced visions from God as a very young woman, hearing voices from Heaven and being approached by Micheal the Archangel. Joan of Arc was able to have a hand in victory in a battle against England, allowing Charles VII to reign as King over France.

But later her own King turned on her and she fell into the hands of the English, where she was given a mock trial and burned at the stake as a heretic. A rather tragic story.

So was Joan truly given visions from God? Was she perhaps Schizophrenic and highly influential? Perhaps she had military connections and gave people hope as a religious symbol during the time of the Black Death and the One Hundred Year War with England who had ravaged their lands by burning away France?
My thought??  Yes.

I honestly don't know what went on with Joan of Arc, there is really no way anyone CAN know.
I don't even know what makes me tick. What makes me think the way I do or act the way I do most of the time! But no one would argue that Joan DID somehow leave a mark on the world that burned her to death. She was labeled a "heretic" because she was, who she was.

I picked up that prayer card and took it with me.  I LOVE the prayer to her that was written on the back and I read it often.
I hope it encourages you as well...
"In the face of your enemies,
in the face of harassment, ridicule and doubt, you held firm in your faith.
Even in your abandonment, alone and without friends, you held firm in your faith.
I pray that I may be as bold in my beliefs as you, St. Joan.
I ask that you ride alongside me in my own battles.
Help me to be mindful that what is worthwhile can be won when I persist.
Help me hold firm in my faith.
Help me believe in  my ability
to act well and wisely. 

I have hope in the example of Joan of Arc.
I have hope to be free to be who I am and to have the strength to face WHATEVER life may throw at me.
(whoever or whatever that may be this week!)

Because I too, am crazy enough to believe that I hear from God.
I hope you do too!  


1 comment:

We have this Hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Hebrews 6:19