Come, see what He has done for my soul…

How do I begin?

If I try to start at the beginning, I must admit that I don’t even know where the beginning is. I only know that You have always been there.

Long before I have any conscious memory, You began Your work in me, with the waters of salvation poured upon my head when I was but ten days old. In the arms of my parents, You claimed me.

As I ponder the decades of my life, I see so much that, at first glance, seems to make so little sense. One moment, You were there and the next, it seemed that You were not.

Or was it me? Was I not praying enough or believing enough during those times You seemed so absent?

So I wondered at the time. But now I see differently.

You allowed me such beautiful moments in childhood: learning to pray, receiving You in Eucharist for the first time when I was 7, being confirmed in the Faith with the Holy Chrism when I was 8.

But you also allowed me many dull and ordinary moments, even difficult moments, in which irritability and fears and annoyances crowded out all of the good You had instilled within me. And I felt discouraged.

But greater perhaps than anything, You implanted in my soul a relentless hunger for You – a desire to know You and to know the truth about You. I wanted You to exist but You gave me a mind that would not accept merely believing what it wanted to believe.

And You allowed this hunger to both delight me with its holy promise and torment me with the possibility of a horrifying and inescapable emptiness. Sometimes both in the same day.

Your generosity with me in many ways seems boundless. You have allowed me so much opportunity in life, so much ability (none of which I have earned or deserved). You have sent me innumerable helps and guides and blessings through every phase of my life, in books and dreams and teachers and friends, all to instruct me and guide me that I might know You.

At the same time, at points in my life, You allowed me to undergo great mental suffering – and some physical as well – some of which endured for decades with little or no relief. Sometimes I could barely hold on. Sometimes I didn’t want to hold on, it hurt and frightened me so much.

Yet You never left me alone or without help. And afflictions that I thought would never leave me were lifted. All by Your grace.

There were times when working for You exhausted me so much that I became angry, though I did not recognize it at the time. I saw so many injustices that I could not remain quiet. I heard so many sorrows that I could not stop crying. But in each one, I was sustained in hope because of You.

And then You began opening new doors for me, leading me to unexpected places. Each new door led me through the same maze of challenge and growth, pain and joy, always with You leading and beckoning me to come in a bit further, to enter more deeply into Your promise.

With the openings, You allowed me to see more clearly my sinfulness, the total destitution of my soul when it ventures away from You, even for a moment. You taught me what it means to live a life of repentance. You planted in my heart a longing to pray without ceasing.

At the same time, You flooded my soul like an artist’s palette, with colors that long to be painted, images that call out to be received and words waiting to find form that they might praise You.

Certainly I have not fulfilled all that You have given me. Not even close. Yet I see now that You have been shaping me through each step, through each experience.

In Your presence, I have found joy and consolation. In Your “absence”, I have come to understand how deep is my need for You.

In the many gifts You have given me, I have learned that what I have to give others is not my own but Yours. In my challenges and suffering, I have discovered a compassion and humility that can only be learned through raw need.

For all of this, O God, for all of this – the joys and the sorrows, the suffering and the celebrations – I praise Your great glory. For all of it has led me to be where I am right now, standing before You in worshipful awe…

3 thoughts on “Come, see what He has done for my soul…

  1. albert

    I often get confused about prayer, Mary. When I try traditional forms, reading them, or even saying from memory, it often feels insincere, artificial–my problem, inattention, lack of focus, an unquiet mind. But reading this reminds me of why I keep Augustine’s Confessions nearby. His sentences come from the heart, as do yours. The words stir my heart too. It’s a kind of communion, for which I am so grateful. It’s not important to “feel” prayer, but it seems real, and it helps me keep at it. Our priest said in his sermon last Sunday that we should “storm heaven” with our prayers, but I’m at a loss there. However, reading your personal prayer forms, which are better (for me) than Augustine’s (still a bit formal, maybe even stilted), gives me a model to follow. I’m not yet comfortable writing as you do, but I feel that i am praying along as I read. If you were to say them aloud (I.e., record them if you have time), listening along might inspire many of your friends, myself included. At any rate, I am very appreciative of your work on this side. Thank you. P. S. Your willingness to tell your story in public gives me a push to be forthright in response. I trust that is OK. Spiritual friendships are delicate, and assumptions dangerous. But God is “everywhere present and fills all things,” including efforts at prayerful reflection, as I have been taught. Including internet exchanges, I believe.

  2. albert

    “. . .the work you do on this site,” I meant. But now that I think about it, “on this side” might be appropriate too.

  3. mary Post author

    I appreciate your sharing, Al. (And appreciate those who may prefer to read and be silent too.)

    I did not know that this was going to take the form of a prayer when I sat down to write it. But I am grateful that it did. I had recently started to reflect on all that God has done in my life, through the course of my life – obviously too much and too personal to post online. But I wanted to write something and asked God to help me. This is what He gave.

    I am reminded of Romans 8:26, how we “do not know how to pray as we ought” – because, of course, we do not. How could we? How could we, who are so small and so incapable of understanding God have any idea how to communicate and be in union with Him?

    The only way(s) we can know is through Jesus who gave us a prayer when asked, “teach us to pray”. But we want more than just to repeat the Lord’s prayer over and over, as wonderful as it is. Then we are given the Spirit – who “comes to the aid of our weakness”. It seems to me that I read somewhere that the Spirit prays within us.

    Perhaps this is not theologically correct – I’m no theologian. But it makes sense to me. And I pray daily for the Spirit to pray with me and in me. God invites me to share in His life and so His Spirit teaches my heart to pray, to share in His life in a way that is beyond words (“groanings”).

    Don’t take from this the idea that I know how to pray and am at some great heights of mystical union. Hardly. But the desire to pray is prayer. And praying for the Spirit to help me pray, I believe, has truly helped me because I am hopeless and helpless on my own.

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