By Catherine Doherty
Somewhere along the road of life, by the grace of God, my soul woke up, and its hunger became a fire, a fire that consumed me, ate me up, with its intense, devouring heat.
I could not rest anywhere except in motion—in a motion that led me to God. That is how I began the journey inward, that long, endless journey that every soul must undertake if she is to meet her God.
It is a strange journey, across arid plains and verdant valleys, and deserts—a journey of many crossroads and endless sharp turns that confuse and clamor for a rest. But the hunger for God knows no rest. So I go on and on and on.
Yes, it is a strange journey that slowly makes me shed all the baggage I took for it—the baggage I took for it before I knew that it was too heavy a load for this kind of journey.
I don’t know where I left it—somewhere back there by some crossroad. Now I am baggage-less, but somehow still too heavily burdened.
My hunger drives me on. But now for speedy traveling, it demands that I start shedding my clothing.
There on this stone I must lay the cloak of selfishness that kept me warm. I am cold without it, but I can walk faster, as my hunger urges me to.
Here, on this branch, I must hang my dress of self-love and compromise with the world. I shiver now in earnest, but my feet seem to have wings.
Yet this sheltered rock begs for my underwear. Slowly, reluctantly, I shed one by one my undergarments. Here goes self-indulgence. Tidily, next to it, I lay greed for possessions and love of ease and comfort.
Next, not so tidily, go, helter–skelter, all the things in me that are not God’s. Lord, behold I stand naked before thee, with wings on my feet. Now my journey inward will be swift.
But it is not. For I still stumble and fall and walk haltingly—inches instead of miles—while the hunger for God flays me and urges me to make haste.
Oh, I had forgotten my shoes, the heavy, comfortable shoes that shielded my feet from the cutting stones, from the sharp pebbles.
I must unlace my shoes, my comfortable, stout shoes, the last covering of my naked body—the last stronghold of my non–surrender to God.
I hesitate. The narrow path upwards is so hard. It has so many sharp stones, so many knife–edged pebbles.
But the hunger for God flames in me, a furnace of fire unquenchable: the fire of love, of passionate utter love of God.
I must go on, on that journey inward that alone will bring me face to face with him for whom I hunger constantly, without ceasing.
Quickly I bend. With hasty, clumsy fingers I unlace one shoe, then the other. My eagerness is becoming part of my hunger. Recklessly I throw one shoe this way, the other that, not caring whither which falls.
And now I am free. I am free and naked and my feet have huge wings that carry me across the sharp stones and the knife–edged pebbles, without harm. Now brambles and thorns that edge the path open up and point the other way.
I am a naked soul, free and untrammeled, driven by the hunger of my love for God. Driven by my love for God—on and on—on this journey inward.
I did not know it was going to be so easy, now that I shed all my garments.
But now I know. For my hunger is being assuaged, satiated, filled, even as I fly on my winged feet along the steep path upward.
It is being filled, that hunger of mine, so much, so well, that I can feed others with the surplus of the food given to me so abundantly.
Yes, my soul hungered for God before it was even clothed with flesh.
God meets half way the soul that starts on its journey inward, provided that the soul, driven by its hunger of love for him, strips itself naked.
That is the secret of his love and of his kingdom that begins even on this earth.
But the price, I repeat, is nakedness complete—even unto discarding shoes.
I think maybe another 30 Lents will get me there.
This has been a long, long, long, long Lent. I seem to be getting more hideous as I go along. I'm hoping that it's just Lenten temptation or something.