About a month ago, I asked the following questions:
How did Mary Magdalen describe what it was like to have met Christ? What words could Peter use to explain to someone else what happened to him on the shore of the Sea of Galilee when Christ cooked him breakfast and asked him three times if he loved him? How did Matthew account for himself when his tax collector friends asked why he'd left the customs post?
The questions were conceived as rhetorical, but evidently the Mystery saw fit to confront me with answers I hadn't anticipated.
Now, I can tell you, roughly a month later, that the word that best answers the above questions is "uncomfortable."
There was joy, certainly, and an overflowing of wonder in front of Beauty; but that was followed by a shock. I don't think it is an overstatement, nor is it melodramatic of me to say that I have been experiencing a kind of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome during the past several weeks. At least, all the symptoms have been there. But why should experiencing Beauty bring on something like a sickness, accompanied by so much pain?
All of life is a journey, a pilgrimage; and by paths, sometimes winding, we hope to reach our destiny. We are being made in each moment, by Another. How we process this knowledge (or not) determines our course. But when Someone suddenly steps into our path and points us in a new direction, it requires strength to tear oneself from our past course and follow this indication. Something inside actually rips. At least this has been happening with me.
Yesterday I found words for the particular change in me that this new direction will require:
So what is friendship? Friendship, in its minimal state, is the encounter of one person with another person whose destiny he or she desires more than his or her own life: I desire your destiny more than I desire my life. The other reciprocates this and desires my destiny more than his or her life... Those who do not experience this must humbly ask the Lord and the Blessed Mother to make it understood to them, because without this, not even the relationship with God is true.
But the more you have affection, the more you're tempted to stop there, to grab, to possess. That's the way you lose both the thing and yourself: you lose. The symptom that a friendship is wrong is that the others are extraneous... Only you and I exist. It is egoism assembled into a system. And not only is this deadly, it's suffocating (the third day, I can't take it any more. I need some air. I need to see a horse galloping!).
*Luigi Giussani, Is It Possible to Live This Way? Volume 1: Faith (pp 146-147)
When I say, "They need something else," I don't mean that they need something other than Christ! I mean that they need something else besides what it is that helps me to see his face. They need whatever it is that they need so that they can see him.
I get this to some extent, especially when dealing with children. It is in adult relationships, in which I feel great affection, that I feel this need to "be heard," or to have what has been helpful to me be likewise helpful to the other person. And when I discover another person who finds my solutions to her problems useful (and likewise supplies me with solutions that help me), the result is usually what Fr. Giussani describes -- a friendship in which the others are extraneous. Here is someone who "understands" me, whom I can also "understand;" and surrounding us is a huge ocean of persons who don't "get it."
Since this is true, and has been proven in my life again and again, then I know that my wanting to share my point of view with others is born from a love for my ego, for my self, for my point of view, conceived by me, me, me. It's narcissism!
To love another's destiny more than my own point of view, opinions, wise conclusions is, I'm tremendously sad to say, an experiment I haven't tried much. Oh, I thought I was loving their destiny by sharing my passion for solving their problems, clarifying their confusions, pointing out their errors! But no. Giving advice, particularly when it hasn't been requested, is just an attempt to shore up a weak, frightened ego.
I must take a step back and respect the other person's need to meet the same Christ I've met -- let others confront him when he steps into their paths.
I can't tell you how painful it is to sacrifice something that I have depended upon and admired in myself, something that has served me as a crutch and a solace in difficult times. I wouldn't do it at all, except that the new path indicated represents a promise, one of great hope.