Many people have asked, so what makes a nun different from any one else of good will? I’ve certainly asked myself this same question while I was in the process of trying to figure out what crazy thing God was calling me to. I often wondered what I could do as a nun that would be so totally different from being an “ordinary” person. I thought that if I could just name that one thing that was so exclusively nun-esque then I could decide whether to be a nun, or not to be a nun. That was the question.
I never did come up with that one thing, yet I know that this is the lifestyle for me. Being a nun “fits.” It’s the thing that will make me most fully myself, just like for my blood sister–being married and a mom “fits” who she is and makes her most fully herself.
I guess over time (9 years to be exact … no rush) the question, “what makes a nun different,” lost its meaning as I began to live the life. I fell in love not with the idea of being a nun, but with the lived reality of being a nun. I couldn’t answer the question by thinking about it, but I could answer it by living into it. Rainer Maria Rilke’s words in Letters to a Young Poet ring true here:
“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”
And yet the question lingers: what makes a nun different? My friends ask me, my family ask me, strangers who happen to find out that I’m a nun ask me. So, I continue to think about this question. Over the next few posts I hope to approach this question from a variety of angles. Stay tuned. Please post your comments–how would you respond to this question?