This is a guest post by Michelle Francl-Donnay for Week Five of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.
What do I want to be? Who do I want to be? If my students could have read my thought bubbles this last week, I’m certain many of them would have been startled. Uh, don’t you know by now? I know that I am, to their eyes, old enough to be a grandmother— if not theirs, someone’s. Old enough, they must think, to be certain what and who I am.
True enough. Barring disaster, the broad outlines are unlikely to change. I am a wife and mother. A teacher, scientist, and writer. My life is settled, grace-filled, and often awash in joy.
Yet I understand that none of this truly defines who I am, for I have met disaster of a magnitude that can upend the seemingly settled, unravel the most carefully laid plans, and strip away even the most cherished of my extrinsic identities. When I was a young professor, I left for work one morning married, only to return home two days later a widow.
So I found the meditation on the Two Standards a potent reminder of where my identity is rooted, of where I stand regardless of the external conditions of my life: poverty, health, frustration, happiness, or rending grief.
I’m going to admit that I don’t see Satan on a throne of fire surrounded by angels gone bad and the occasional orc (despite having watched The Lord of the Rings this week). Instead I see the master of evil sitting alone behind a gleaming and elegant desk, all steel and glass, the whole world splayed out below. Dispatches glide across the desk; well-dressed minions come and go. “What have you done for me lately?” he inquires.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the plain is gathered an unlikely crew. Suits and pearls mingle with torn jeans and ratty sandals. There is no long chain of command separating them from Christ. He is right there among them, up to his elbows in the mess, laughing as they work, holding them tenderly when they fall. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Who I am depends not on what I can or cannot do, but on this loving God I labor with and who labors within me.
At one level, the choice is glaringly obvious. Who would pick evil, even slickly packaged evil? But at least for me, the Two Standards sharpens my eye for the small ways in which I let the external facets of my life not only define, but drive me.
What am I at this moment? Wife, mother, teacher, writer. In the next? I know better than to try to predict. Who do I want to be? Christ’s, in whom I live and move and have my being.