[Apologies in advance for any lack of coherence in this post. It's big-time allergy season, and I've been rather head-swimmy lately.]
I am still reading Elisabeth Leseur’s diary; the copy I have is My Spirit Rejoices: the Diary of a Christian Soul in an Age of Unbelief, published by Sophia Institute Press in 1996.
Rarely has my soul felt such affinity with another as it does with Mme. Leseur! Sometimes, in reading her diary, I almost feel like I’m reading my own. It’s strange, but in reading her self-expressions, I find expression for myself also. I often feel that she has captured in words things that I wish I could capture in words.
But just as often, however, and perhaps more often, I realize that these words are the words of a far wiser, stronger, more mature soul than my own. They convict me of my own weakness. But never in a scolding way… more in an encouraging, exhorting way. She says to me, “You can overcome just as I have by the grace of God. You are not as weak as you think.”
Here are some excerpts I came across this morning. They are from her entries of December 1901 and February and March 1902:
It is a suffering from God, which I offer to Him, that among all the beloved friends surrounding me, I should have no one to whom I might open my heart in saying to him or her, “Look,” and who might understand and help me.
But perhaps to hear one’s ideas and beliefs perpetually criticized, to know them misunderstood, to have prejudice and ignorance against one, is to some extent to suffer persecution for justice’s sake.
A bad spell for more than a month: bodily fatigue, domestic troubles, and, worse than that, a kind of sadness and moral apathy, a lack of the fervor and inner joy that God has sometimes given me so abundantly. And yet not for one moment has my will ceased to belong to Him; duty has cost me dearly, but it has not ceased to be duty.
… Many things to reform: pride, the tendency to delay in getting to work, to let days slip away; to allow myself to be invaded by outward excitements. And yet I have an immense need of calm and of interior life. God alone knows what difficulty I sometimes have in overcoming certain physical and moral miseries in order to arrive at that complete possession of myself, at that Christian serenity that nothing can disturb.
I have a great task before me, and nothing human to help me fulfill it. Perhaps one day I shall have the great joy of seeing my faith, which is my whole life, understood and shared by those and by him whom I love so much. As it is, all that my soul holds of desires, fervor, and tenderness much remain enclosed within itself and poured out only before God. Whatever suffering this entails, I offer for the souls who are so dear to me. Nothing is lost, not one grief or one tear.
When I read these passages, I could feel and recognize and understand the sufferings Elisabeth must have been experiencing. That loneliness and isolation from others, that helplessness to reach them, and that malaise that tends to flood in as a result. The fact is that such difficulties are part of a Christian’s life. We are in the world, but not of it. Many of our loved ones, unfortunately, are perfectly content to be of the world.
Not long ago, I was trying to tell a dear loved one about difficulties I was having in my life, specifically about difficulties I was having in persevering in my faith. This was somebody who does not share my faith, but to whom I am very close otherwise. Somebody I deeply trust and can generally talk to about anything. But when it came to matters of faith, I felt like there was such a brick wall between us! I needed so badly to share my experiences with another person–but even the closest and dearest could not understand or empathize with me. It was like a sword through the heart!
Her response, which is only logical for someone who does not understand and share my faith, was simply: “If it is so difficult, then why don’t you give it up? Find some other way of living that will make you happy and put you at ease. Why waste your time and energy on something that doesn’t make you happy and that causes you so much pain?”
At the time I was utterly nonplussed in trying to respond to that. To explain why I couldn’t simply give up on my faith even if it wasn’t easy to live with at times.
An analogy crossed my mind: that of giving up on a spouse or close relative or dear friend when he or she became difficult to live with–even if the difficulty was fleeting. But then I realized that in our society, people seem pretty comfortable with doing just that! Summarily giving up on others when things stop being lovey-dovey and happy-clappy. Abandoning duty in favor of comfort. All you have to do is look at the ruined state of marriage and the family to see how such ideas have permeated our society. And if people are quick to give up on other people, then they are even quicker to give up on God and the faith!
I realized how vastly different were the worldviews of this dear person and myself. And in the end, all I could do was cry to God. Cry to Him and at the same time reaffirm my dedication to Him–my duty to Him.
Elisabeth often writes of duty. Duty to God, and on account of that duty to God, duty to other people and to society as a whole as well. Perhaps the most pervasive problem with our society is that it has lost all sense of duty.
Coincidentally (if there is such a thing as coincidence), this evening I was unwinding with some food and watching some anime. I’m in the middle of the series Samurai Champloo. And at one point, one of the characters utters this line:
When duty goes out of style, the world will be nothing but darkness.
I think it’s a very fitting summary for my above ramblings, and so I will end on that note. :)