Updated: Jan 8
I love nuns. And I've met a number of them. When I was a kid I thought they flew. When I got older someone told me they were giant mutated penguins.
So it goes.
When I was taking CPE I met a nun who told me I was too hard on myself. And she was right. I had a tremendous sense of failure when I didn't do something right. I'd blame myself for a long time.
One day I was quite overwhelmed with all the "oughts" and "shoulds" on my life and with her blue eyes sparkling like magical fairy she told me flat out, "Bill, you need to stop should-ing on yourself."
Nuns are everywhere. I've met them on cruise ships, in convents in Puerto Rico, and in Jerusalem. I often wonder if there prayers are responsible for keeping planes in the air, hurricanes from doing more harm, or more murders from happening then there already are.
My most favorite nun was a woman named Anne. Actually she was a has-been nun because when she was a nun she met a man and fell in love with him and left the convent. But she still had every bit of her nun-sense. Nothing lost there. She often spoke into my heart in life-changing ways.
Once, she and I were at the most boring church event I had ever attended, or would attend, for all time. We were there on the front row in a room of about a hundred while the person speaking rambled on and on talking about this thing and that thing and nothing in particular and everything in general for a very long time. And non of it was about Jesus. I was at my wits end. It was as if hoses had been attached to my ears and were sucking all my energy. I squirmed this way and that way around in the seat waiting - praying - for when he would stop talking and we could sing again.
At the peak of my angst I looked to my side at Anne - small-framed, dirty-blonde-haired dutch boy cut, blue eyes. She was staring intently at the speaker, nodding in a agreement and everything he said - and even smiling - acting as if she was actually enjoying this guy!
I look at the speaker and got the willies. I looked to Anne and felt love. What was I missing here?
After we dismissed I make like a bat out of hell, plopped myself in the car, and slammed the door behind me. Anne graciously walked down the sidewalk and got into the driver's seat. I was livid and got into it. If any one would understand how completely unspritiual the evening was she would.
"Anne, did you hear that, that man speaking? That has got to be the most boring witness to Christ in the world I've ever seen. He never smiled, wasn't happy, mumbled all the way through it - and never ever mentioned the name of Jesus! I thought this was a Christian thing. I couldn't wait to get out of there."
She waited, simply sitting behind the steering wheel and staring through the windshield in a relaxed, peaceful manner.
"Well?" I was looking for affirmation. "What do you think. Pretty lousy, huh?"
"I didn't think it was that bad." She looked over, eyes twinkling and the whole bit.
"What do you mean, 'not that bad!"
She hushed herself and the car filled with a peace. I knew this was going to be one of those words of fairy wisdom that only nuns have.
"You know, Bill." Her voice was gentle yet laced with authority. "Wherever I am I just figure I'm there for a reason and so whatever happens, I just wait to see or hear what God has for me."
"Well ... Um, of course, Anne." I recoiled in the face of my pride. "I mean, sure. I mean we all do that." I looked out the window. "Me, too. I guess."
I have ever forgotten that event - now topping the charts of over 30 years ago. Today, whenever I am in a situation where things are rubbing my grain and nothing is the way it should be, Anne's gentle voice comes floating into my thoughts and I remember. I grow humbled. I take a deep breath and wait; waiting for what God would have for me in that situation.
The record is clear: he rarely speaks outside of pride.