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Leaving It All Behind

posted Apr 6, 2010, 12:10 PM by Elisa Lui   [ updated Apr 6, 2010, 9:10 PM ]

April 2008

With two pieces of luggage in hand, Angus walked into the convent where she would stay until the day she meets Jesus face to face. As I watched her tiny figure disappear behind the gate, I couldn’t keep my tears from rolling down my cheeks. These were tears of both sadness and joy. I will miss my dear friend; yet I am joyful for her because she had waited nearly ten years for this moment.

The notion of becoming a nun first crossed Angus’s mind when she became a Catholic about a decade ago. It was a fleeting thought at the time, and Angus did not pursue the idea seriously. However, as her relationship with Jesus deepened through the years, she found her desire to enter the convent continued to grow. Each day, she longed for the time to communicate with Jesus. Before she realized it, she was praying five to six hours continuously on her knees.

Nevertheless, becoming a nun and spending much time in prayers were two very different lifestyles. This was especially true for Angus, who felt called to become a cloistered nun – meaning she would have to relinquish her freedom to leave the convent permanently. When she shared this calling with me five years ago, she admitted that she felt both reluctant and fearful in following this path. Becoming a nun would mean leaving behind not only all her material properties, but also her successful career and beloved family members. It also meant a life spent in poverty, chastity and solitude. For a young and talented architect who taught in well-known universities all over the world and whose parents were dying in the hospital, that transition seemed too much of a sacrifice at the time.

Yet, Angus did not completely reject the idea. Instead, she told God that if becoming a nun was indeed God’s will for her life, then God would need to remove all the barriers in her heart. God understood Angus’s challenges and HE was patient. For the past five years, God worked on Angus’s heart gradually through different circumstances. These life-changing events included a serious illness that brought Angus to the footstep of the death door. During this terrifying experience, Angus was compelled to confront her helplessness and relied completely on God. It also gave Angus an opportunity to reflect upon her entire life and recount all of God’s blessings, mercies and faithfulness along the way. Most importantly, the intimacy Angus experienced with Jesus during those desperate moments allowed her to understand what it meant to be completely satisfied with the Lord alone.

This experience enabled Angus to take incremental steps towards her calling. Angus eventually closed her design practice, bid farewell to her family, and narrowed down her house of possessions to two suitcases. She took these steps not because she lost interest in architecture, nor because she grew indifferent to her loved ones. She did them because she discovered a fulfillment that could not be found elsewhere than in Jesus. The sustaining joy and peace from being united with God was so attractive that Angus did not consider it a sacrifice to leave everything behind.

For the past month, I had been helping Angus sort, sell, donate and pack her belongings. At the end of the time period, we drove a truckload of garbage bags to the San Francisco dump. As I unloaded into the dumpster many years of writings, letters and photos of loved ones, treasured souvenirs and admired architectural works, I was overcome with sorrow. Although the possessions were not mine, I could not help but feel that I was losing part of my friend. Inside those garbage bags were pieces of her past and objects that defined the Angus I had known for years! Yet, it was not a bit painful for Angus to see her belongings being swallowed up by the compacting machine. On the contrary, she announced with an unmistakable joy in her voice, “I’m so relieved! I cannot wait to enter the convent!” as we drove away from the dump. Her surprising remark showed me how far the Shepherd had brought Angus on the path of obedience and how much faith Angus had gained along the way.

Angus’s story reminded me of the biblical account about a rich young man whom Jesus asked to sell all his possession and follow HIM. In the story, the young man was looking for ways to receive eternal life, but when Jesus asked him to give up all that he owned, he turned away saddened. The difference between Angus and the rich young man lay not in their action or inaction of selling their possession. The divergence hinged upon their willingness or refusal to surrender their will in following Jesus. Similar to the rich young man, Angus was attached to her earthly possessions, but unlike the rich young man, Angus had developed an intimate enough relationship with Jesus that she was willing to take the risks in trusting HIM to be her guide.

On our way to the convent, Angus told me that in retrospect, her journey of becoming a nun had been an effortless one because the process happened so naturally. Jesus was the one who did the transforming work in her heart and carried her across the entire time. Angus’s testimony had been a great encouragement for me as I await God to lead me to my calling of becoming an overseas missionary. With my family responsibilities, mounting school loans, and a very prideful heart, I don’t know how my calling will be accomplished, but I know God is faithful and HE will finish what HE has started in my heart.