Do You Love Me?
While on vacation in Mozambique for 10 days, I spent a lot of time in Scripture, Christian books, and in prayer. Every day during the week, a thought kept coming to mind about dedicating a morning of silence to God to be still and listen for Him. I kept pushing the thought aside, thinking Rachel, Kiley, and I already had plenty of time during the vacation to just be still and hang out. Still, the thought, or the “Holy Spirit nudge” kept coming; that’s when I knew God was trying to tell me something and I couldn’t leave vacation without having the three of us commit a morning of silence and stillness to Him. On the second to last morning, we sat out on the porch overlooking the Indian Ocean and read, prayed, and listened to God. I started with a journal entry first:
Dear Abba, Holy One, Master of the Universe, what a wonder that you notice me! What a miracle that you love! Even more so that you would speak to us. On this morning of silence, open my ears to your voice and wisdom. Tell me what I’ve been too busy to hear. Show me what I’ve been too blind to see. Speak to me this morning, Lord. Give me my vocation…”
After journaling, I wanted to read Scripture but I wasn’t exactly sure where to start so I asked, “God, what should I read in your Word this morning?” Immediately, Luke 10 popped into my head. I wasn’t sure if it was just a random thought of my own or if it really was an answer from God, but either way, that’s what I decided to read first. And from that reading came a fruitful vision I will never ever forget.
While reading Luke 10, several things jumped out at me, but I’ll share the most important to set up the vision that followed: 1) Jesus sent out 72 people in PAIRS to minister to people in towns ahead of him. “[Jesus] said to them, ‘The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.’” The word PAIRS seemed to jump at me, and it made me swell with hope that God would provide a partner for me in ministry, a man of God, a husband to do this work with me. And as Jesus said, the laborers are few, so I must ask the Master to send me another laborer for his harvest. 2) In sending out the 72, Jesus commanded them to carry nothing with them and greet no one along the way as to not get distracted from the mission. It reminded me of God’s provision through others and the single-mindedness required of missionaries, to abandon material possessions and attachments, and even separate from attachment to relationships. 3) The story of Martha and Mary, one I am all too familiar with, as I tend to be a “Martha” myself and busy myself with things that look good but fail to be still and sit at the feet of Jesus to listen, as Mary had done. 4) Lastly, right before I closed my Bible, the wind flipped over a bunch of pages to John 21, and my eye caught some verses I had underlined: “Feed my sheep.” I reviewed the quick snippet of Scripture where Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” And then he commands Peter to feed His sheep and take care of His lambs. After that, I closed the Bible, then closed my eyes…and watched a magnificent moment unfold.
(During confession several years ago, Fr. Al walked me through a spiritual exercise where I closed my eyes and envisioned being in my favorite place of worship with just Jesus and me. He asked me to imagine a conversation I might have with Jesus, what I would confess to him or ask him, and then what Jesus might say back to me. When I opened my eyes, tears were streaming down my face and Fr. Al gently asked, “May I ask what Jesus told you?” I replied, “All he said to me was ‘I love you.’ And I guess that’s what I really needed to hear.”)
Now on the beach of Mozambique overlooking the Indian Ocean, I went on a similar spiritual journey where I closed my eyes and imagined it was just Jesus and me on the beach. After a moment of solidarity for the two of us, all of a sudden the beach became noisy, occupied, and full of festivities. Jesus and I walked together through the suddenly crowded beach—a beach full of people I knew and loved: my family members, my friends, and all of my students. It was my old life back! There were ice cream shops all over, colorful balloons, and even Subway (a restaurant I ache for). But Jesus wasn’t stopping for ice cream or for Subway or even for my family. He kept walking and I walked with him, as if leaving the life and festivities behind me. Everyone wanted me to stay, though, including myself. My family, my friends called after me. Tempting situations and attractive young men enticed me to stay. My students started calling after me, asking me to stay, pleading that I don’t leave them. Jesus kept walking with me, asking me, “Am I enough for you?” His question pierced me, especially because I tell him that often in my journal; I almost always sign it, “You are enough.” But when Jesus asked me the question as we walked through the beach, it was painful because it was convicting. Do I really believe what I say? Do I really believe and live like Jesus is enough for me? So I had to tell my old life goodbye and leave everyone behind. Of course it was very painful.
When the old life suddenly disappeared behind us, it was just Jesus and me in the quiet and loneliness. Then a shack appeared out of nowhere and we sat down to have a Coke together. Then we moved on. As we walked, Jesus picked up a shell that said my name on it and “I love you.” He got down on one knee and asked, “Mary-Kate, do you love me?” I paused. I paused?! How awful. But I then I got teary eyed and said, “I do, I do love you, Lord. But I know not enough.” He answered, “Feed my sheep.” Then we continued and he bent down and picked up another shell and did the same thing, asking me, “Mary-Kate, do you love me?” I said, “Yes, Lord, I do; I do love you, but I’m sorry for when I don’t.” He said, “Take care of my lambs.” Then we walked on. He stopped a third time, picked up the shell and asked, “Mary-Kate, do you love me?” I said much more eagerly this time, “Yes, Lord! Yes, I love you!” Then he said, “Feed my sheep.” He pointed to a hilly pasture of green up ahead where sheep and lambs were waiting, and then he disappeared.
When I stood at the gate of the pasture, a handsome man appeared with me, looking out over the pasture and said, “Well, looks like we got a lot of work to do. Better get going.” He turned to me with a big smile and offered his hand, introducing himself as Michael. And that’s where the vision ended.
I learned so much from this incredible vision and time with Jesus! In my journal I had asked God for insight on my vocation in life, specifically about marriage or singleness. In the vision, Jesus convicted me of the way I’m still holding onto my old life and want of material possessions; he convicted me of a phrase I use often, “You are enough” without living up to it. I am Martha, burdened with worries and anxieties about what it costs to follow God. Jesus showed me only one thing matters, just like he told Martha, and that’s to spend time with Him—and that is where I find my vocation. Jesus commanded me to feed his sheep. He said “feed”—not rescue, save, protect, grow, etc.—just feed them with the Living Water and the Bread of Life. For the little ones, the lambs—the vulnerable, lonely, young, scared, abused, lost, at-risk, etc.—he asked me to take care of them, to do more than just “feed.” When they are grown, as the third command goes, I am to again just feed them. The most significant part of my vision, though, is that I am to never take my eyes off the mission for the man. As I was walking on the beach, leaving my old life behind, there were numerous temptations and opportunities to stay behind and marry my prince charming. However, that’s not my greatest desire; my deep desire is to simply do the will of God and follow where he leads me. When the young man appeared at the end of my vision, it gave me hope that if the Lord wills it, he will give me a partner, so I can serve in a PAIR. But I will never have to abandon my mission or look away from Jesus. If I stay fixed on him, He will always provide, and possibly a husband one day. But what if he doesn’t? Well, I had a revelation as I reflected on my vision that gave me such excitement and peace about the fact that I may remain single for the rest of my life. “Michael.” The man introduced himself to me as Michael, and as I frowned wondering why that name popped out so quickly, it suddenly struck me: Michael the Archangel! Maybe it’s not about waiting for a husband but about finding confidence in my mission (with or without) knowing that I have a spiritual helpmate who will fight for me through this battlefield to which Christ has called me. Wow! Jesus, you truly are enough!