Celia McBride: A Soulful Reckoning
What is your calling, your vocation? Who is that unique person you have been created to be? What gifts have you been given with which to bless the world? What is your work, and yours alone to do? What is your distinctive place in the largest possible scheme of things?
These are questions each of us must answer for ourselves. No two people can provide the same answer, for no two people share the same purpose. Carl Jung called this “individuation,” the psychological process whereby we each become our unique selves. Ecologists call it biodiversification, the endless variety of life forms found within any given bio region. Bill Plotkin calls it our “eco-niche,” the one-of-a-kind role Nature asks us to play within the created order.
Social and cultural influences dominate our development during the first half of life. What must I do to get what I need? Who must I please? How can I prove my worth and value to others so I will fit into society and secure a place for myself? These accommodations are normal and necessary. In our early years they determine our social circle, our mate, our job, our home. We might “succeed” at these accommodations and become beholden to the world through them. We might “fail” and regard ourselves through the lens of the social norms we reject, or that rejected us. Either way, in the first half of life we define ourselves according to what the world asks of us.
There comes a time, however, if we’re paying attention, that a more personal voice arises. It comes not from the world around us but from the depths within. Some would call it Soul. And Soul cares not a whit for what the world wants from us or, for that matter, what we want from the world. Soul is interested in one thing and one thing only—that we live the life for which we were made.
Entering her middle years, playwright and filmmaker Celia McBride was caught by a soulful longing that led her to think she was supposed to become someone else, specifically, a Roman Catholic nun. She was neither Catholic nor, in any conventional sense, baptized. But she felt no alternative except to follow that voice, disruptive as it was, re-shaping her life around her exploration of religious communities and daily prayers and holy work.
But the prolonged process of discernment did not bring Celia any resolution. Instead, it continued to churn and roil inside her with unanswered questions and unresolved tensions. Some friends from within the religious world advised her simply to commit, as they had done. Others told her to take seriously her questions and doubts and walk away. But this left her suspended between divergent possibilities for how to live out her life. Why would God have placed this impossible burden upon her heart, she wondered?
Celia's memoir, O My God: An Un-Becoming Journey, attests to the pain of true discernment and also to the mercilessness of Soul when it grabs and holds our attention until something gives. It is a revealing story, and it is courageous of Celia to share it with us. It may also be the evidence that Soul is finally getting its way with Celia as she offers her unique gift to the world, the gift of her true self. And this in turn gives us hope for what Soul is doing to us!
To listen to my conversation with Celia McBride, press the Play button in the box below. To learn more about her story, or to order her book, follow the Information tab and scroll down the page to the show notes.