Next week Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light will be published. The book consists primarily of Mother Teresa’s letters over a period of 66 years in which she frequently confesses doubts about her faith. Consider this passage in which she even questions the existence of God:
So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them—because of the blasphemy—If there be God—please forgive me—When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven—there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul.—I am told God loves me—and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?
Many passages in the book are in sharp contrast to Mother Teresa’s public image. In this book, Mother Teresa described her ever-present smile as “a cloak that covers everything.”
No doubt that many will be shocked by the revelations in this new book. This is because there is a need many human beings have to see individuals who lead extraordinary lives as having special abilities or being especially blessed. The need to see them in this light arises because many individuals seek an excuse for not living up to their own potential.
From the viewpoint of the ego, it is only those “special” individuals who are responsible for living a life that has the highest reflection of who they are. It is only these “special” beings who are responsible for developing their unique gifts. Our ego counsels that we, lesser individuals, can settle for a life that is not lived according to our highest principles and values.
What Mother Teresa’s extraordinary life teaches is that any of us can choose to ignore the thoughts of the ego and see through the illusions that the ego provides. Although she was tortured by her doubts, she chose moment-by-moment to live her life according to her highest principles and values.
In doing so, she became an example for all of humanity. Thoughts of doubt may come and go, the ego’s false counsel might even linger, but there is a place inside each of us that can still choose inspired ideas.
When we read of Mother Teresa’s torment, no longer can we say that we will choose to live an inspired life when all the circumstances fall into place for us. Few are called to follow Mother Teresa’s path in form, but we are all chosen by Love that is not of our making, to follow her path in content.
In other words, wherever we find ourselves is our place to begin to choose inspired ideas. There is a story from the Hasidic Jewish religious tradition about Rabbi Zusya who said: “In the coming world, they will not ask me: `Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: `Why were you not Zusya?'”
Mother Teresa was not a great woman because she had special gifts. She was a great woman because she chose to moment-by-moment to honor her gifts in spite of her doubts.
The 13th Century Sufi poet Rumi wrote:
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
Mother Teresa may have woke up many mornings feeling “empty” but she “let the beauty we love be what we do” in an extraordinary way.