Sunday, September 22, 2013

Unveiled: Why I left. When should you?

"We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can 
- namely, surrender our will and fulfill God's will in us."
~St. Teresa of Avila

When first asked by my friend Vishnu to write about the second phase of my life (transition from convent life to the world outside), I was a bit hesitant to share. I needed to find ‘peace’ within me in order to do that. 

If you read my journey to the religious life previously, Unveiled: My Life and Lessons as a Nun, you know my faith journey and spiritual life lessons. Today, I want to share with you why I left my old life as a “nun.”

Why I entered

I received my dispensation of vows from Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.

Nobody dared ask me this personally but relatives, friends and neighbours went to talk to my mom when they all saw me ‘without’ the habit.

To explain why I left, you must know why I entered the convent in the first place.

I was filled with idealism and concepts of God, vocation to love, service and what religious life is all about ~ but it entails much much more than that since what should be formed first and foremost is the heart.

I had chosen the Franciscan road out of romantic notions of poverty, devoid of knowledge of community life.

Finally, I realized that I had entered religious life not to serve God, but to hide from myself.

I was challenged and confused with my personal relationships. I feared work life and
had apprehension over my career. My poor self-esteem was exposed and  I doubted my ability to survive in my community.

The pressures great, the choices unlimited.  

An escape was necessary.

Why I left

It’s hard to admit this now to you but I left my life to escape from my world as I knew it.

Sadly, to escape from myself.

Instead of staying to work through my life’s dilemmas, choices and relationships, I thought I would find comfort and freedom in the religious order. I wrongly believed the convent would liberate me from the struggles of my daily life.

Over some time, I came to realize that I was carrying myself, not Jesus, in the mission field. I slowly came to terms with why I had entered and why I must leave despite the disappointment and pain I would cause to those dearest to me.

I realized that the journey to holiness is a grace that needs our cooperation. And in my case, cooperation to fulfill God’s plan was outside religious life.

I realized that I need not force myself into doing something that is contrary to my happiness.

As my spiritual companion puts it, the Lord wants our happiness whether that be with Him as a religious or outside as a lay.

When should you leave

It doesn’t matter what situation you find yourself in life. You may find yourself in circumstances which no longer serve you.

You may have your awakening
[earthquake and crisis] at the most inconvenient times. God may be telling you to move on. To leave the structures.

With my story as the backdrop, I share with you 5 signs you should know when it’s time for you to leave behind your vocation, your dream, your relationship, your fear, your insecurities.

1.     When you feel the need to be true to yourself.

I realized that I had been afraid of other people, especially the opposite sex. Afraid of relationships, afraid of heartbreak and afraid of the pain which came when relationships evolved.
You will find that hiding behind the veil of what you’re afraid might be scary and unpleasant but you still have to let go. If you decided to let go, you evolve through the pain and change and come out stronger. 

If you face your fears, you might find pain, but you'll also find your strength.

It is a very humbling and liberating experience to accept the truth.

Once you decide to be true to yourself, you'll no longer compromise your mental health or emotional well-being. Your heart [desire] and mind [will] will be aligned.

2. When you need to face your fears. 

One of the main reasons, I did not decide on leaving immediately was fear ~ of the future. How would I fare outside? I was already in my thirties and I felt inadequate.

Since I have been out now for some time, I can assure you that with God’s guidance, all will turn out well for you. Your worst fears won’t materialize.

You might stumble and take some time to stand on your feet but you will stand. You will find new opportunities, more suitable employment, more fitting partners.

3.    When you need to confront the unknown. 

There are two roads one follows in decision making:The road to trust the process that will lead to discovery and reality or the road back to despair and dependency.  

I constantly chose certainty which led to despair. It took me several months more to finally tell my superiors that I wish to leave the religious life.

While no one likes what the unknown may offer, the unknown is filled with possibility and will allow you to live your essence, your true self.

4.    When you need to stand up for your life.

I didn’t wish to take full responsibility so I waited for my superiors to decide but that did not happen. The decision, despite the presence of a spiritual guide, was mine to take. 

Life will not give you the easy way out. You will have to choose affirmatively to change your situation. You might have to do something you’ve never done before; take responsibility for your choices and decisions.

You may have to turn back on your culture or your family. You may have to turn back to everything you know but in the process, you will become who you were meant to be.

5.    The need to grow. 

I wish I had this mind when I entered and I wish I had removed the blocks as easily as I do now. At the time of entering the convent and for most of my time there, I feared coming to terms with the reality that I wasn’t meant to be there. I was fearful of my true intentions because my true intentions would have forced me to leave.

You may have a nagging feeling about what you should do in life but you have to do it when the time is right for you.

When you decide to leave what no longer serves you, you have gone through the process of coming to take that big step. That act of faith and the readiness to act is growth.

Growth is nothing but God’s grace along your journey for self-understanding and awareness.

My life began anew when I left the convent. While I had entered the convent for all the wrong reasons, I know I left for all the right ones. Inside, I was hiding from myself and Christ. Outside, I was ready to be who I truly am and give myself completely to Him.

I have learned to see Christ everywhere. I could still love Him here outside through the people I meet in my workplace and in the streets.

I have let go of the habit but not the heart of a missionary for which I will always be.

I return all the blessings and graces I receive each and everyday ~ new insights and learnings ~ to God.

Leaving is never easy when you have so much uncertainty and fear to face but it is the path we must travel through to live our divine purpose.  

What must you do today? What are you ready to leave behind? Where must you go? 


  1. "I have to let go of the habit but not the heart of a missionary for which I will always be" Melissa, this statement caught my heart as I read it. We are all created for a purpose. Our lives take many twists and turns, but they always end up ate our final destination...The will of the Father...God bless you Melissa! Wonderful story!

    1. Sorry about the typo, the phrase should read 'end up at', not 'end up ate'...I must be hungry :)

    2. It takes discernment to know the Father's will but it also takes sincerity coming from the heart to obey ~ thank you very much for the wisdom you share with us and for your visit in my blog.
      God bless and lots of love always!

  2. Life is a process. There was a time when I visited temple on a particular day of the week without fail. I lighted diyas and did 'pooja'. There was some innate need to do so. Now, I don't feel that need. Maybe because I have evolved and am at peace and also content with myself. Nothing should be imposed. In Inidan culture, going to the temples, fasting, offerings is all an integral part of the day.
    I seek HIM when I feel I should. And, at other times I know HE is there...for me and for everyone.

    Good that you realized your true self rather than be unhappy and conform.

    1. Very true Janaki. At certain points in our lives, we feel the need to do something ~ ordinary or extraordinary they may be. However, we need not be bound by it after that need has been completed. And God always takes the initiative to make us feel that need ~ for our hearts are restless without Him.

      Thank you very much for sharing your experience with me. God bless and lots of love!

  3. This has to be one of the most inspiring posts you have ever written, Melissa. I could feel all the emotions you went through in this process of facing who God meant you to be and confronting your fears. You have grown beautifully in every way, my dear. You are blooming for Christ!
    Love and blessings always!

    1. You have always been with me dear friend and real sincerity bares all even fears. This is the right time.

      I am glad that you have become a part of my story ~ just by reading, by knowing, by feeling my experience.

      Yes, it is a process and thank you for seeing the beautiful side of everything ~ the beautiful side of me...

      Let us continue to pray for each other ~ thank you for the love! I love you too! God bless!

  4. In a way, I felt like I was reading about myself, although my circumstances and the reason for "hiding from myself" to enter a life I thought was meant for me were different. At some point, I was already starting to realize that that kind of life was not meant for me, but I was in denial, also because of the so many reasons you mentioned for not wanting to leave. But it was the most liberating thing for me when I was finally able to accept and then finally decided to leave. Unlike you, though, there are still a lot of lessons I needed to learn and things I still have to come to terms with aftet leaving that life. God, help me.

    It was wonderful reading about your life as a nun. I gained so much insights from both part one and this one. Thank you so much for being a great source of enlightenment, Melissa. Much love and God bless you always <3

    1. Our lives might take different forms but the process is always there if we allow ourselves to be immersed in our God experiences...

      I believe it's the medical school you were referring to? If it is, I could understand the stress ~ and I felt that stress ~ of putting "extra" effort just to go through the day in order to finish or accomplish something...

      I am glad that you have decided once and for all that it wasn't for you.

      God will make known to you the path you will follow and I think you are already on that road ~ journeying to your better you.

      God bless and you are always in my prayers. Thank you for the love and support. We are here for each other ~ to lift each other up to God...

      Forward ~ always forward Irene :)

  5. I can't tell you how happy I am to see this part of your life here, shared with all of us, Melissa! Thank you for finding the courage and honesty to tell us that sometimes we have to leave things behind - especially the things that don't serve us.

    If we stick with what no longer serves us, we are being dishonest with ourselves and even to God. The ability to come to terms with ourselves allows us to be our true selves and like you say, we can be truly who we are and give ourselves completely and freely to God. We'll be living a much more authentic life.

    I've given up work, a lifestyle and relationships which no longer serve me. Each was a struggle but I'm so glad I gave up on them because I was able to create a life which now I am completely comfortable with. Let's say 'no' more to what no longer serves us so we can create a life that is in more tune with God and ourselves:)

    1. With the series of hellos and goodbyes in our lives ~ it just makes me think of the impermanence of things... and what truly remains are those that are lasting like life lessons ~ they remain to be carried through our journey.

      You have shared much through your blog and I thank God that my life resonated with other people. I just needed someone to open my eyes and my heart to that. And the thing is, God always works for our good. What might seem bitter is actually better for us...

      Thank you ~ thank you, that's really all I could say right now. Thank you for helping me through this. You are a gift yourself to be shared to others.

      God bless you on your journey ~ God is there waiting for you.

  6. Melissa - I love what you say about taking responsibility in decisions. It can be harrowing at first, but then liberating when the realisation hits that we have the power to make our life greater than what it is right now.

    I cannot relate my experience with yours when it comes to God, but your words around waiting for superiors to decide for you resonate with me.

    They may have more experience, but this means they will guide you to the best of THEIR knowledge. This is not necessarily what is needed at the time, or relevant to what you are experiencing. Taking personal responsibility fixes this.

    1. Thank you for the visit Razwana. Taking responsibility ~ it was easier to do so when I entered but leaving is such a painful and scary experience. I just needed the guts to do so and I thank God He has allowed me to feel that courage. Everybody was just waiting for me to say 'enough.' I did torture myself delaying it.

      Thank you for enrich my post with your wisdom ~ I have read some of your experiences in your blog and I resonate with them too.

      God bless and lots of love!

  7. A true Angel's soliloquy.

  8. Thank you for sharing this part of yourself with us, Melissa. I know it hasn't been an easy road - but you've faithful to the deepest calling of your heart and God has been faithful to you.
    So much of what you've written resonates with me. As I've shared with you before, although I didn't actually join a convent most of my youth was spent with Church work and fighting off the voices that told me I had a 'vocation'.
    I wish you were close, I'd give you a very tight hug and remind you what a beautiful heart and spirit you have. ♥

    1. Very true BS and I praise and thank God for His faithfulness is everlasting. "Deepest calling" ~ everyday, I have to listen to be faithful to what God is asking me to do...

      Thank you for sharing BS ~ sometimes, we do allow people to dictate what they wish us to be but the decision always lies on us...I am glad you followed your call ~ I could see how happy you are with your loving husband.

      Thank you I need the hug ~ I feel your love!

      God bless and thank you! Thank you for your support.

  9. Thank you once again for sharing, Melissa! You may never know how much wisdom and blessing God has imparted through your words. At a time when I'm contemplating a lot of things in my own life, I am truly happy to be able to know you and read all these, words that seem as light for the path ahead. God bless!