From Time to Time with Thérèse, by Judy Long, ocd
“Jesus was sleeping as usual in my little boat; ah I see very well how rarely souls allow Him to sleep peacefully with in them.” Our Therese writes these words at the beginning The Story of A Soul, Chapter 7. She is speaking of the aridity of her retreat taken before she is to profess her vows as a Carmelite. She says: “Jesus is so fatigued with always having to take the initiative and to attend to others that He hastens to take advantage of the repose I offer to Him. He will undoubtedly awaken before my great eternal retreat, but instead of being troubled about it this only gives me extreme pleasure.” One might think Therese would have had flowery, sweet overflowing joys as she prepared to fulfill her dream of being a Carmelite. But instead she is filled with doubts, until she confides in her novice mistress and the prioress. Then, in her words, “The act of humility I had just performed put the devil to flight, since he had perhaps thought that I would not dare admit my temptation.”
Most readers will know tha thérèse had few consolations in her religious life; the words “Jesus was sleeping as usual…” certainly convey that sentiment. But in a way those words give me consolation. Let me share what I heard Thérèse saying as I reflected on this episode in her life.
First, if Jesus is asleep in our boats maybe He knows He can trust us and is comfortable enough to sleep peacefully in the presence of a faithful friend. With true friends no words are necessary. Silence and even sleep can be a welcome relief. Secondly, when Thérèse is confronted with anxiety and anguish about an important decision she has made she does not hesitate to seek out those who she has confidence in to help her. She is not afraid to be humbled by voicing her fears. True humility is the key to self-knowledge. Lastly, when Jesus seems to be the furthest away, he is the closest. Asleep, yes but always beside us.
Sometimes it may seem Jesus “oversleeps”. But not really: our perseverance, our faithfulness and our prayer wake Him up eventually. Until then our task is to row our boats with the oars of good will, confidence and love. Just as the swishing of the waves may have lulled Jesus to sleep, the sound of our prayer will wake Him up in time to save us.