the risk of truth-telling

On this day in 1858, a fourteen-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous was collecting firewood when she saw a small lady appear at the mouth of a cave. The lady was dressed in blue and white, she had roses on her feet, she was surrounded by dazzling light. She told Bernadette that a chapel should be built at the site and she asked the girl to return.

So Bernadette did return to the grotto again and again, each time falling into a trance, conversing with the vision.

She was told to eat herbs and dig for a spring, which she did.

Onlookers must have thought she was crazy.

Eventually, the lady revealed to Bernadette that she was the Virgin Mary.

The spring, it turned out, flowed with healing water.

The site was Lourdes, where pilgrims still come to drink the water and pay homage to a girl’s vision.

But it wasn’t smooth sailing for her.

Bernadette, who was poor, sick, and under educated, wasn’t immediately believed. She was ridiculed, maligned, even threatened.

The world didn’t want to believe her. The Church didn’t want to believe that such a vision would have come to a girl like her. Her peers thought she was just trying to garner attention. There must have been times when Bernadette felt that no one believed her. There must have been times when even she doubted herself.

But she never wavered from her story.

She knew what she had experienced.

She knew what was true for her.

Bernadette died young and in pain.

I like to think that at the moment of her transition, the Blessed Mother appeared to her, wrapped her up in all that light and swept her over to the other side – both of them laughing and singing.

Recently, I had a dream about Saint Bernadette.

Now, sometimes my dreams are mishmashes of things that simply need to get dumped out of my brain, retellings of the day’s anxieties, or random weirdnesses. Other times, however, my dreams are quite real. They are visitations, journeys to other worlds. They feel significant.

Such was my dream of Bernadette. In the dream, the two of us were working closely together. Saint Bernadette was teaching me how to do something. We were using our hands, feverishly working at the task, whatever it was.

When I woke, I felt blessed. I was grateful for the lesson – even though I couldn’t remember it.

So, I thought about Bernadette’s story. I thought about how, at its heart, it’s a story about sacred vision and truth telling.

It’s about honoring who you are and what you know.

Bernadette had a lot to lose by telling her story, and she had ample opportunity to protect herself.

She could have, after all, stopped going to the grotto. She could have refused to enter in to the conversation.

She could have just said to herself, Girl, you’re imagining things.

She would have had support for that. Her family and friends, wanting what was best for her, would have agreed. They could have come up with lots of plausible explanations: The mind plays tricks, it was a light reflection, sometimes we see what we want to see.

The thing about telling your truth is, sometimes it’s dangerous.

It pushes you out on to a ledge.

It can be a lonely business.

When you tell your truth, you risk losing the favor of your friends and family, who are wedded to their expectations, their version of you.

When you tell your truth, you challenge the people who aren’t willing to tell theirs, or who are telling theirs and it’s in opposition to yours.

When you speak, with your actions of your words, there’s going to be somebody out there who doesn’t like what you have to say.

And yet, the desire to be alive is the desire to be in truth.

Our deepest longing, our most basic need, is to be seen and heard as ourselves.

You may never experience a vision as dramatic as Bernadette’s (though some of you will), but you will experience visions throughout your life, both internal and external.

Your dreams, like my dream of Bernadette, will light up new pathways of being, and you will have to choose whether or not to walk.

You may choose to tell your truth quietly, not through words, but in harmony with subtle energies – through the way you live, going about your business in the open.

You may choose to write about your visions, to speak of them from a podium, to shout them from a mountaintop.

And you will meet with resistance.

That’s okay.

Because acceptance that is won by hiding who you are isn’t really acceptance. It’s a lie that will rip at the fabric of your soul.

Love that places conditions on you isn’t love at all and will never satisfy you.

Whether or not to tell your truth.

It is only in telling your truth, honoring your path, allowing your dreams and visions to guide you and change you and show you the way, that you step into the full power of who you are.

And when you know who you are, the opinions of others stop feeling so important.

When you know who you are, you are rooted in peace.

Robed in light.

Alive.