I was born somewhere else, away from these green hills, away from this place. And yet the seed of my true home was bursting forth within me; it was planted before my birth in the depth of my soul and the hunger that I experienced in life always wanted to lead me where my heart knew I belonged.
You know when something is incomplete in your life. No one needs to tell you, our hearts are wired to know. Growing up where I was born I had good life, amazing people were put on my path, but deep down I knew that another place was truly my home. The longing in my heart wanted to take me further into life, but I was not ready, not before the journey and all the experiences I had to go through would prepared me. It may appear as if I am speaking in codes, though some would know what I am talking about. I was born in Croatia and from the early teenage years I longed for Ireland. Ireland became my prayer. My love and knowledge of the land that seemed far away in reality, and yet deep in my heart, was forming me. Through those longings and prayers, even from the distance, Ireland became a part of me. While I still at times ponder on the journey that was given me, it gave me an insight into how dreams are born and what is the process of a potential dream-come-true.
How is a dream born?
You spend time with it, with your heart, and let your longings out, then you turn them into prayer, or they pray themselves in you. You’ve not much choice about it, for it will knock from within you until you decide to open up the inner door and start the journey. You will have no idea where the journey will end or what it will take, but eventually, like me from time to time, you may end up looking back and see how far you’ve gone.
Some of the big dreams if, or when they do come true, they take their time. I don’t know why, but it takes many smaller steps, a lot of waiting, a lot of healing, a lot of longing, a lot of learning, a lot of disappointments even. Almost like the desire has to deepen, it has to become ‘you’. As if a dream is asking you ‘are you really serious about me?’. When you prove that you are – presuming you do stand the test – like petals of a flower the dream starts to open up bit by bit by another bit. Only when this happened in my life did the time became ripe and the seed of my Irish dream that was sleeping in my soul burst into a flower and led me over a threshold. While at the time it seemed like an end and fulfilment of my longing, an end of a long journey of waiting, it was in fact also a beginning. A beginning of a life I was meant to live all along.
The journey unfolded
This recollection does not have a strong emotional content as it used to, for a lot of it has been fulfilled by now. The longing was a fuel for my journey, and I no longer need to long for Ireland for I have been here many years now. People sometimes ask me how long I have been living here. “More than 10 years”, I’d say at this stage. And it is around 11 years since I first stepped onto the Irish soil. “Wow, that’s a long time”. Yes, but you have no idea what preceded it and how long the whole journey leading up to it was. Perhaps no one really needs to know, but I do, and this effects how I see other things in my life.
I think some of the steps that led me to Ireland were crucial, and while I cannot know if they are more than personal, by which I mean that they can apply to your journey as well as to mine, I wish to explore them here. So, for a few years I had this big dream and there came a time when I needed to find out if it was only my dream or it was a dream that God put into my heart, whether it was part of God’s plan for my life. If it was only mine, no matter how big it was and how much I desired it (and I desired it more than anything), I was prepared to let it go. I would not have known who I was without that dream, it became such an integral part of me, but if God did not will it, I would not have pursued it, even should it mean that my whole identity of who I was would crumble.
Discernment and how the dream came to be
I brought this desire for Ireland into the Ignatian decision-making-process and, without going into too many details of it all, eventually I gained understanding that it was not only my dream; it was God’s too. I remember being in my family house, looking through the window, gazing up towards the sky, and crying out to God, “Take me home! Take me to Ireland, Lord”. But He took His time. Up until that point my longing has produced such struggle within me, I had questions with no answers, “is it good that I love Ireland more than I ever loved the country where I was born?” or “My love for Ireland cannot be good, I love her more than I love God” (foolish, I loved her because of God who gave me a glimpse of His love for the place, which even in small doses seemed overwhelming, but that only became clear afterwards). The decision process that I undertook, which is also known as making big life decisions with God (not merely with your own reasoning), quietened some of those questions. It brought peace and understanding that I was on the right path. However, I still did not know how it would come to be that I would go to Ireland, and it took almost two years from that point to even come and visit Ireland for the first time. But in my heart I kept the knowledge that was now confirmed within me, and that knowledge was my guide.
Just to put it clearly here, the first step was recognising the longing and praying with it, allowing it to come to light. This was a birth of a dream. The second step was discerning if the dream, the longing is from God and a formal Ignatian decision making process gave me the tool to deal with this step. Had my longing, my dream, not been from God, I would have (had to) let it go. I went on these steps organically, through life, only now by looking back am I trying to recognise a pattern that led me to where I am. More than a year after the step of discernment came the third step, which was a need for healing in order for God to be able to fulfil the dream. I was at a Catholic conference that provided space to deal with a lot of un-dealt issues. Something significant surfaced for me at the time, something I was oblivious of and therefore was not able to deal with it until it came to light. The Lord is never going to bring things up for us until we are ready to face them. And He is going to be there every step of the way. I received a deep healing at this conference, which I believe opened the door for me to be able to go to Ireland.
What is important in this is to acknowledge that if there is something that needs to be healed in order for God to move us forward, for Him to be able to fulfil His plan, the lack of healing will provide a blockage that God would want removed. I cannot tell you how long this healing is going to take in your life, this is between you and God.
Yet, even after all this affirmation and healing there was another phase, and paradoxically it was about: letting go. At this stage I knew what my longing was, I knew it was from God, I even knew that something very significant happened in me in terms of healing and it cleared the way for God to act. While some people looked at me like I was from another planter when I said I will live in Ireland (there was nothing external that would point to that yet), others confirmed what I already knew was true in my heart. At this same conference another part of the journey presented itself. Again, it did not come from my thinking but in how things unfolded in the next few days, and so I hesitate to call it ‘step four’, since I am only now clarifying it with years of hindsight. Almost at the end of this three week conference, we had a night of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, with washing of the feet. First we were to wash each other’s feet, whosever feet we were drawn to wash, and receive it from those who wanted to wash ours. And then we were invited, one by one, whenever we were ready, to stand before Jesus in the blessed Sacrament and to say or offer to Him whatever was on our heart.
When I was ready to present myself to the Lord, I came and stood in front of the priest who was holding the Blessed Sacrament. I had a green wallet with Ireland written on it, so I said to Jesus that I give Him Ireland even though I knew it was Him who gave me the desire to go there. As I said, I still had no idea how this was going to come about, or what I would do here, but I surrendered Ireland to Jesus once more. “Your will, not mine Lord”. I offered the wallet to the priest, who took it and after a short while returned it to me. After I came home from the conference, this led to a short but intense period of doubting, from the surrender of Good Friday to the uncertainly of the Holy Saturday. I cannot to this point explain how this phase came or what triggered it, but if nothing else it gave me an insight into how powerful Holy Saturday is and how our human perspective, which we cannot escape, does not necessarily match the Lord’s perspective. In this short phase the main thought was, “I misunderstood it all”. Just before the resurrection, just before the fulfilment of the dream, it appeared as if it was all a lie. As I said, I have no idea why it was like that, perhaps all deep soul searching has occasional shadows and doubts, but when this came to an end, the peace came and everything fell in its place for me to go and visit Ireland for the first time. I spent eight days here, travelling both North and South. Nine months after that, I moved to Dublin and I am still here.
Perhaps something of what I described resonates with the dreams that you have. This long journey that I very briefly described only led me to the beginning. And there are many beginnings in one’s life. However, now I know that my true home is not (only) Ireland, no matter how much she marked my life and my relationship with God. My true home is everything that reveals my true self (same for you), the ‘me’ that God always intended me to be and everything that helps me, helps us discover it, like God does, is in fact our ‘home’. The realisation of big dreams in its essence has this intrinsic characteristic: it wants to bring us home, to who we are and where we always belonged.
© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 2015)
Photo by © Iva Beranek