(continued from a previous post titled So Lost)
In the couple weeks leading up to Lent I had tried to be intentional about getting to Mass, even though in all honesty my health made it difficult. I began to pray about what I was supposed to do during Lent. What should I give up, what should I add, what should I read?
At Mass Father presented each parishioner with Matthew Kelly's new book, Resisting Happiness. I felt like God had just dropped a fully charged iphone with GPS and a good signal into the wilderness for me to find my way out. I was so excited. THIS would be it. This would call me out.
I put in a solid plan for Lent and started my Lenten Journey with great anticipation, with fasting, prayer and study but my health continued to test my strength and many of the best laid plans waned and became an arduous task.
Frustrated is putting it mildly. I was trying but I didn't feel any better, my emotions hadn't changed. Why wasn't God rewarding my efforts?
About half way through the book I gave up. Not gonna dress it up and put lipstick on it, I just gave up. I found myself right back where I had been - everything is pointless, everything is stupid. I know totally mature. But that's how I felt. I was done and I was just gonna go eat worms. Everything annoyed me, everyone annoyed me. I really wasn't fit to be around people for a few days.
I think this piece of the puzzle is of note. I had largely eliminated social media when I decided to take up Lent with purpose. I removed it from my phone. I unfollowed negative people and negative sites, particularly those whose values and beliefs were so contradictory to mine. It was bliss. As I have been connecting these dots in retrospect, I recognize that it was at the beginning of this second episode in despair that I had added social media back to my phone and began to dip my toes into those negative waters again. I had abandoned the book saying to myself that I've read all his other books and there wasn't a lot of new information here so I was wasting my time and I should look for something better (pride).
It was at this point that I regained consciousness. This way of being in the world is really foreign to me. It's NOT who I am. One night in a long restless series of nights where I couldn't sleep, but I could only lie awake thinking, praying, contemplating, I became aware finally that I was in fact lost. Before this moment I would have described and did describe, my state as feeling out of sorts. I knew I was off but it wasn't until this second wave that I fully recognized how lost I was and for how long I'd been so. Half of the work of resolving a problem is defining it. How can you find your way back if you don't even know you are lost? Now I knew, I really KNEW.
It shook me. No, it scared the hell out of me. 9 months. 9 months of my life was gone. I will never get those 9 months back. 9 months of sadness, suffering, despair, feeling like God had abandoned me. 9 months. 9 months. I felt physically ill at the thought of having surrendered 9 months of my precious life to these feelings and circumstances that created them. This is not my first rodeo. I know we can't control what happens to us, we can only impact how we react to what happens to us. oops.
As I sat contemplating this newly discovered tidbit of information the next morning I thought, well, then what is He trying to give birth to? The 9 months was sort of stuck in my head. 9 months is the gestational time for a human women so what kind of little hellion is about to be birthed! I joke. What I knew was that I was not going to be like April the giraffe and allow this process to go one moment longer than required.
Just like a difficult pregnancy, an unexpected, or even "unwanted" and complicated pregnancy filled with pain and doubt is the creation of a new soul. Typically birthed into a new world (occasionally birthed into heaven) but a new soul either way exists that didn't exist before. A gift. A blessing.
What gift was God giving me in this? He brings good from everything. Count it ALL joy His Word says.
My thoughts shifted, my contemplation changed and I began to ponder the entirety of the journey. Until those moments I didn't see at all how lost I really was. I thought I was managing it all okay - yeah, not.
The next day I returned to the book Christ had quite literally placed in my hand. I picked up exactly where I'd left off and it was like a different book. Everything was relevant. Everything was God speaking directly to me. Everything began to make more sense and what was once an arduous chore seemed like a gift. Even this second wave was obviously a part of the plan.
I began to open my mind back up to the possibility that once again through suffering Christ was teaching me, forging me, shaping me. Man, I wish there were an easier way but there just isn't. I'm really okay with that because the end result is sort of miraculous.
Here I am in the 10th month of my own Odyssey. I'm still in the wilderness but I have stumbled upon the trail that leads me back home and I'm taking it. Since it's discovery, each day, each hour is somewhat of a revelation to me. I'm having to go backward to go forward some. Revisiting some things to process them in new ways. I think the way forward is clear but I'm aware I might still lose my way so I'm dropping breadcrumbs to find my way back -writing, keeping my prayer journal, staying the course even if it's not how I feel at the moment with Mass, prayers.
I can't help but think of others who are lost. I know and love people who have spent a lifetime lost. Decades of their life lost. Who am I that I should be found? It's almost like survivor's guilt. But here is what I know about being lost from this experience and every other I have ever had.
My Father is grieved and pained at the loss of even one of us who drifts away and is lost to Him for any amount of time. In most of our lives we have encountered God. We have had the opportunity to choose a life of following Him, or charting our own course. Free will, it's ours. If we choose Him, He gives us Grace. If we choose Him, His light begins to shine in us and it will always be there if we need it to light the path. But it's not a one shot deal. It's not a one time decision. It's just not. We cannot turn our back on the Light and expect it to light the way.
Life is a contact sport. It will hammer away at us. The enemy of God, will deploy every weapon he has to cast us into the abyss. We will get lost. Time and time and time again we will get lost because life isn't so short when you are in pain, it is a long, long life.
If we choose to return to the Light and the Hope of our Salvation we will always find our way. If we fix our eyes on Him, He will lead us out of the wilderness and into the valley. To peace, still waters and the comfort of His love. It is a choice. When we seek Him, He never fails. It might take time, His time - not ours. It might not look the way we think it should look, it rarely does. We might need to break things like pride, vanity, self interest but He WILL come and lead us home. If we seek Him. If we cooperate. Like our initial yes, we must continue to seek Him daily. We must seek Him when we are lost. We must seek Him when we are suffering. We must choose Him ten thousand times in those moments. Otherwise we will find ourselves lost and we will stay that way. Lost in great ways and small. Being lost is awful. It's gut wrenching, lonely. Look for the Light, choose to be found.