Sunday, October 21, 2012

Singing the Praises of God's Faithfulness

I am still contemplating the anawim theme I wrote about in the last post in the light of my current life circumstances.

I cannot pretend that this thing I've been going through has not been the hardest thing I've faced since I lived in Japan. Scripture commands and models again and again calling to mind the Lord's faithfulness in history -- both the history of the chosen people and in one's own personal history. So I have been meditating on what happened the last time I went through a spiritual trial as trying as this one. The faithfulness of the Lord does not change. That is worth meditating on.

My time in Japan was the lowest point in my Christian journey in many ways. I had been a Catholic only 18 months before I left. I had very little in terms of community roots and connection -- basically just my spiritual director whom I missed horribly. It was a very poorly discerned decision to go in the first place, and my lack of preparedness left me vulnerable. Because of my intense loneliness I ended up in a relationship that was bad news in many ways. It was the only time in the last 20 years that I stopped, for a time, attending daily Mass. My health deteriorated, and I operated almost entirely in survival mode. I was peeled to the core, spiritually, and most everything I'd ever relied on in that department felt like an empty shell. I learned what it felt like to be powerless, though I raged against it. But out of all of that, I got pointed in a new direction, and the Lord sent me many assurances. I had been so trapped inside myself, and when I left Japan I knew that He had broken me out of that so that I knew I needed other people, and they needed me. That was a major step for me. I actually thought in terms of living in society. But it took me two and half years.

And after a rough first six weeks back during which time I worked on basic health needs (my body was so nutritionally exhausted that I routinely slept at least 12 hours a day), I arrived in Steubenville. During a visit during those six weeks I met a woman who had been divorced from a Japanese man, and within five minutes of meeting me, she invited me to cancel my hotel reservation and stay at her home. Through her I met the woman who became my first roommate in a house with very inexpensive rent, so that when I arrived in May I had a place to move into. I prayed that God would help me meet the people he wanted me to meet. Within my first two weeks in town, I met my future husband and the man who became my boss, Dr. Scott Hahn. I had grown men in the grad theology program practically crying at my feet when they heard I had become Scott's assistant, so coveted was that position, to which I was introduced by the same woman who took me in when I visited. (To tell the truth, she was his assistant and wanted to quit, so she had me come in "for a day" and then quit and offered me her job! I had told her I worked well under a lot of stress, a very desirable skill for that position.)

I felt at home and peaceful immediately when I moved in. That had never happened to me before. Within two days, I began feeling spiritually bathed and cleaned up from the pain, mire, sin and downright delusion I'd wallowed in. I carried on long and lovely conversations with people about spiritual things -- she who struggled to say anything much to anyone before that. It wasn't like everything went from pain to bliss in a matter of months, but at that time I began moving in a positive direction and I never turned back. I faced some moments of truth when I had to deal with the aftermath of bad decisions I made, but I knew God's help with that in profound ways. I consecrated myself Mary, and sins that had made me spiritually stink began to fall away from me.

In other words, God was faithful. He even granted me my heart's desire to get married and stay in Steubenville. He surrounded me with everything I needed to soak in. I learned so much from working for Scott. I learned so much by being able to soak in an academic setting, and the money was there, even though I had gone to Japan with the understanding that I was a volunteer and would get room and board. I had only two suitcases and some boxes full of possessions returning from Japan, but people gave me a closet full of clothes. Everything I needed was taken care of. God was faithful.

I couldn't even fully appreciate at the time that I was moving to this place that would make me so happy for years to come, and that I was so privileged in the connections and friendships and community I was entering. People here say that those who come here come because God draws them and calls them. It is true, I believe. This place is not perfect, but it is unique, and there is nowhere else on earth I'd rather live. I would never have come here were it not for my difficult time in Japan.

God's plan is much bigger than we ever see. And I know all of the same is true now, too. God is faithful. God is always faithful. God never leaves His children in the lurch, despite our unworthiness. It is not about rewarding behavior, it is about His nature. God is good. All the time.

Including now.

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