Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dear Trial: Take me Somewhere

I haven't been able to get myself to write much, of late. It's not that I haven't had thoughts along the line of which I would normally blog. It just hasn't happened.

So for the moment, I just want to gather up the major themes upon which I've been ruminating, and post a little sketch, which I may or may not enlarge at some other point.

First, everywhere I look in Scripture, the theme of God's covenant people has been standing out as if in giant bold print. Especially this theme of the anawim as I've mentioned in recent posts. God's people are in distress, they call out to Him in their helplessness, and God saves them, though not without their trial leaving a definite mark. How this is striking me is that this process stands in contrast to the ubiquitous human desire to "do something" about one's struggles. Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of passively staring at one's problems and simply wishing they would go away. But the desire to "do something" about the sort of distress that cuts into our covenant relationship with God betrays our lack of understanding of the brokenness of our nature, and what it really takes to fix it. It is more than we have within our capacity to "do." It must be a movement of God's grace, and therefore waiting on God's initiative is absolutely necessary. The wait is the birthplace of humility, a crucible of purification, and a test and testimony of our faith in God, our hope in God, and our love for God.

Second, I have been asking the Lord frequently, as much like Mary and as little like Zachariah as I am able, why exactly He allows me to go through these cycles of forming attachments to people, only for Him to ask for them back again. (I mean of course that Mary and Zachariah both asked the angel "How can this be?" only the former asked with faith while the latter asked in doubt.) My daughter happened to read to me from her Fr. Lovasik saint book tonight the entry on St. John of the Cross, where he was quoted as saying, "Live in the world as if only God and your soul were in it; then your heart will never be made captive by any earthly thing." Now, that struck me as a balm tonight. Just a few short years ago, I was influenced by a spirituality that was quite different from this that emphasized the encounter with Christ in the Church (i.e. other people) as the only authentic way of encountering Christ. I don't think these two thoughts contradict each other in the least, but they certainly lead me in two different directions. That was then, this is now. St. John of the Cross was a Carmelite, and so he knew what it meant to belong to a specific community of believers, and how essential this was (and what terrible, awful suffering it was, too!). One cannot authentically encounter Christ all by oneself, shut up with one's Bible. And yet, within the Church, some are called to a deeper interior solitude. I keep thinking of this particular passage from St. Claude de la Colombiere that spoke to me so profoundly on Holy Saturday of 2011, when the Lord called me to place this friend of mine in His hand. I should post the text, I guess. It was such a strong call that I have taken the text as something of a promise from God. The gist of it was St. Claude's prayer that in handing over his friendships, Christ would take the place in his heart that these friends had had, and that likewise in the friends' hearts, Christ would take the place that St. Claude had in theirs. He speaks of it as a most painful sacrifice. I did this immediately when the Lord called me to, though I saw no fruit of this prayer for over a year. Now the fruit is clear to me. And the Lord is beginning to fulfill this word on my end. It is becoming my greatest prayer that he would fulfill it on the other end where my friend is concerned as well.

Then, there was that election. I wasn't terribly surprised Obama won re-election. I certainly was not happy with it, but neither was I dejected. Nor did I find it an occasion for panic. What I did find in my heart was a sure sense that I have been through a trial in the last several months that is preparing me for something else. Something that is moving me to a different spiritual place. Something that is necessary for where we stand in history. I don't know how to say it, but the sense is clear.

All I long for, really, is to do and to become what God wants of me. It is humbles me to admit it, but lately I realize that this friendship that I coveted so strongly can and could never really give me the sort of happiness I long for, even if it were miraculously restored today. Only God can fill my heart. I also know through and through that what made me so adamant about clinging to this friendship in the past was that I did experience amazing graces -- God Himself -- through it. I think of the Psalm verse that says "This is what causes my sorrow: that the ways of the Most High have changed." I was like Peter, wanting to build a booth on Mount Tabor, to stay right there with that glory forever. But what God wanted me to see, which I could describe months ago, but only experientially know now, is the immense gulf between Him, His grace and the instrument He chose to deliver that grace. It's that old God and goodies of God thing. Our relationship is with Him as a person, not with ways He chooses or particular paths down which He leads us for a time. I see that He will never (if we are determined to follow Him always) let us get stuck on His blessings so that we lose Him. Oh, of course it is possible to stop being determined to follow Him and take a deadly detour. I see now how deeply tempting it is. But the heart is never satisfied (for long) with less than God. If we want to stay satisfied, we have to keep moving, with Him. I know that He never, ever prunes us back without purpose. We can never give to Him without Him returning to us in greater measure. Oh, we can do lots of futile "something" to make ourselves feel productive and fluff our wounded pride. We don't get a return on futility and pride. But I think we always get a return when we are focused on living in the covenant, in faith, obedience, trust, and humility.

It's just that those things are so foreign to our way of life, that it seems absurd and even immoral sometimes to embrace them.

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