Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I guess I'm in a silent phase right now. It's weird -- I know that good and deep things are happening to me, but every once in a while something brushes across my path that threatens to trigger a swift and sharp reaction, like a stab of pain. Each brush gets less severe, but the swiftness of my reaction always startles me.

At the same time, I know more now than ever that I am on not only the right path interiorly, but the one that I most desire. I guess what I mean is that sometimes I am aware of certain desires of my carnal nature, things that really appeal to me on one level. Mostly they have to do with me being the center of the universe. But then I am aware of certain desires of my spirit. These things appeal to me on a very different level, and they appeal to me not as something I want to chase after, something that I jealously long for, but something that I have and which I desire for to keep growing. These things make my carnal desires seem totally paltry, empty, useless, stupid. It's not like I even want to have these ego-centered desires. But I also have no magic wand to wave to make them go away. The trick is, I want them to go away, but I really hate the process by which they go away. I guess it is like having a severe toothache but being terrified of the dentist.

At Mass this morning, it occurred to me. (An aside: there's this priest whose preaching I've heard a lot of over the last several months. It baffles me how his homilies vacillate between being, in my opinion, some of the most banal and point-missing that I've ever heard, and being not just inspiring, but downright prophetic, like the Lord Himself answering my secret prayers out in the open.) Anyway, this priest was talking about trusting in God and not being afraid of death. And I realize that this is what the Lord has been leading me through these last many months: a death. Sometimes, I doubted that the Lord was really leading me at all. Oddly enough, in these times that God has been so strangely but darkly active in my heart, I've gone through three distinct bouts of temptation to atheism. Because the only two things I can logically conclude is that either God is leading me, or there is no God. What I concluded, and told my confessor, is simply that I know God is leading me, but I just don't like how it's going. It's back to that toothache thing. More than anything, even more than my desire for comfort, I want God's way. It's just that when I get to the part where my comfort gets shredded (always in ways I don't expect or could even imagine), I start to yell. Oh, I know it's the only way. I know if I were orchestrating my own happiness I'd be miserable. I know I can and must trust the Lord to have far superior ways to my own. Dang it, can't I die and stay comfortable at the same time?!?

I also remembered this blog post that I wrote almost exactly three years ago. I realized this morning how every single word in it represented a grace God was giving me. There are words in it that only I understand, and I know that at the time I was sort of haphazardly flippant with whether I really believed that God was leading me or not. I think one thing I have learned since then is to treat the graces that come to me as precious. Yet, even when I don't, God is so generous. He does not go off in a huff when He, King of the Universe, is not honored to His liking. In other words, He does not have hangups about getting His ego-needs met through us. In other words, He is not me. (Thank you, Lord.)

Then I remembered one line that I wrote in a post this July. It was a rambly post, not unlike this one, but I finally got to the point of saying that the scary thing to me about love is that I always hear it shouting "I will die one day." Not love, me. I think I have been afraid of love and loving, to the extent that I have, because deep down I know that everything on this earth has an end. We know change here. We know beginnings, and ends. It is true that death brings a very pleasant and blessed change, but to be honest all we see beforehand is the part where stuff ends.

One of my favorite movies is Shadowlands. I love the part where Joy tells C.S. Lewis that the happiness they experience together while she is alive is part of the sorrow he will experience when she dies. The whole vibrancy, the whole power of love is knowing that there is death, there is the surrender. Without a deep living of that surrender, an embrace of it, a welcoming of the death, there is also no real freedom to love. There is no passion in one's life without acceptance of the suffering of surrender. Sometimes people are happy enough to drag along, flat lining, numb to pain and numb to love. I decided long ago to refuse that kind of "life." Nothing, nothing makes me sadder than to see someone choose numbness over love and pain. Sometimes I feel like my mission in life is to be a witness not only to my love but to my pain.

Which, I guess, is why I ramble on about my struggles. This is my practice in embracing what I have to embrace. I don't want to be uncomfortable. But I'd rather be uncomfortable than go to hell, frankly. And there comes a point where Jesus asks for a conscious choice: Do you want to follow Me, or do you want to turn back? Do you want the cross, or your paltry, empty, useless, stupid way?

Jesus gives me so many graces, only I suppose it takes me a good long time to recognize them. It also takes me a good long time to not wince and yell "Damn it, no!" when death brushes past me once again. This is why it takes courage to draw close to God, as St. Teresa of Avila teaches us. It takes courage to face those moments of death that only you yourself know about. They are practice for bigger things.

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