Judging from my smile, you would never have guessed that I was burning on the inside but, there were a handful of years in my life when vicious words swirled in my mind and anger took the place of peace. Disappointment, lack of sleep, failure and chaos certainly contributed to this mental/emotional state but years later, after coming out of that fog, I am amazed to see that the things that really made a difference were small things that God gently fostered which bought me to a place of greater ease.
Have you ever felt seething frustration that you can’t seem to shake? Or do you know that you love others and that you and yours are in God’s hands but there are poignant moments when you can’t seem to act like it or feel that trust? It can be incredibly devastating to a daughter or son of God to go through these emotions and yet be incapable of consistently living up to the deepest baptized part of self. For you, I’d like to share the ways that God melted my pervasive anger and replaced it with a steady ease of faithfulness. Don’t get me wrong, I still have quite a pop. I still am irked by things and real problems still trouble me, as they should. But, the looming anger left me. His steady love reigns more securely within me and I travel through ups and downs as one who is closer to whole.
1. Solitary Prayer. I had been praying while I did this or that. I had longed for God all day long. I went to church on Sundays and wished for more. I volunteered for church. I served the poor. I gave my life over to God again and again. But I hadn’t been praying quietly consistently. Then I made a commitment. 10 minutes a day. Then 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. Pretty often, I would set a timer and just sit there. Sometimes I’d write. Sometimes I’d read the bible. Sometimes I would look a pictures of holy saints or scenes of the life of Christ. Mostly I just kept glancing at the clock. Still, it was good. Very very good. My time was often interrupted and I would just say, “I’m praying.” I would close my eyes. I’d pull the kid close to me. “You can pray silently with me if you want.”
2. Sacrifice. Years previously I had read Story of a Soul by St. Therese. With a little spiritual direction, I was much better able to apply the revolutionary way of love that had stirred my heart by that spiritual master. I tried every day to make a tiny mortification of my senses that took very little time. Sight – I would intentionally not look at something beautiful – Christmas lights on a house, a pretty advertisement. Speech – I would refrain from speaking one story swirling in my mind. Taste – I would forego one thing I wanted to eat. Leisure – Playing a board game became my relaxing time instead of that book I wanted to read. This was the toughest one for me, especially since all of my time seemed to belong to someone else. Giving up what little I had did me good. Sometimes, it wasn’t the best though. Comfort – For one minute, I would go without a sweater. Or I’d not use the back of my chair. All these mortifications, I would offer up as a prayer for my family, or children in a hospital, for world peace or for my husband.
3. Spiritual Direction. Having someone listen to the beat of my heart for God, know the deepest and worst part of me and still have hope and joy for me was and is… well, let’s just say even writing these words brings me to tears. It is like having the Holy Spirit whisper directly into my ear. If I didn’t have a spiritual director, I would go to Confession monthly or twice a month and receive similar inspiration. I think that this saved my life. It saved my soul.
4. Secret Visitations to the Tabernacle. When I had just dropped one kid off at an event and was on my way to pick up another, if I happened to drive by a church, I would run in for 1 minute of prayer before the tabernacle. Sometimes the doors were closed and I would kneel on the steps. This did me very much good. Occasionally, I would haul a kid with me and we would both blow a kiss to Jesus. It was good. It is good.
5. Whole Life Confession. During Lent, I got the crazy idea to confess everything I’d ever done. I had heard about some saints doing it and nuns or monks before they entered a monastery. It took a long time. An hour, to be precise. The poor priest. He said it was the longest Confession he’d ever heard. Obviously, I didn’t just show up at the confession line and start with day 1 of my life. I made an appointment ahead of time. I think this was a specific calling to me at this specific point in my life. I don’t think everyone is called to do this so, don’t feel bad if it is not your inclination. If it is, go for it! This really helped me to see Jesus loving me in the midst of every stage of my life.
6. Praying the Rosary. I didn’t feel like I had the time to stop my work and pray the rosary so I decided to pray it all day long. Sometimes I prayed the first mystery at 1 o’clock, then the second at 2 o’clock, etc. Sometimes I prayed the rosary only when I was driving. Other days, I prayed when I did menial tasks like the laundry or mowing the law. Often, I only did 3 Hail Mary’s for each “decade.” I struggled to get the whole rosary in each day. I would wander and return, wander and return. This struggle saved me. Instead of dwelling on my sadness or anger, my thoughts were always rallying back to be with Our Lord alongside Mary.
7. Crying Boldly in Prayer. After many months, or even years of carrying on in the above ways, I had experienced much growth and freedom. However, I was still grieved that a few things could still set me off deeply. One day, I was kneeling before the tabernacle and I was so frustrated with myself and with the anger that I felt that I bawled and bawled before the Lord in His tabernacle. Then, I got the courage to ask boldly for healing. I think I got it. I don’t think I could have asked at any old time in my life and gotten the same gift. I think God brought me to that point over time and then led me to ask boldly.
So, that’s my story. Or a bit of it. God has been good. You can read more about modes of prayer in my book, Collection of Grace – A Flexible Handbook for Growing a Life of Prayer. (the paperback is much better)
What about you, what direction is God leading you to find relief from your frustration?