Sometimes I get in a frame of mind where politics, sickness, violence and seems to fill the air. It creeps into my desire to give my grandma a hug, it fills our holiday plans and even wafts around the alter of the Lord – threatening everything. And yet, the sun is shining, I go on a walk with my friend, I’m home with my family. But those moments of beauty feel so vulnerable. Have you felt this way in the last month?
I’ve slipped into this mode so often that in my longing for comfort, I’ve had enough candy to last two Halloweens. I wish I was a kid again. I wish we could go back. I am a theology teacher at Catholic high school and my students echo the same sentiments. That something innocent has been taken from them. That they are threatened constantly. They wish they could go back.
going back doesn’t work
This past summer, I actually did go back. I drove 1000 miles to see the home state where I grew up and bask in the rays of peace and friendship for just a bit. It was wonderful. Driving on the same old routes, standing on rocks that I jumped across as a kid, fishing in the same old pond, eating ice cream from a 50+ year old shoppe. I had a touch of freedom, comfort, safety. Yet it was vacant and could not be held. Turns out, is not my past nor yours that holds the Garden of Eden. So, I drove the 1000 miles back to return to 2020 reality. And while it was nourishing to see my roots, it did not change my situation. Your situation.
a rich poverty
I feel myself in exile. But I feel this from the comfort of my couch, within arm’s reach of three pieces of expensive technology. We have a strange mixture of richness and poverty. Mother Teresa recognized this way back in the 70’s. Of Americans, she said, “your poverty is greater than ours.” So that is how I feel, a rich poor person out of touch with home.
Then, I shake myself out of that sorrowful dreamy zone and grab a brush, get to cleaning the dishes, smiling about a call from my mom and glad for many things. I brush off the sorrow.
Yet, perhaps that sorrow is a place where God resides. Perhaps it is worth exploring. But if we want to do that, we need to be armed against the temptation of despair. And that is the danger – despair.
look at sorrow with faith
This is where faith shines – in this violence, this pandemic, this political battle. This is where the Christian can live in the darkness and yet be filled with light. We can look at the hurt, the pain, the discord and see God. We can lose our jobs, endure arguments and push through lots and lots of work with a light heart. We have the examples of triumph – even thriving – under persecution, sorrow, sickness. Think of Daniel, Esther and Jeremiah in Scripture. Think of any scripture passage for that matter. Think of Saints Therese, Paul, Francis, Kateri Tekakwitha. Think of any saint for that matter.
And we have prayer. I’m more grateful than ever for the framework of prayer that I have learned through spiritual direction – that saints and priests and sisters have lived for ages. It is keeping me sane. Keeping me grounded – and even growing.
prayer – the life blood
Since prayer has been my life blood these days, I’m filming a mini course this week in order to help us all find our footing. Perhaps it could help you during this time of life. Or, perhaps you would be buoyed by the first chapter of a book on prayer I wrote in the beginning of the pandemic.
Because its not really my childhood on the East coast that I’ve been longing for. This present reality actually reveals my desire for heaven, your desire for heaven. Our need to be in our father’s arms, surrounded by loving family in a place full of freedom, peace and eternal growth. And so maybe, when we look to our sorrow, holding on to faith, in a place of prayer, we can find the spiritual childhood we all long for.
Please pass along this article to anyone who needs it.