I straightened up from my usual pot-scrubbing hunch – dizzy again. My littlest one was still asleep but soon would want to nurse. Ignoring the whirling feeling, I loaded the last few cups in the dishwasher — just a couple more things to get ready before the morning. Maybe I’d have a chance to catch up on emails and pay a few bills. The dizziness passed.
I had known they wouldn’t find anything, but when my doctor heard about my frequent lightheadedness, she had ordered a series of tests. After overcoming MRI claustrophobia, filling out forms in all sorts of offices, shelling out money, and maxing out my babysitter list, I sat before the last doctor, ready to hear my prognosis. She was a middle-aged ENT. After finding nothing wrong, she calmly said, “You know, stress can do weird things. Do you think that could be your problem?”
Yes. Thank you. That’s it. No scope or blood test could see what another mom could see. Because my problem was: I did not have the capacity to be in ten places at once nor the power to accomplish all my work. And beyond that, there was a deeper problem. In my frenzy, I had put to the side my romance with Christ, exchanging the loving company I kept with God for slavish work. Like a college athlete in exam week, my life was crammed with responsibility. I was trapped with every baseboard I wiped or carpool I organized – over loaded and under-achieving. And yet, soon I was to see that these very same things were part of the path back to the Center of my Life.
But I became short-fused, intemperate and bitter. My longing for God and inability to respond made me suffer greatly, while the guilt from my ugly behavior compounded daily. In this messy state, I attended a lecture about St. Augustine’s Confessions – one of my favorites from college. Although the details of the lecture faded, when the speaker (a local priest) compassionately detailed the long-drawn-out conversion of poor Augustine and the pinnacle moment when he let go of sin, hope stirred in me. I hazarded that if this priest could think so insightfully on St. Augustine, perhaps he could see a way out of my angst.
This hope did not disappoint. There was a way out. God reached in. I reached out. I re-learned to pray. I began to see and love God in my mess. I paused a few times each day for solitary consolation with Christ (even if the solitary moment was only in the inner portion of my heart). Through attentiveness to a type of spiritual plan which fit well with my life, I began to grow again. Thriving. In my wonderful chaotic life.
Perhaps you are in a crazy situation yourself. Maybe you used to be close to God but the way your life is now, you cannot see Him. The idea of course, is not to return to the place you were before. You need not move backwards to an ideal place in your past. God is in the present. In this state. In this part of your crazy life.
Talk about a crazy life — I have been inspired by the story of Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J., who went into Russia as a missionary. He was almost immediately arrested as a spy. Through work camps, solitary confinement and continual threat of death, Fr. Walter was able to experience a deepening of faith. This was, of course completely an act of God. His faith and the closeness he felt was a gift that God gave him. On reading his reflections, it appears that two things were the vessels of that gift:
- Fr. Ciszek embraced his circumstances and found God IN them. In each gritty moment, he took it as an opportunity to give and receive love with God.
- Fr. Ciszek maintained a connection to God through a spiritual plan. He made a morning offering, he recited Mass, he made sacrifices for others, he reflected on Scripture, he did an evening examination of conscience – and more. All throughout his day, he maintained pillars of connection to Christ.
This same pattern (embracing circumstances and faithfully turning to God through the day) is seen in the lives of many of the saints (probably all of them). In a sincere effort to teach this life to my own children, I am in the last stages of compiling my own book, Collection of Grace – A Flexible Handbook for Growing a Life of Prayer. It will be available on Amazon by Pentecost. Perhaps it can help you to find the connection to Christ in your own craziness. Feel free add a comment and share with others what works well for you!
Copyright 2020 Carrie Soukup