church, faith, God, Jesus, Lent, ministry, spiritual path, spirituality
Let me hear of your loving-kindness in the morning, for I put my trust in you;
Show me the road that I must walk, for I lift up my soul to you.
I read this one yesterday, and it has stayed with me since. It has brought to my attention a nagging, unvoiced concern that has been fomenting within me for some weeks.
For me, this Lenten season has been bittersweet in many ways. It is not at all what I expected, yet, perhaps it has been exactly what it should be–a time of intense thought and prayer, deep meditation on things I perhaps did not expect.
As the harsh winter bore on, and I was forced to cancel more and more of my church ministry activities, a certain almost imperceptible calm set in–indeed a near happiness. I puzzled over this, as you might expect, and dismissed it as some temporary euphoria of “acceptance” of how things were, rather than what I wished.
Yet, I could not get away from the nagging feeling that I was somehow relieved. I have pushed back those feelings for some weeks now, dismissing them as I said, as mere attempts to live with reality. But there was more to it than that.
I have not the doubt that is normal to believers–the doubts which are both real and necessary about faith itself. In fact, doubting is well established in the bible as normal and part of the journey. I’m not feeling that, at this time and place.
What I am doubting are my choices to involve myself in so many ministries at my church. I’ve not been able to fulfill my responsibilities well during this winter season, but that is but a symptom I suspect. What continues to irritate is the feeling that I have in some real manner welcomed the excuse. Not at all consciously, but subconsciously, and now, it is bubbling upward into the day.
I am constructed thusly it seems. After discussing this whole matter with the Contrarian, I was at pains to agree, that I am likely to rush into things full bore as it were, only to find myself enmeshed in more than I can chew, to mix a metaphor or two. My usual response is to simple “disappear” back into the oblivion of anonymity.
I suggested to him, “Sometimes I think, perhaps I should just go to St. Pius’s and backbench there.” The Contrarian’s eyes grew wide. “You would consider going to the Catholic church again?” “No, not in a formal sense,” I replied, “it just represents the feeling I have that I am not up to all this busyness right now.”
“Perhaps that’s what you should discuss with your priest then, instead of just walking away.” And in fact, that is probably as close to being correct as I can imagine. It is the right thing to do. “Look,” he pondered, “you are just in a place in your journey where you aren’t able to give, just receive. There is nothing wrong with that is there?” “No,” I reflectively answered.
Was this my answer? The one I have been praying for most seriously? Gone from a general unease to a focusing in on the issue of which path–was Christ speaking to me through my beloved? I don’t know the answer yet, and am reticent to accept the first answer that seems to my liking.
What I discover, is that the journey is fraught with obstacles. Some of them are obvious–the dark night of the soul, that coldness that comes when we question whether there is a God and if he/she is listening. There is the obstacle of time and place, and the fact that sometimes faith and church don’t coincide, nor does a faith tradition meet the needs of the heart and soul.
Now I discover more obstacles. Is my crisis one of pure laziness, selfish desire to not be burdened with a calendar of responsibilities? Or is it simply that God and I need to walk alone at this time, deepening our bond? I met a nun once, and worked with her for a couple of weeks in New Mexico. A harder working woman I never met. Yet I wondered when she got the time to spend with God, quietly and not while exhausted.
No doubt the same could be said of Mother Theresa and countless others who devote every waking moment to the service of those in need. I am so woefully inadequate to all this. My rather paltry efforts so far are laughable by comparison, yet I am feeling pinched in my spiritual life.
But perhaps I’m supposed to be. Perhaps comfort is a sign that I am taking an easy way. Jesus most certainly did not take an easy way. I can’t imagine him getting up and saying, “heck boys, lets go swimming today and play some soccer, I’m not into all this healing and preaching today.”
Talk about putting on the mind of Christ! Like John, I am unfit to tie his sandals. And so, I ponder further. Think of me when you pray today, for I am sorely in need of guidance. Saying it straight out seems a start, but truly I lament: Show me the road that I must walk.