Officially, Lent has begun.
But for me, the last two months have felt like 60 days of Good Friday. So when Ash Wednesday dawned last week, it felt almost anti-climactic… Almost a holiday, because there was at least an official reason to feel hungry and dark and repentant and thirsty for God’s mercy…
When we lost our little one in-utero last December right around the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, there was, of course, grieving. The grieving was quite a bit deeper this time (which surprised me) than my grief from my first miscarriage. I don’t know if the unusual complications surrounding the miscarriage, or the interesting line-up of events that happened afterwards, or dramatic hormone shifts, or the fact that it was around Christmas, or that I had actually seen her on an ultrasound (as opposed to my other miscarriage), or a few interactions from some of the ones close to me that made this one different, but it was. “Lourdes” took me a little longer to grieve for some reason.
And then, it seemed, the darkness surrounding me continued, and some additional events came as sudden “arrows”, as I scrambled to find my humor and my “purpose” again and desperately searched for a solution to the unique sense of abandonment I felt. One could say I experienced some post partum depression. But being that I am under excellent medical care, I have come to realize that the reason is different than your standard hormone imbalance.
Something was changing in me… I was being emptied, beyond what I thought possible, and while there were a few days in there where I wasn’t sure why the Good Lord still had me on this earth, I can see that He wanted me closer to Him. He wanted me to finally admit that He is my everything. And once I admitted this truth, He started to reveal deeper insights to me. Many of them were painful at first… But He has supplied the courage to face some of these inspirations, even though many nights I have felt anxious and have relied on meditative prayer to be able to fall asleep.
Probably my biggest revelation has been that I am utterly broken and totally dependent on the Lord. We spend so much time in our society parading around “our gifts and talents and trophies and dreams”, as well as clinging to the “ever-positive” (note: ‘positive’ is not the same as true joy), that we can lose sight (many times purposely) of our own brokenness. Why do we want to look at our weakness? Shouldn’t we brag about our blessings? Shouldn’t we boast about our strengths? Isn’t this “giving glory to God”? Well, I would say, sometimes it is, so long as we humbly recognize with confidence the gifts that God has given us. But that thin, thin line between praising God for our gifts and boasting about them in order to receive praise is, well, oh so thin. We can easily get off track. I know I certainly did. And when things didn’t pan out exactly how I wanted them to, over the past seven years especially, I ran out of any kind of denial or escape within my thoughts and dreams, and I came face to face with my own true brokenness and dependence on God.
Much of my meditating (many times while in solitude and even while feeling a deep sense of desolation) has brought me to a new place, and yet, an old place: the place where my vocation began. Together with my husband, I went back to our roots, where we met, which was in a L’arche community. I’ve mentioned L’arche before, the place where “assistants live full-time with mentally and physically disabled adults.” It’s the place where I came fully back to the Faith, and the place where I met my husband (who was in the Navy, but volunteering occasionally there at the time.) My attraction to the original spirituality that led me to my vocation flooded back relentlessly, and I had to revisit it… so I decided to just start downloading the writings of the founder Jean Vanier, as well as the prolific meditations of Henri Nouwen, who was greatly touched after his experience in a L’arche community in Canada. I devoured their writings within the last month… and I realized, this is who I am, my spirituality within my Catholic Faith.
This spirituality is what led me to even start my blog. This spirituality explains why I am drawn to those who are marginalized and broken… because we all are, and because that is where Christ brings us together, and where He is glorified.
This doesn’t mean I am called to start a L’arche community, or live within one again. But rather, it means that I need to go back to applying what the Lord put into my heart: a missionary spirit, one that cannot ignore other’s pain, but one also that is not meant to wither away alone, without a strong faithful presence. It is easy as a stay-at-home mom, even if we run various small businesses, to become self-absorbed and alone, without a sense that even if we have a large family, we, too, can reach out (as we are able.) At the very least, we can walk with others who also embrace their dependence on God, as a strong source of support to each other within the Body of Christ.
This revelation also revealed another place where I feel emptied, and where God wants to fill my open heart and hands. Up until now, I (and my family) have kind of determined much of our path. We made decisions that had to do with our desires, which were good ones much of the time, and which were discerned through prayer, but weren’t as deep as where we are now. Now we are at the shore, with our nets, saying, “Lord, we have toiled all night, and have caught nothing.” (Luke 5:5)
Now I stand at this shore, quite blind, actually. I don’t know the future, and for one of the few times in my life, I am somewhat baffled as to what on earth God is doing and where on earth He is leading us. I used to have this clear picture in my head of my dreams… but many of them, especially the ones that searched for “heaven on earth” became sand. Now, my dreams have become more simple… To know, love, and serve the Lord, to live out my vocation as well as I can, and to love as deeply as I can… to persevere, to live my Faith…
And so I stare at Him on the shore, with ashes on my forehead, emptied of not only life within my womb (which belonged to Him anyway), but also emptied of my near-sighted little dreams and my attachment to fear… and I stretch out my hand to His already outstretched, wounded Hand…
By this Easter, I hope to have grasped it more fully…..