Apparently it’s a lot more difficult to write about the nitty-gritty of following the Little Way than I originally anticipated. It has taken two weeks of wallowing in the knowledge of my inadequacies and a 24 hour retreat with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist to shove me back in the blogosphere. But I coming bearing deep thoughts!
You know you need to go on retreat when you are pouting the entire three hour drive there, hypothetically speaking, of course.
In all seriousness, I think I hit another low at the end of November. It all ties back to my childbearing struggles – and the grief process that ebbs and flows over time. On the surface, I am generally fine. But I’ve come to realize that certain distractions (TV for one) cause my underlying sadness to fester and eventually spill over, with bitterness threatening to overwhelm me. I tell myself that God has handed me enough suffering – I shouldn’t have to delve deeper into my spiritual life, I shouldn’t have to give up the few remaining pleasures within my grasp.
It’s never satisfying though, to distract my cares away.
So I went on retreat, where I was constantly surrounded by all the things I yearn for and do not possess: esteem in the eyes of the (Catholic) world, an obvious talent, friendliness, thin body, pregnant belly, babies. There was no private place I could go to hide and cry out my frustration and woes. I had to sit before the Lord, acutely aware of my insignificance.
As the retreat drew to a close, I couldn’t pin-point any significant moments. The talks were good, it was nice to go to mass alone, I tolerated my 4am holy hour. But nothing seemed earth-shattering. I didn’t even feel refreshed – mostly just tired and worn out from lack of sleep. I was prepared to return home to my regularly scheduled life.
Then God informed me that I needed to speak about the Litany of Mary I received at the beginning of retreat (we all drew one at random), Mary Seat of Wisdom. Totally fine, easy-peasy. From the moment I read the litany I knew that it related back to a charismatic college retreat when I asked the Holy Spirit for the gift of wisdom. It would take about 30 seconds to share my blurb, all nice and pithy. Heck, I even looked up the church’s definition of wisdom – to order one’s life according to God’s will. Done.
Uh, no, God pressed upon me. You have got to delve a lot deeper than that today.
Crap. The last thing I wanted to do was pour out my heart to 170 women about the real reason God asked me to ponder wisdom and the ordering of my life to His will. I follow God in all the big ways – but it’s those little ways that I fail each day. I don’t want to suffer more. I don’t want to seek out further mortification. I certainly don’t want to admit to all these women that despite the fact that I’ve had four miscarriages in less than two years, the real tragedy is how stingy and distracted I am in my daily life. How much TV consumes my quiet moments. It’s embarrassing to admit to struggling with such a dumb vice.
The good news is that I submitted to God’s request. I choked on my tears in front of all those women. I spoke of my children. I admitted to the stupid ways I ignore God’s will. And I opened myself up to those painful conversations that occur afterwards, when another woman shares her suffering with me.
A short while later it occurred to me that all feelings of anxiety and disappointment were gone. In fact, a new kind of peace was quickly taking over the vulnerable parts of my heart. I felt light and joyful – and I wanted to know more about the women I met on this retreat. I knew that when I returned home my regularly scheduled life wasn’t going to cut it anymore.
So, here I am – pondering instead of vegging out. My life hasn’t been miraculously scrubbed of all temptations and vices. However, I think I am finally dipping my toe into the scary waters of following God’s promptings, even in the stupid little stuff. Especially in those little ways – and isn’t that the point of this whole blog anyhow?