That feeling of gut-dropping panic – and then its abeyance

I’ve always heard to “wait on the Lord.”  That those who do will run but not faint.  They will rise up on wings like eagles.  I never understood any of it.  But then I heard this story about how mother eagles teach their young to fly.  Eagles nest way up there in the mountains, on cliffs and crags.  You can’t just throw the babies over the edge and hope they learn on the way down.  Except, that is exactly what mother eagles do.

Then, something amazing happens.

No, the babies don’t magically fly on the first try.  Because, like everything in life, you can only learn by doing.  What does happen is even more cool:  the mothers catch them.  On their backs.  They fly up under their young and catch them.  Then they fly them back to the nest until the next series of flying lessons.  (I’m not crying – YOU’RE crying!)

In this scenario, we are the baby eagles.  Falling and terrified.  Because how is this possibly going to end well?  I’m dying.  Right now.  I’m falling and dying and no one cares.  My own mother pushed me out of the nest to fall to my death.

And then: a swoop and a save.  A gentle catch.  And I’m rising again, impossibly alive.

That’s what happened to me today.  I’m not going to lie.  I’ve been pretty suicidal these last few days.  I felt the ground rushing up to meet me.  Financial stress, loneliness, the divorce, living in a rental with lots of mold, not much mental bandwidth to focus on a larger purpose, not knowing what to do with my life or where to live or even if it’s all worth the effort.

Things have happened today to make me think that all these problems are conquerable.  As I was on my knees thanking God for His Providence, I realized that this is exactly what we are waiting on when we wait on the Lord:  his awesome Providence.  His swoop and catch.

It has been so tempting the last few days to rage and demand.  To try to force things to work.  My car is in the shop.  I’m low on groceries.  Low on funds (less than a dollar in the account yesterday evening with the electric bill due today).  The trash needs to be taken to the collection point.

I told my friend Quinn, “I need to take my trash out, but I don’t have my car!”  He said, “So just wait until you get your car back.”  As a person of action, I found this answer annoying.  I mean, I could call and impose on my neighbors, couldn’t I?  Shouldn’t I?  But I decided to wait.

And now today, I got an offer not only from the Honda dealer of  a loaner car, but also an offer from my mom of a ride to take me to the Honda dealer (which is over an hour away from me, two and half from her) to pick up said loaner car.

It’s not just that.  Plans for the future are taking shape and coalescing out of the swirling darkness of nothing that I thought was my future.  Ways of making them happen financially are kind of becoming clear, too.

I feel like God let me fall an exceptionally long way this time.  But I also feel like I had the most practice at learning to fly.  I mean, I can’t fly.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not over.  I may be on God’s back right now, hanging out, enjoying the ride, gaining a little altitude.  But I know I’ll be dropped – over and over and over.  And it’s going to suck each time.  The ground will rush up to meet me, and I will probably panic every freaking time until this life is over.  Except.  Maybe?  Maybe I won’t.

Advertisements

The Ugly Suffering of Christina the Astonishing

I just read an incredible article by Kristin Valdez Quade about Christina the Astonishing: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/31/christina-the-astonishing-1150-1224

I have bipolar depression and found Christina’s name in an internet search for patron saints of mental illness.  I’m not exactly sure why we call them patron saints “of” mental illness.  I’m not sure it even matters, and Christina is not a saint anyway.  Not really.  She was never canonized and I’m pretty sure her cause isn’t up for consideration by the Vatican.

She was more considered a holy woman.  She could smell the sin on people and tended to avoid them.  Aggressively.  She is not an easy person to get behind or to have fuzzy feelings for, which Quade’s New Yorker piece highlights well.

I’ve spent much of my time studying what makes the supernatural world tick, and how it interacts with this world.  Why exactly do people get possessed?  What does it look like?  Do we even recognize it when it happens?  More often, people suffer from demon “oppression,” and that is certainly not easy to recognize.

It occurred to me that Christina the Astonishing was oppressed or possessed by a demon or demons.  But the part that really intrigues me is that the story goes that when she died that first time, she was given the choice by God to come back to earth to offer up her earthly suffering for the souls in purgatory.  She took God up on that offer.

She did suffer in her life.  But it was an ugly suffering.  She usually attacked the people who tried to help her, throwing their food offerings back at them, yelling their sins at them.  Demons can cause some nasty suffering.  It’s pretty characteristic, in fact.  They are mean and cause their victims to last out at the people around them.  Kind of like Christina did.

The Catholic Church has the idea of redemptive suffering.  That your suffering can be offered up to help others.  I’m fascinated by the idea that this suffering could possibly be demonic in nature.

What about you, gentle readers?  Have you ever suffered something that had a demonic edge to it?  If you’re Catholic, did you offer your suffering up as a sacrifice?  The answer to both of those questions for me is “yes.”

 

Nature, The Universe, and God/Everything

I remember the day things started changing for me. I was in an Alanon meeting (a support program for friends and family of alcholics). I had been attending these meetings for some time without much effect, it seemed to me. I was still miserable, and I didn’t really understand why.

Anyway, that day in the group someone said something like, “You know, belief in a Higher Power is really the cornerstone of this program. You can’t really get anywhere without it.”

My heart dropped.  I had become an atheist in college and was still one in graduate school, which is where I was at the time. I knew I was supposed to have a Higher Power, but to be honest, I had been trying to work The Steps (they have those in Alanon, too) without it. Or sometimes I would say my Higher Power was Nature or The Universe or something.

It wasn’t working for me though.  “Nature” can actually be pretty cruel.  Ever see Wild Kingdom? They always show some poor gazelle being eaten by a lion or some poor wildebeest being eaten by a crocodile. And let’s be honest, life for humans can also be short and brutish even without being eaten by a river hippo.

And what about “The Universe?” That was too nebulous and cold. I mean, what did the universe care about me anyway? It didn’t seem to.

I knew deep down that I had no real Higher Power. Nope, just ol’ little me, all on my own.  And it wasn’t working out.

Then came the day that woman said that about absolutely needing a Higher Power. My stomach twisted in knots, and I made my way home in a daze. When I got out of the car, I looked around my front yard with its green grass and pink four o’ clocks spilling out of the garden. It was a beautiful, hopeful day, and I suddenly found myself praying. “God, if You’re there, I need to know the truth. If You’re there, please lead me to the truth.”

For the second time in my life I heard a voice in my head say something very clearly: “Keep a journal.” And I knew what the voice meant. I was to keep a journal of all the ways God worked in my life.

You might ask, “How does that work? You didn’t even believe in God. How could you record the ways He was working in your life?” Good question. But it DID work. First, I started keeping notes about “coincidences” that occured. After that, I kept notes about answered prayers, mine and other people’s.

Amazing things started happening. The more I wrote these things down, the more they happened. It was truly incredible. I began to believe in prayer! In fact, I thought it was the new superpower in the universe!

In those early days when I was keeping the journal, small miracles started happening to me all the freaking time. And I started noticing them happening to others. Although frequently these other people didn’t recognize them as such. “Wow, what a coincidence,” they would say. Or, “that sure was lucky.”

But I started not to believe in coincidence and happenstance.  I mean, what was up with that oddly reassuring voice that told me to keep a journal?  And what about all this answered prayer I was recording?  My beliefs shifted to a living God, one who cared about me and about everyone.

As I said, that was when things started changing for me.  If you have a loved one who has or if you yourself have big doubts in God, try asking him to show you what you need to see in order to find the truth.  But remember that this is a powerful prayer.  My life changed radically after that.  And it wasn’t butterflies and smiley faces all the time.  I went through some huge changes and, let’s be honest, change hurts.  It was so worth it, though, and I would never consider going  back.

What about you?  Do you feel you are on a spiritual journey?  What are some things that have helped you along?