This blog was supposed to be about something completely different. I had planned on writing about recognizing the many blessings in our lives. But on the day that I sat down to write it, I got word that someone I had known for most of my life had died the previous day in a car wreck. Like so many other people in my life, we had reconnected through Facebook. At the time of her death, she was in the midst of undergoing treatment for cancer. She had gotten married just a few weeks before the wreck. It wasn’t fair.
The same week, a young woman whom the community had rallied around lost her battle with cancer a little over a month after her daughter’s first birthday. That month a 2-year-old boy in my city had allegedly been killed by his own father. My sister was undergoing medical tests. Really, God? Where’s the justice? What’s the purpose?
All those things alone had me feeling less than in sync with God. Add the fact that God and I are still not on the best terms over my MS, and you have a perfect equation for what Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross in the 16th century called a “dark night of the soul.”
In fact, most days my prayers seemed to consist of some version of “God, where are you?” So my waxing on blessings seemed a bit deceptive. No, that column would have to wait for another day when I was feeling more, well, blessed.
Normally at times like this, my instinct would be to run to church—one of my refuges. I went hoping to find relief, praying for comfort. Instead, I felt like a stranger. Prayers that used to flow off my tongue, making me feel connected with those around me, now tripped me up, leaving me feeling frustrated rather than peaceful. Comfort was elusive.
To say that God and I were not on the same page was a vast understatement.
In Good Company
But you know what? It’s OK. I know it is because I take great comfort in the fact that I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way.
In fact, I never felt closer to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta than I did after it was revealed that there were times in her life when she too struggled with the feeling of being abandoned by God.
In 1979, she wrote the following to her spiritual adviser, the Rev. Michael van der Peet: “As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.” I know that silence. I’ve felt that emptiness.
How could it be that I could have something in common with someone so holy? In that connection I find comfort and I find strength. I am not alone in seeking God, in calling him on the carpet. It’s OK for me to get angry, to ask questions, to seek answers. And when I’m done ranting and raving, God will be there.
It may be in the form of an unexpected phone call from just the right person at just the right time. Or it might be a wet, sloppy kiss from my baby, reminding me that I am loved and that, despite what I may feel, there is much good in the world. Or other times it can be as simple as a pertinent quote such as this one someone gave me the other day: “When everything seems like it’s falling apart, that’s when God is putting things together just the way he wants it.” The challenge, however, is allowing myself to remain open to those moments.
It’s not always easy. In fact, right now God and I are working through some things. Luckily, though, I know God’s in it for the long haul, as am I.
Just Keep Talking … or Writing
As of a few months ago, I am now the proud mother of a teenager. And even though Maddie is a good kid, the transition can be bumpy at times. In order to try to head off at least some of the potential pitfalls that can befall parent/child relations in these tumultuous years, for her birthday I gave Maddie two notebooks: one for her and one for the two of us. With each gift I gave her a letter explaining the gift.
The first notebook was a place for her to express her thoughts and feelings. I wrote to her of how my own journals have proven invaluable to me over the years. I spoke of how I hoped it would provide a way for her to express her truest emotions without fear of anyone’s reaction.
On the inside of the second notebook, I explained that it was meant as a way to keep the lines of communication open between her and me. In it she could express her thoughts or anger, ask questions or just state her opinions. Whatever she wanted me to know or to ask me she could put in the book and give to me to answer or reflect on. Things she wanted to keep close to her heart had a home in her own notebook.
As a writer, I take comfort in the fact that Mother Teresa expressed her truest feelings through the written word in letters to trusted friends. I only hope that my gift to Maddie offers the same type of expressive outlet—and sense of comfort.