Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Love the One You're With

For the last week, I've found myself in an ever-rapid downward spiral.

And I can't really put my finger on the impetus.

I felt it coming on at the beginning of December. The tightness in my chest came, then passed, then returned. But it seemed I was always able to make my way back to equilibrium.

Then last week I started falling and couldn't find anywhere to grab hold and climb back out.

The weight got heavier and heavier. Painful. Deep breaths with no release.

I hesitate to attribute my current state to "holiday blues" or any other seasonally based rationale. I don't depend heavily on the holidays as a source of fulfillment beyond my everyday life. I enjoy the festivities, attempt to grow in the spiritual practices and am generally a little relieved when the hoopla has passed and we settle into a regular routine again.

But despite my desire to get back to the routine, things to do gathered in a mound on my counter -- birthday cards unsent, blank thank you cards to write, papers to file, bills to pay, schoolwork to look through, grocery lists unattended, baby gifts undelivered. And I just couldn't summon up the desire to care.

None of these incomplete tasks by themselves is worrisome. Everyone needs to give herself a break. Unless you understand the great joy I take in them. And there they sit and I with no joy to pick them up and carry on.

In my darkness, I found it increasingly hard to connect in prayer. What has become a cherished, light-filled experience of communing with God suddenly went dark.

In my darkness I look to trusted friends and advisers for prayer and guidance.

One dear friend turned me to When God Seems Far Away, an article on the Christianity Today web site. In it I found these three nuggets:

1. There is no human remedy for this darkness [i.e. lack of spiritual vitality] (so [you] could not control it).

2. The very craving for God is a "sure sign" that God is present.

3. Pain can be spiritually redemptive.

It discusses "Spiritual Gluttony", the act of seeking God merely to a "experience warm feelings and spiritual energy." And how God sometimes withdraws these good feelings to help us grow, in ways we may not understand.

And then the article introduces "The Little Way" as more important than "Spiritual Vitality": " No matter in what darkness you find yourself , choose as your guidepost a love for whoever God has cross your path."

The article goes on to highlight a number of other perspectives on prayer and spiritual vitality, but I am left pondering these most.

Last night I resumed our confirmation program after Christmas break and had the pleasure of crossing paths with my small group leaders and students. It was a night of Service and Fellowship, so I only had the pleasure of meeting with them for a moment before sending them out to engage in their own ministry.

I can't say that, in and of itself, is why I find myself a bit lighter today.

I really don't know.

I do know that when I extend myself in service and love to others, willingly answering God's call, I am not so much the bearer of God's mercy as the recipient. When I pray, minister, and love out of "want to" instead of "should" I am blessed.