It doesn't matter how much spiritual reading I do that warns against "despair" or of excessive sadness for our sins. We aren't always in control of our emotions, and it seems like sometimes, if things are going well I almost completely self-destruct (not a life-ending thing, more a spiritual crash and burn).
Although tonight wasn't a total crash-and-burn, I went to Mass somewhat dejected, and afterwards as I knelt, praying, I couldn't stop what rose from me.
I had just finished reading from St. Louis de Montfort's 33-day Preparation for Total Consecration (I am renewing this year on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe), and in addition, I read a couple chapters from Imitation of Mary.
Both readings spoke of spiritual despair.
After Mass, suddenly I was struck with a type of loneliness...a sense of near-abandonment of the earthly kind, even almost spiritual. It's very difficult to explain, but there it was.
I knelt before Our Lord, wondering, yet again if I think I am called to religious life only because I fear the love of another, or even more probable, fear that I could never be loved by another.
The last boyfriend I had, the one I thought I would marry, confided to a friend of his around the time we broke up that he thought I would have a hard time "finding someone else."
I admit those words are still as powerfully painful now as when I first learned about them. He denied having said it when I confronted him, but I could see the lie as he shifted his gaze away from me in shame.
There, before Our Lord, tonight, I asked Him for love; to reveal it to me.
I asked Him to show me if I've gotten discernment all wrong and am perhaps called to marriage, but fear it too much. I asked Him how anyone could ever love me, considering all my sins, all my failings, all my passionate obstinance regarding...dang near everything.
I asked Jesus, simply, to love me. I had no expectations, I had no specific intentions: I offered Him only my broken heart because it's all I have to offer. I offered him my doubts, my intent to do His Will, and my own lack of charity for Him and for others.
In other words, I came to Him with my utter desolation, knowing my self-pity was wrong but also knowing I had nowhere else to bring it but to His feet.
I left the church, having wiped my eyes of the tears that did manage to escape without my will, and having waited a few minutes to ensure my composure. With all the colds going around right now, I blended in with about half the congregation.
When I arrived at the chapel door where Daily Mass is held, a man I know held it open for me, recognized me from a committee we are on together, and said hello rather than giving me a typical dispassionate-but-friendly nod in response to my thanks. I walked over to a bench and set my backpack down so I could put my coat on, and while doing so, an elderly man who was waiting for his relative looked at me, smiled, and approached, introducing himself. I was surprised but couldn't help but respond to his sincere greeting.
I recognized him as one of the more devout members of our parish, having always wondered who he was, and I knew he also recognized me as we often sat near each other during Daily or regular Sunday Mass. Tonight, looking at him, I saw the light in his eyes and the friendliness that was clearly a part of his real personality. He told me he is retired and we discussed how blessed we are to be members of such a good parish with such holy priests that give us more than adequate access to the Sacraments.
Both encounters were somewhat unusual; not because people are unfriendly, but rather because I don't know either at all. The first is a new acquaintance but recognized by face over the years, and the latter, simply recognized but whom seemed to be even more private than I am. Neither unapproachable people, but simply, in typical Catholic culture, willing to let another soul be another soul in the presence of God. (It's hard to explain for non-Catholics so I'll stop trying unless a question is specifically asked).
Upon arriving home I collected my mail and went inside. There I found in that stack, instead of bills, there was a Christmas card from my "second family", the parents of my teen-years best friend who had become surrogates of sorts and without whom I would not be who I am today. I haven't yet sent out any cards, but now when I send one to them I'll be able to offer a response, remembering the love they had given me even though I was not their own. Remembering that without them, I would have been lost.
I have written of them previously, HERE.
God answers prayers, usually in small ways, ways only we can recognize because they have to do with our relationships with God and others, what He knows about us, and only He can provide the timing for He knows in advance what we will ask.
That is His love, that is God Himself, refusing to ever leave us alone.
We may experience times of dryness and we may experience abandonment,and it for those moments He gives us these small gifts: to provide memories and bolster our faith in order that we'll always remember His presence.
So often, I think that I am lost, but then God provides evidence to the contrary, reminding me I have never been alone for even a moment.
Thank you, Jesus. I'm sorry for doubting you.