I am on retreat in Conneticuit(totally do not know how to spell without spell check lol) and I am send this entry via my Blackberry from my retreat bed @3AM. I wanted to keep my Lenten offering and I decided to bring a portable mirror so I could reflect where ever I am (rimshot). Thank you! I'll be here all night!
This retreat is a Theology of the Body retreat and the guy leading us, Bill, is really excellent. I'm excited. So I wanted to give a quick reflection that came out of prayer, the readings, and the retreat theme. Here are the readings.
The meditation we did tonight here was on the lines in Exodus 14:5-14, specifically, "The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to sit still."
When I read and reread this line and the rest of passage, I kept thinking about me sitting in my armchair playing video games. These last couple of months I have been struggling with Major Depression and this was happening around November to the middle of January(hence no blog entries during that time period). Now I am getting the help I need to be better and to be functional again.
There were days and weeks when all I could do was sit and play video games. That's it. I didn't want to do anything and I physically could't do anything. Now I know why people say this a disabilitating illness. I would stare at things that I wanted or needed to do and it would take hours to actually do them. From taking a shower to putting on a pair of socks to trying to meet people and being 3 hours late. When I tried to gather enough strength(which took sometimes 6-8 hours mind you if it happened at all) I would meet my very good friend who shares a similar cross with me and we would be depressed together. I think the word is commiserate, I mean that in a literal etymological sense of com-miserate, to be miserable with. And we would hang out at a hookha cafe. He is one of the few people in that I know that I don't have to "try with" I can just "be with." I owe much of my sanity and insanity to him. He and I would just smoke, talk and sit. Again more sitting.
But God really did fight for me! Now I am doing better and my mood has been stablizing, praise God. Everyday day sitting in my armchair I would say, "Lord, I know this is for something." I think the last thing any of us want is for our suffering or the suffering of others to be meaningless. To paraphrase the book "The Shack" , I don't want my suffering to be justified but redeemed.
What helped me to deal with my depression was going to a Bible Study. I found such a connection with God in the Scriptures which I felt that I never really had before. I would read about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our fathers in faith, and learned that God really takes care of His own children. Also since this was all so new to me I would read more and really stuggle with the Scriptures more, especially with the question: how does it apply to me right now. Yesterday's reading said "Do not turn your back on your own." If God asks this of us, how much more perfectly does He do this already for us!
Sitting in my arnchair I kept thinking over and over again the words that the Vocation Director for the Jesuits said to me:
"The same God that brought you to this point will not abandon you."
It is truly an amazing experience when you can say that before a crisis, during a crisis, and after a crisis and knowing that God was there the whole time! The Bible Study also helped me because I got to know, and continue to know, more deeply, an amazing group of people. God gave me that support structure that I felt I needed and for a while didn't have. I have one amazing friend who talked with me throughout this whole time and would calm me down. She would be present anyway she could and I am truly grateful for her in my life.
With the Bible Study I was driven to learn more so that I could share more. I started to give again when for at the time and for a while there literally was nothing left to give. So when I read this passage from Isaiah I remember what I went through the last couple of months.
Here is what struck a chord in my heart:
"Thus says the LORD: If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
Reading this with an experience of deep depression makes the darkness so much more real than before. But since is started to share my bread from the Scriptures and give it to others who are hungry for his Word, I saw that light in the darkness. I can't tell you enough what a powerful image this line is for me:
"And the gloom shall become for you like midday."
Because I began to see the light in this darkness, which was/is a complete grace from God, my depression is where I found God. That darkness of crying for no apparent reason, of needing help to put on a sweater because I couldn't do it and my darkest point became the brightest point for me, my midday. The darkness was/is where I found God or more appropriately, where God found me.
Us Catholics are really weird because we stare at suffering and death everyday. We see the crucifix EVERYDAY. We do not separate it from life or pretend it isn't there. It is in that suffering that we truly come to realize what it means when the angel tells Joseph that Jesus will be known as Emmanuel, which means "God is with us."
A promise from the Lord when your gloom becomes your midday,
"Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails."
We become a source of water for others because we are connected to THE Source, Jesus. He flows from our wounds to other people when we offer our wounds to him and he doesn't justify what we went through, because you can't justify suffering, but you can redeem it. You can take that pain and make something beautiful come from it. Thank you Lord.
Do you embrace your wound, your darkness, you brokeness or do you run from it? God is there waiting to heal you of it... but will you let Him?
St. Anthony of the Desert says, "Those who run from suffering, run from God."
What do you run away from? Lent is the time to stop, turn around(the word Jesus speaks in Greek for 'repent' means to turn around) and run towards your suffering because it is there you will find your joy. Don't forget there is a Resurrection!
And don't worry God will not abandon you! Its OK to trust Him!
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