There have been times in my life when my faith overwhelms me. Some days I can look at a Crucifix and feel so close to Christ that my body trembles and my eyes brim with tears. Sounds dramatic, but it’s happened to me before. Or, I receive the Eucharist and no longer feel hungry for anything. I am nourished, strengthened and I feel Christ within me.
But unfortunately, most of the time I’m waiting for the tears of joy, the chills, the lighting bolts, the fulfillment, the absolute belief that Christ is my friend and is truly with me as I go about my daily life.
Lately I’ve not only been looking for profundity and proof – I’ve simply been hoping to be able to say a prayer without my mind wandering or without a toddler telling me she has to use the potty or is “hungee.” I long to have a day where I am filled with the Holy Spirit and strengthened by Christ instead of just stumbling and fumbling through my daily activities, picking up crushed Cheerios from the carpet I just vacuumed or changing my seventeenth explosive diaper for the day while wondering where God’s promised graces are hiding as I lose my patience for the umpteenth time.
I admit: I’m facing a bout of spiritual dryness. I lack intimacy with Christ and honestly, I haven’t been doing much about this wall that seems to be looming between my God and me. I’m often too tired to find time for real prayer and reflection. Sure, I say a quick “Hail Mary” and prayers before mealtimes; Madeline, Dave and I say our bedtime prayers together; I peruse my daily meditation in a Catholic prayer book for women; I utter a cursory prayer of thanks for the health of my children, my marriage or Rae’s delightful giggles (Madeline made her laugh for the first time this week by giving her raspberries on her soft, round belly); I rattle off a few names of people I’ve promised to pray for just before falling asleep (a pregnant friend whose baby was diagnosed with a heart defect and will have to face surgery the first week of his life once he’s born, another friend who lost her godfather and whose mother-in-law has to have heart surgery); and I always plan to start my day with prayer, but when Madeline wakes me after I’ve just fallen back asleep from nursing Rachel Marie, I often stumble out of bed and begin attempting to meet my children’s endless needs without so much as a passing prayer for the graces of motherhood.
The truth is, when I think of the current state of my prayer life, I feel ashamed. Then, I start to feel confused. I question my faith and instead of praying for more grace, I berate myself and wonder why I can’t be more like the saints or even just like some of the fellow moms I know who face far more challenges or have far more children than I do and yet seem to effortlessly juggle it all – an active prayer life, homeschooling, housework, even part-time work.
But today I was renewed. I was catching up on my mail from when we were out of town and something told me to read an editorial written by Atlanta’s archbishop in the Georgia Bulletin. The irony is I don’t always read this paper from cover to cover, but a voice most likely belonging to the Holy Spirit urged me to read Archbishop Wilton Gregory’s September 9th column. So I did and there they were, words that jumped out at me. Words that encouraged me and words that told me to keep on trudging along, to not give up and to not expect faith to be infallible.
Archbishop Gregory wrote, “Faith is not absolute security—faith is not unquestioned certitude—faith is not unassailable conviction. Faith is trust wrapped in hope—faith is belief surrounded by doubts—faith is confidence tempered by uncertainties.”
He also discussed how a new book reveals that Mother Teresa experienced many moments of wavering faith. He admitted that he, too, a holy, pious man I’ve seen in the flesh who has the power to inspire just by his presence, has had more instances of questionable faith than he can count. So I’m not a hopeless cause. I won’t always feel inspired or even close to Christ; yet, like a boat bobbing in the sea, if I rely on him as my anchor even when I feel like I am aimlessly drifting in an ocean of confusion and doubt, I won’t wander too far from him.
As a child, my mom often said that God doesn’t expect us to never fail, but he does expect us to never fail to try. So try I must. I can’t simply expect to have limitless patience with my children or to witness miracles or to feel profound peace simply by catching a glimpse of a Crucifix. Yet, I can and must make time for prayer. I must open my heart to his graces and I must always remember that faith, while not always certain or obvious or unswerving, is a gift to continuously be cherished and cultivated.
Lord, thank you for the gift of my faith. Help to replace my doubt with faith. Be my light. Open my heart to your graces and to your Word. Encourage me when I feel uninspired. Lift me up when I am down. Help me to remember that even the saints experienced times of spiritual dryness and doubt, but they kept believing. They kept searching. Let me do the same. Amen.