What do I do?
I get irritated. I get mean. I fall into self-pity. I get scared. I worry a lot.
I don’t want these feelings or experiences. This is not who I want to be.
Yet, here I am. So what do I do?
Pray. This is what practicing members of my Christian faith, leaders, and great Saints all give us answer: pray.
Perhaps the best thing in prayer is not to expect to be changed into something other than a human being. When I fail, when I fall, perhaps my prayer should be the simple act of sharing Jesus’s exasperation, the way He probably often felt about His disciples, and then, trusting His love for me, allow Him to pick me up, moving on with Him in His mercy.
Jesus was sorrowful. Jesus was afraid. Jesus was even angry in the Temple with the money changers who were desecrating the holy place. But Jesus was never mean, never cruel. Sometimes He did get frustrated, though. He referred to Simon Peter as Satan and told him to get behind Him when Peter said that He, the Christ, shouldn’t have to suffer. When Peter, James, and John fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane after Jesus had asked them to stay awake and pray with Him, His words to them sound sad and upset: “Could you not tarry with me for an hour?” On the Cross, Jesus even cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Echoing the words of one of the Psalms, Jesus felt all of our pain and agony and sense of desolation as He was dying.
As a Christian, I’m always going to feel sorrow and pain. That’s the nature of life here in this fallen world of sinfulness and selfishness. There is much to mourn.
There is also much to fear, but Jesus tells us not to be afraid. Why shouldn’t I be afraid? I am physically helpless because of my progressive, severely disabling disease, I am dependent upon my elderly parents, and who knows what could happen to any one of my loved ones in this world today or tomorrow?
“Be not afraid,” He tells me.
So did Jesus experience dread and even anxiety in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he was “sorrowful unto death” — but not fear? “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.”[i] Perhaps that’s what Jesus experienced. Reflecting on prayer in this writing, I understand that by letting God love me completely, I give myself wholly over to union with Christ, to perfect love, and there is no room for fear — God drives it out. True Love is ever willing for the good of the other. If I hold onto tightly to my sorrows and worries, then I will remain frozen in the mire, the muck. I will not melt in the warmth of God’s love, the light of eternal truth.
Post Lenten Resolution
I’m going to take up that old practice of making an examination of conscience before I go to sleep, bringing to my mind the times times throughout the day that I was unkind, unhelpful, unappreciative. Remembering those moments that were frightening, irritating, or that gave me a sense of self-loathing. In doing this, I need to be truly sorry for my sins, penitent for my wrongdoings, but also… I just need to talk to God.
Cast all your worries upon Him, for He cares for you.[ii]
I don’t believe that God is judgmental and wrathful, scowling down upon us until we admit, with much loud lamenting, that we are terrible and then pay for our sins against Him. I don’t think that’s how it works. When I say a harsh word to my loved one, when I am truly unkind in my thoughts about a stranger, or when I wallow in self-pity like an ingrate, I am caught in the muck, stuck in the mire, covered in filth. I am not free.
God created me to be free. God created me to be free because God loved me into being so that I may know love and give love freely. When I fall short of love, I fall short of self-fulfillment — worse, I venture into self-destruction. God never wants to see me destroyed. So God came down here to save me. That’s why we call Jesus our Savior.
If we don’t want to be saved from self-destruction, if we don’t want to be truly free and live lives of real love, then we will ignore every lifeline and lifeboat that God sends. We will ignore God. But if we do want to be saved from self-destruction, if we do want to be truly free and live lives of real love, then we will ask our Savior to help us.
I am asking You, Lord, to save me. I bring before You all of the times that I have felt at my lowest, all of the times that I have been my meanest, and all of the times that I have feared or frenzied — I bring before You all of those times when I have turned away from Your loving presence within me and all around me. You’ll know what to do with them.
If I want feelings and experiences of mercy, joy, love, and compassion, if this is who I want to be, then I need to go to the Tree of Life — to You, Lord Jesus, who transforms my suffering into healing strength and my sorrows into loving joy. I may not always (or ever) understand how You do it, but You do it. As I pray, as I live deeply in the awareness of Your divine presence, You graft me onto Yourself, Lord, that I may bear good and beautiful fruit with, in, and through You.
The fruit of sacrifice is bliss. The fruit of Your passion is our joy. The fruit of divine mercy is eternal forgiveness. If these are the feelings and experiences that I want, then I know who I need to be: Yours, Lord. To have a sincere and powerful prayer life is to live my life in truth — I am Yours. You draw me always to Yourself in prayer, and You graft me onto Yourself through Your sacraments, planting me firmly beside streams of living water.
Abide in me, Lord, that I may abide in Thee. Then my leaves will stay green, and in times of drought there will be no distress, for I will still bear fruit. There will be nothing to fear.
May you, dear reader, experience the blessings of the Holy Triduum and the glory that comes through the sacrament of confession. And then may you, now and forever, experience the joy of Resurrection Sunday.
© 2022 Christina Chase
[i] 1 John 4:18
[ii] 1 Peter 5:7
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.