Dear Pope Francis,
Last Wednesday I shared my struggles to let go so that God can do his work in my life. Since then, Pope Francis, I’ve been thinking about one of your tweets from last fall: “Dear young people, you have many plans and dreams for the future. But is Christ at the center of each of your plans and dreams?” (October 5, 2013). Thinking about this quote, and a few conversations that I’ve had with people in the last couple of weeks has helped me to realize that Christ has certainly not been at the centre of my immediate goals and dreams. It’s more like I’ve been actively resisting God’s plan, and keeping Christ as far away as possible from my hopes and dreams.
St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote about experiencing the movement of the Spirit in two ways: consolation and desolation. Part of the Ignatian spiritual practice is to discern these experiences. In thinking about the tweet and talking to a few different people, I realized that there have been a couple of different things happening internally. One is definitely that I’ve been experiencing desolation, a time where, no matter what I do, I struggle to feel God’s presence. It’s not that God has abandoned me, but that I am not quite on the same wave length as God – resisting God’s plan.
However, not everything can be chalked up to desolation in my case. I also realize that I need some serious self-care. I am experiencing serious burn out, the kind that isn’t going to be solved by taking a weekend, or even a week, off. I just finished a big school year, with lots of work, stress and joy (not to mention an intense trip). In the last year, there has also been some hard personal stuff, like my dog being put down while I was away at school. As I’ve been reminded a few times, next year is another big year. I’m the student council president, and entering my third year, which means I start preparing for my M.Div. Comprehensive Exam, which includes a paper and oral exam. I won’t be able to fully engage in the new school year, with its joys and struggles, unless I’ve taken care of myself by processing and recuperating from the last year.
Finally accepting that I am experiencing desolation and burnout allows me to do two things. One, it allows me better acknowledge what I’ve been feeling. For instance, not feeling joy and excitement about LTP does not mean that I’m bored with it, or that God wants me to move away from it. Rather, it’s a sign that while LTP is an awesome thing, I also need to take care of me. The second thing acceptance allows me to do is take steps to take care of myself and heal. This time, it means going home to the East Coast for much longer than I originally planned.
In finally acknowledging what is actually going on, and taking helpful steps, I have realized that this is where God has been calling me; now Christ is at the centre of my hopes and dreams. Knowing this is like the difference between night and day. When I resisting God, and trying to make my summer plans work, I felt anxious, tense and very dark. As soon as I acknowledged what I was actually feeling, in the process letting God in, and booked the flights to go home, I felt the weight lift, and I felt hopeful for the first time in a while.
This solution isn’t perfect, I don’t have a job at home either, but maybe, this summer isn’t about working. I don’t want to put words in God’s mouth, but maybe, just maybe, this summer is about healing and processing everything that’s happened this year, and the only way for me to truly do that is to go back to my roots and soak in the nourishment that I can only get from there.
Who knows? The one thing I have learned is that God works in the craziest ways. I’ve learned to hang on and enjoy the ride.
Finally seeing the sunshine,