This has been a tough year.
No, I’m not talking about 2012, we’re not far enough into it yet. I’ve never had a reason to get off the academic schedule so I’m talking about AY 11-12, since Labor Day when I capped off two weeks of nausea with a panic attack on a boat on Long Island Sound, holding an ice pack to the back of my neck while I hung over the side and wondering what in the world was going on.
I’m tough, though, so I didn’t really accept that what was going on was that I was getting beaten up. Life was getting harder. People only a few years older than me but infinitely wiser spoke to me of “seasons” and I didn’t want to listen, because most of my seasons have been pretty good and I didn’t want to admit that I was in for it, for a while.
My day job was stressful. I wasn’t getting as many gigs as I wanted to. I was gloriously in love, except the person I was (and am) in love with lived three hours away which meant part of my heart was always somewhere else. And then my insides exploded and I started vomiting copiously. I had to write a 35 page thesis. I had to read 500 pages on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Excuse me, I have to go read. Excuse me, I have to drive 150 miles. Excuse me, I have to practice. Excuse me, I have to vomit. Again.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.
Teilhard de Chardin’s words do not comfort me here. I do not want it to take a “very long time”. I want to be there NOW. I want to kiss the anxiety goodbye and get on with my life, with the easy, comfortable life I knew not so long ago. I want to shout at God “I HAVE WORKED MY TAIL OFF TO BE WISE AND TO BE OVER ALL THIS SO LET’S GET ON WITH IT!!”
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
— that is to say, grace —
acting on your own good will
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit
gradually forming in you will be.
“Grace and circumstances acting on your own good will”. I love this description of progress. It’s the only equation that makes sense, bringing God, me and chance all into the same sentence in the right balance. Maybe there’s a new spirit forming. Am I brave enough to embrace it?
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Accept the anxiety…I often wonder if that line was written by someone who was deeply enlightened, or by someone who didn’t quite know the depth of anxiety that some of us can face. If Teilhard de Chardin was a neurotic Italian would he have been singing a different tune.
Anyway, that’s where I am. Anxious, in suspense, incomplete. I am starting to believe my friends who said that this is a season, that on the other side of this there is a relatively normal life not lived on the edges of panic. I don’t think it is a sign of faithlessness to say that I wish I were there right now, on the other side.
This is what my Lent will be: an act of submission. I submit to the here and now. I vow to find the beauty in the stress, the purpose in the chaos. To paraphrase Jeremiah 29:11, there is a plan here for a future and for hope. I can’t find it on my own. But it is there, off in some distant future, waiting for me in a loveliness even more striking than the glint of the sun off the water, the rays that enthrall me even when I’m puking off the side of the boat.