Remember how for forty years now the Lord, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments.
Yesterday I wallowed through the Slough of Despond for most of the afternoon, though the day started off well. When I awoke, after two days of a viral gastritis that left me unable to do anything but sit in a recliner and sleep, read, or pray (except when my son drove me to the doctor to be diagnosed), as I got out of bed, I thought, "Something is different!" Then I realized I actually had the energy to make my bed, take my shower, and get dressed. Once I had eaten the doctor-prescribed chicken broth and toast for breakfast, I felt energetic enough to practice my French horn, which had been languishing in its case for the last two days. I had a great practice session, though the high F sharps eluded me, but I know they will return as I keep practicing.
But then I called a friend I was worried about, and soon became steeped in indignation and despair as I heard the latest chapter in her struggles with Obamacare, the car insurance company that totaled her beloved car, and the demise of her computer that is the core of her business. I was furious at the government bureaucrats that have made health care a morass of incomprehensible red tape and inexplicable decisions to cancel MediCal in the middle of chemo treatment and to give an English speaking Austrian a card only written in Spanish!
By the time I left for Confession I was angry at God for all the unfair situations that I see all around me, even though I could see that none of them were really his fault. When I mentioned my anger to my priest, he asked me if I had taken all this to God in prayer. I talk to God all the time, but I hadn't really thought of "taking it to God in prayer," in the sense of bringing all these burdens and feelings to him and acknowledging that he is in charge, that he may be allowing afflictions to test us, and that when we look back we may find that the afflictions have strengthened us or we have been given the grace to go through them in unexpected ways, as I was with our flood.
I had just finished reading an article in our diocesan paper, "John Paul II's Heroic Soul", by Christopher Stefanick. After delineating the loss of every family member whom he loved by the time he was 20, Stefanick commented, "John Paul II didn't become a heroic soul despite his suffering; he became one precisely because of it.
His response to personal pain wasn't to retreat from the world but to embrace it with the love of Jesus himself, whose Sacred Heart is simultaneously the icon of profound pain and perfect charity."
It is with a sense of perplexing paradox that I look back on "how for forty years now the Lord, our God, has directed all your journeying in the desert." The end of May would have been our 40th wedding anniversary, and I can look back and see how God directed me, not only in all the wonderful, amazing experiences of our marriage, but also through the desert of my various depressions, pneumonia, the miscarriage of our last baby, and now my widowhood. As my daughter Elizabeth reminded me last night, it was interesting to see how I tried volunteering for something I had thought was right for me, and my husband had told me he thought that is what I would do if he died, and they only needed volunteers who could come on the evening I have been going to Holy Hour every week for over 25 years. As soon as I had finished talking to her, I went to check on my emails and there was a request from a group who had given religious retreats to my children in their teens for help with editing a website. I spontaneously added a note at the end of my email saying I would be glad to do it, saying I hope I can grow closer to Mary, Queen of Widows. I don't know that that is one of her "official" titles, but it gave me the hope I needed to take up the gauntlet and set forth again.