I was dreading many things about this school year, but so far the one that’s been the most problematic was the one I didn’t really anticipate: workload management for my high schooler. He’s stressed, which makes me stressed. We all know how important high school is in shaping the man or woman you become. Plus, when you have to cram a year’s worth of work into a semester, the workload is heavy.
I internalize my children’s stress. (That’s a blog post for another blog.) So this week has been an exercise in creative, prayerful parenting. I woke at 3:50 a.m. yesterday and couldn’t get back to sleep. This is pretty common for me, but usually it’s because I’m thinking about my own work. Yesterday it was anxiety on behalf of my high schooler.
I ended up praying a rosary on his behalf as I laid awake, and then moved on and started the day. Checked in with the kids, then did my own work for a while.
But when he came up for lunch, I closed up shop and said, “Okay, bring the work here. I’m here to help from now until school pickup.”
By the time I had to leave an hour and a half later, we were both feeling better. I didn’t connect it with my morning prayer until late last night as I was lying in bed again. I feel like that prayer settled and grounded and oriented me for the day–and perhaps him as well.
Today begins a week I look forward to all year–Liturgical Composers Forum. The reality of my rich, busy life as a work-from-home mom is that time is at a premium. Always. Concentrated time has to be planned for. And retreat time is VERY hard to come by.
In one sense, it’s funny to use this quote in this context. After all, I’ll be spending this week with a whole lot of people I really like hanging out with. Not a “deserted” place at all. But it is a restful one. One where we get to do morning and evening prayer in community every day.
And let’s be honest: as any parent knows, four or five days spent away from direct, hands-on responsibility for kids is, by definition, a retreat. This is a week in which I get to spend several of each day’s breaks walking quietly outside or settling into the recliner in my room, being still in the presence of God.
So pray for me this week, and I will pray for you. I’ll be back next week.
My freshman year in college, I landed (quite unintentionally) in an honors writing intensive class on Darwin which shook my faith right to the foundation. Sometime in college—not sure if it was that fall or later, when the fallout had time to settle—I remember sitting on the rough stoop outside the “back door,” so called even though it was on the front of the house because it was the work entrance with an iron bar to scrape manure off boots before coming inside, and saying to my mom, “Sometimes I wonder if I really believe any of this stuff at all.”
As a Catholic mother myself, that sounds like just about the worst thing a child can say to you, but my mom handled it with tremendous grace. She sighed. “Well, Thomas Aquinas said that you could prove the existence of God, but it would take so long to do it, it’s better to take it on faith. But everything in the universe is caused by something. And before that there’s another cause, and before that another one. And if you go back to the very beginning of all that, that’s God.”
It was a simple revelation but one that resonated deeply.
Twenty-some years later, I no longer doubt the existence of God. At all. Ever. I doubt many other things. I question many other things. I have a rocky relationship with the Gospel of John, for instance, because it seems to me that Jesus goes around picking fights and being deliberately obtuse. It’s hard for me to see through John’s advanced theology to who Jesus was and what he was like when he walked the earth.
So I pray often, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”
But I don’t doubt God, because in the past twenty years, I’ve encountered him so many times.
I didn’t realize that was the Holy Spirit until years later, when I was married and on the core team for Life Teen and I went to an adoration event where people were laughing and whispering in tongues and being slain in the spirit. I remember this rawness in my soul that night, a desire to experience the Spirit utterly at war with the certainty that such expressions were Not Within My Comfort Zone. When it was over, I thought with both disappointment and relief (but not surprise) that I’d been passed over.
Hours later, I processed the quiet, cool peace that had replaced the raw pulsing in my chest, and I thought, “Oh. Um. Something did happen to me in there.” It was the first time I connected that feeling I experienced by the creek in northern Iowa to the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is my guy. We talk all the time. We talk about music, about kid problems, about the personal flaws I want to be rid of, even about my writing. (We talk a lot about my writing.) The Spirit never, ever fails. If I don’t get a solution to my problem in short order, I’ve learned to step around the problem and ask another question—like, for instance, “Am I barking up the wrong tree? Am I not supposed to be doing this at all? Is this why it’s so hard?” (Sometimes the answer is: Obviously! Other times, it is: No, it’s just hard.)
There’s been a meme going around Facebook lately, saying something like “I don’t believe in God because someone told me to, I believe in God because I’ve experienced him.” It’s no secret that I am deeply, deeply suspicious of memes. That one seems a little self-righteous to me. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the sentiment, but wouldn’t the witness be more effective to just, y’know, tell what your experience of God is, rather than send out some nonspecific meme crowing about your faith?
So that’s what I’m doing today—since I have little time and way too much to do, I decided to free write this little witness of why I believe in God. What is yours?
A brief and very relevant thought from St. Teresa of Avila for All Saints Day. Because whenever we pray–really pray–we get closer to the mind of God, which sensitizes us to the ways we still fall short, and how much we need to change.
The interesting thing is that the section of Evangelii Gaudium from which I drew both yesterday’s and today’s posts is addressed to preachers. Yet both days resonate really strongly with me as a lay person. I’m guilty of this… are you?