“Cast all your worries upon Him because he cares for you. Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
(1 Peter 5:7)
Life is a journey, not a destination. I think Emerson said that. It’s true though. 100%.
Nearly 10 weeks ago I prostrated myself in front of the Blessed Sacrament in prayer. It was a soul baring, heart wrenching sort of encounter.
I tried to listen & follow, and have since been led into what was to become one of the most difficult experiences in my life to date.
“Everlasting God has in his wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that he now presents to you as a gift from his inmost heart.
This cross he now sends you he has considered with his all-knowing eyes, understood with his divine mind, tested with his wise justice, warmed with loving arms, and weighed with his own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you.
He has blessed it with his holy name, anointed it with his consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.”
- St. Francis de Sales
I love this.
That statement makes my world make sense, like a cipher does to a code. That and the fact that I believe God is Love.
We all have free will. I have my free will. After the disastrous last few weeks, that part, if I had forgotten it, is blindingly clear now. I had to wade through the muddy waters of this battle and choose God. Again.
It’s just, this time, I don’t really know. It has been different. More intense. More real.
At the end of November, I was on a retreat in Florida with a room full of youth ministers, and some of my colleagues from around North America. It was beautiful and challenging and all the things I hope a retreat will be. We were praying one afternoon when all of a sudden I was no longer in the room. I was no longer in the hotel. I was no longer surrounded by my peers praising God.
I was on a rocky hill, top on my knees, shivering.
I couldn’t see anything. At first I could only feel the jagged rocks cutting into my knees and the hard rough wooden surface cutting into my shoulder.
I realized then what I was doing. I was holding on so tightly to this post that I was cutting and bruising my shoulder.
I could hear the wind and feel it ruffling my hair. Although I could feel the wind, it was eerily still.
After a few moments I felt a drop of liquid land on my temple, like a rain drop; only, as it ran into my eye it burned. I was shocked for a second and felt my head turn upwards.
I saw Him.
Jesus on the cross.
Broken, bruised, malnourished, weak, and tortured.
Bleeding from his crown of thorns, down his nose and on to me.
The blood was stinging my eyes. Drop. Drop. Drop.
I was rocked to the core, couldn’t breathe, and held on even more tightly. I think I started to cry then. Empathetic tears.
Then, His broken earthly body transformed and was replaced with His glorified body. It was an indescribable brightness; so intense that I could feel it burning my skin.
Love. It enveloped me.
I felt it from the hairs of my head to the tips of my toes. Such peace, like I have never ever known.
When I opened my eyes again, I was back in the room with my head tilted upwards and all was just as I had left it. Youth ministers singing in worship, room dimmed, and candles lit All of it normal.
I didn’t even know what to think, so I just prayed in thanksgiving; Enjoying the consolation.
That was the beginning of the end.
The pics I used really don’t do any justice at all to what it was actually like. I still can’t even believe that happened.
Over the last 59 days I have been locked into a battle, the likes of which I have never encountered before. Vicious temptation, doubt, selfishness, malice, anger, distraught, despair, and above all else an irrational fear to receive my Sacraments. No Prayer. None.
If you are active in your faith, you may be thinking – “Woman, get to Confession, receive Jesus in the Eucharist, stat!” Heck, that’s what I would tell someone who was suffering though this!
That’s the point though. Through most of this I didn’t really tell anyone; at least not the whole story. I thought I was fine. I thought I was coming into my own independence; making my own decisions. Who needs church? Who needs God? Why am I even in ministry? God couldn’t possibly love me. I’m useless. I’m a hypocritical fraud. That’s not for me – it’s too much, too hard, and I’m too big of a pretender. I don’t need to pray. I’ve fallen this far. Whats the point of getting up? If I can’t even minister to my own kids, how could I ever possibly ministry to the families in my church?? I just don’t fit in here.
It’s sobering reflecting on it today.
There are some things going on right now that are unusual for me… I think as Youth Ministers, Spiritual battle is part of our lives. We are evangelists. Spreading to Gospel to young people where ever we go. That’s not something satan will let lie. I think a lot of faithful Christians experience it and don’t even realize it.
God loves us. And because God loves us, the devil and the demons hate us, because they hate God. They prowl about the world constantly seeking to ruin our souls, to cause us to despair of God’s mercy, and to drag us to hell.
I agreed to teach Sacramental prep about 2 months ago. Do you want to guess what Sacrament I am teaching 22 young people about right now?
A soul free from sin is in a state of grace and has nothing to fear from the devil!
So there is that… but there is also that day in prayer. The day I was prostrate in front Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It’s THAT, I think more than anything, that has accompanied me through this battle.
I submitted. I offered my life. I was honest of my doubts and bared my fears. I asked for guidance. For a sign. I was terrified.
About two weeks ago I spent an entire night in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It seems to begin and end with Jesus doesn’t it?
One Holy Hour turned in to 5. It was my crusade night. Before that night I had a hard time even uttering the name of Jesus aloud. After that night I could pray again. Weakly, this is true. But, all the same, I was crawling out of that great abyss on what felt like Grace alone.
I am pretty thankful for the holiness of my brothers and sisters in Christ. If it weren’t for them, I don’t know if I would have made it.
I bowed down, and once again, I was back in front of the Blessed Sacrament, prostrate, and begging for mercy.
In all of this, that night was the first time I had cried out to God for help.
I opened the door.
He saved me.
I think in part, this journey had to do with the little children preparing for their Sacrament. But, I think more than that, it has to do with my original prayer.
I was just in such a state of anguish. Over the last 12 months or so, I had been going through something my confessor calls a “mid-day malaise”. A time of desolation. A test. There had been some significant life changes happening and through it I was obedient in prayer. Unceasingly. I prayed always. As a Youth Minister I could see blessings happening around me, yet in my personal spiritual life, it was as if there was a veil between myself and God. I could feel nothing. I felt very, very alone.
I have been in this desert of discernment a while. What is the purpose of my hands and feet? I beg constantly for guidance; For a faith that I could be assured of. If God is calling me? Shouldn’t I be more sure? I was filled with questions and already some doubts.
It’s funny. I don’t really have an answer to all of this, still.
Right now I am filled with gratitude. I can breathe freely. I know what I must do. And, although yes I am scared, I am still going to talk to my priest.
I am quite assured that God loves me. I am also quite assured that no matter how I fall, He is always beside me. Obvious to you maybe, but I had to learn that there is NOTHING I can do to make God love me. It’s not based on anything I am doing. That was and is hard to fathom. Love, freely given? It makes me weep.
Here we are.
On the feast of St Paul. One of the greatest conversion stories in our Biblical history.
I am about to go to Confession for the first time in over two months. I have been dragged through hell and mercifully have been loved back. It’s the time to make my Fiat. I don’t need to shout about it, I just need to live it. Maybe this trial was meant to prevent it from happening? Or, maybe it was just enough drama for me to see what life without God looks like. A taste of humanity in an agnostic world.
I don’t know. I don’t know anything.
Today is a good day to spend some time reflecting on Ephesians 6.
St Paul, please pray for me.
Keep the faith, Posers~
If anyone out there has had similar encounters with Spiritual Warfare, leave a comment below. I’d love to know your story.