I am struggling.
I do not want to be negative when people ask me how I feel. I try to choose joy and appreciate my blessings even if I do not feel particularly happy. Yet, much of what has happened to us over the past year and a half has been kind of awful or just maddeningly difficult.
As I ever so cautiously poke my head out of my hermit crab shell, I see many smiling and slightly concerned faces. “Hey! Where have you been? What’s new? I haven’t seen you in, like, more than a year. How are you?”
Here, I am transported to Robert Frost’s yellow wood. I can choose one of several responses:
- - Brief summary of time since last visit, glossing over the more gory details
- - Longer version wherein I tell them how these events made me feel
- - Full scale conversation that includes the bumper sticker incident
- - I’m great! What’s new with you?
Naturally, my relationship with the inquirer influences my decision. However, after telling the story over and over, I feel tired. Like maybe I just want to move on and not talk about it all the time. Yet, there have been many occasions in which this conversation has benefitted one or both of us. A friend gives welcome advice. Compassion blooms. Pain is shared.
God has blessed me immensely through my trials. He has led me to the most tender and compassionate souls who soothe my angry heart. He has drawn me to Himself and scooted me closer to my sweet husband. He has poured His peace into me and invited me to rest.
In Sunday's Gospel, Jesus informs us that we must pick up our crosses and follow Him in order to reach Heaven. He firmly reminds us that our ways are not God’s ways and that we should not expect God to adhere to our plans. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus tells us, “I will be with you until the end of the age.” Nothing can make Him leave us. We cannot fully understand how deeply He loves each of us.
Yet, nowhere does Jesus say, “Glad you’ve joined the team! The rest should be easy from here.” Remember that cross we are called to pick up? It’s heavy and full of splinters, and people we pass laugh and sneer at us. Many times, pain is still pain even amid splendid blessings. Sometimes, thankfully, it fades. Yet, I often find that the wonderful in life does not simply replace the awful. We feel them both at once, and that can be confusing.
Here I am feeling peaceful, but not excited. Joyful, but wounded and angry. Do I really have to tell my whole story to everyone just in case they are suffering too? Is it really my job to teach the world compassion through sharing my pain? I certainly do not mean this sarcastically. These are real questions. I would hate to selfishly hide my experience from someone who is feeling alone in a similar circumstance. Yet, I also do not wish to awkwardly burden everyone I meet with my bizarre and complicated tales or have them think I am some kind of longsuffering saint. Sometimes, I am just tired of retelling the same sad tale. It gets exhausting having to revisit the pain when I would really prefer to discuss anything else. I try to let the other person lead the conversation, which has proven helpful. But, even then, some people ask questions they just don’t want to hear me answer honestly. For example, when people ask why we have not adopted, it is very difficult for me not to say, “Because all the babies are dead.”
I told you. I am awkward. And kinda angry. We haven’t even started on how I feel about our upcoming mission.
The first full day of orientation, our mission director informed us that the husband and I will not be going to our originally scheduled destination. The volunteer accommodations are simply not ready and will not be for another six months or so. The only other site open was the husband’s original first choice and my absolute last. At our discernment weekend, I said, “I would like to go anywhere except… That site has challenges I am simply not prepared to handle.” And then God chuckled because He thinks He’s hilarious.
Why the …, you ask? Our new site is located in a country whose religious climate is complicated. We are embarking on a mission in which we will not be allowed to talk about our faith. We will still be working with young people and hopefully inspiring them to seek the truth in their lives. However, we, along with the local priests and brothers, must carry out this mission simply by living as good Christians as we perform our daily tasks.
I was hesitant to accept this placement for several reasons. First, my sister has long been working diligently to be able to move to this area of the world and live her own dreams. How could I waltz in and do her thing? Second, I am intimidated by the isolation this site could impose. We cannot even mention spiritual matters in emails or over the phone. I will not be able to keep up this blog while we are there. Yikes.
After much prayer, talking with the husband, and a few tears, we decided to accept this placement. This is a great act of trust for me. I am choosing to follow my husband’s lead and let God take us where He likes. I keep thinking of Saint Joseph when the angel told him to pack up Mary and Jesus and take them to Egypt. Joseph didn’t say, “Eehhh, it’s really hot there. How about Asia Minor?” He did not ask what prize was at the end for him. He just listened to God. Joseph did not even live to see Jesus’ marvelous triumph over death. He died without seeing the fruits of his acts of faith. Yet all was well with his soul. And, now, because of his trust and obedience, we may say the same for ourselves.
Though I want to go on this mission, and am happy about it, I do not feel very excited. We will face some obvious challenges, and who knows what unannounced trials we will face. When pondering whether this was all a grand mistake, I revisited my own words. In my job as a social worker, I met incredibly generous people who are ever ready to perform whatever task necessary to assist our suffering neighbors. I also encountered people who wanted to help the poor, but only on their own terms. It seemed to me that they preferred to help in ways that looked nice or had a certain “warm fuzzy” quality to them.
“Caring for the poor doesn’t always look cute,”
I have been known to say. It is often tedious, frustrating, and exhausting. Yet, how refreshing is the deep peace I feel knowing I have faithfully answered God’s call. On the surface, this mission makes but a little sense to me. I must ask myself why. Is it because any positive results of my work will be all but hidden from me? Or maybe because this community is not materially poor, and I don’t see why they need us? What’s so important about learning a few English words anyway? Is this really worth leaving my family for so long? I don’t see the point.
And I have decided I am strangely okay with that. I choose to trust God in this and see what ridiculous adventure He has in store for us.
But, again, explaining to the general population that I am not currently experiencing giddy emotions over this trip is a little weird for me. I think I feel somewhat frightened that someone is going to say, “You’re not excited? No mission for you!”
Irrational? Probably. But have you read anything else about the inner workings of my brain? Anyhoo… This is yet another area of my life I am not sure how to express. I do not enjoy feeling like I have to worry about people’s insensitive comments at every turn. I dislike that those comments bother me at all. I do not want to feel like I must constantly defend myself and the weirdness that is mine and the husband’s life. I want to be joyful in the midst of all this.
Mary, Help of Christians, help me stay close to Jesus in my struggles. Pray that my heart might be quiet and I learn to trust in Him and cease all this silly worrying. Help me drown my anger in His peace.