On the first night of the retreat, we were asked to come up with something from our Franciscan lives, without too much thought - first thing that came to mind, to share with the group as an icebreaker. Mine was "I am a failure".
Now, that's not as horrible as it sounds. I mean, it's only the first step in a long sequence of steps that I go through whenever I face a crisis in my life. It really does get better. But that's always where I start.
There are a lot of reasons for my starting at this place. Most of it has to do with the perfectionist tendencies I have and the willingness to take on the burden of everything in my life, whether it's my responsibility or not. It's where I start. It's not where I end up.
At certain times in my life, this "failure step" is a place I get stuck. It feels like I can't do enough, be enough, talk enough, get anything accomplished fast enough or good enough. I'm betting a lot of people feel like this. The Psalmist David did:
Hasten to answer me, O Lord, for my spirit fails me. Hide not your face from me lest I become like those who go down into the pit. (Psalm 143:7-8)I cannot think of a more apt way to describe what I've been feeling of late: a failure of spirit, God hiding His face from me, being in a pit. It is an easy place to get stuck.
What's the remedy? It's pretty simple, yet very difficult: staying close to Christ in the sacraments and in prayer. I don't want to pray. It's hard to pray. I feel like a failure even at prayer, but it's the only ladder out of the pit.