Lost But Not Forsaken

It is a well-established fact in my family that we are "directionally challenged." My mother could not read maps, and my father could not follow directions. Thus, we were lost on every vacation we ever went on. We got lost on the island of Puerto Rico, which is only 100 miles x 35 miles, so that was quite an accomplishment on my Dad's part.

I tried very hard to remove this curse from my generation. I'm an awesome co-pilot and a darn good navigator. My mother accused me once of marrying my DH simply because he ALWAYS knows what direction he's facing. (It's a bit sick, really, but...what can I do?)

DH was in the hospital for a few days (nothing too serious!) It's a large hospital, with seven different banks of elevators, a screwy parking garage (remember your level, letter and color!!) and some questionable signage.

The first night he was in, we were waiting for a test to be done, which we were told was imminent. Then the nurse came in and said he'd been moved to the back of the line due to several ER cases. I got kicked out, so that he could rest.

I took the wrong elevator down. And then I couldn't find the parking ramp, large as it is. The signs in the lobby took me so far, and then the signs for the parking ramp disappeared. Uh....?

I back tracked. Same results. I'll ask someone. That was a good plan, except that it was nearly midnight, and all the usual helpful people in the lobby were home. I sat down and nearly started crying - I couldn't figure this out, I was exhausted, and worried about DH. A lovely tech came by, walked me to the parking ramp, and wished me a good evening.

Monday night, at Mass, I gazed at the Nativity scene in front of the altar. It occurred to me that being lost is our heritage. The Jews were (sorta) lost in the desert for 40 years. I can't imagine that Joseph and Mary had a map as they hightailed it to Egypt in order to spare the Infant Jesus from death. And Jesus told us with great love that if we are lost, he'll come get us.

When you don't have a job and/or a chronic illness, being "lost" is a pretty common experience. I have spent most of the last two years asking God (ok, yelling at God): "Why am I here? I have no purpose here! Where do you want me to be? What do you want me to do here???"

(Side note: Yelling at God doesn't work. He will reveal answers in His own due time. And that's why he's God.)

He's answered a lot of my prayers. I have family that prays for me, friends who support me, a parish family that is brilliant and shimmering with faith.

I've come to realize that I have a cross-shaped hole in my heart. (Sorry, St. Augustine.) It is only when I am united with the Cross, the Crucifix, that I know I am home. The Cross becomes the compass, pointing us to Christ Himself. Once we are there, Christ graciously allows us to be a small part of His suffering.

I am lost, but never forsaken. And the act of being lost is important too. Just like I needed help to find the parking garage (and risk looking like an idiot when I asked for help.)

It seems to me that it doesn't matter how a person finds God or how God directs a person's life. What matters are these moments of grace when God reaches down and puts His light yoke upon us. No, he doesn't provide a map, but he does us one better. He reminds us first that He is with us, He will always be with us, and we are never alone.

Lost, but never forsaken. Found in Christ, our Eternal Home.

Into the Foggy Dew

If you've ever driven through a thick fog, you know what fear is. You can't see anything. You're not sure if you're still in your own lane. Your lights don't help; in fact, if you hit the high beams, the light will only reflect off the moisture in the fog, making it even harder to see.

Your hands grip the wheel. You sit up straighter. Every cell in your body is alert. You would pull off somewhere, but you truly can't see a thing.

I imagine that many of you feel that, in our present culture, we are driving through fog. Everything is muddled. Details are obscured. We can become so easily lost.

Sister Ruth Burrows, OCD, wants to help us make sense of the cultural and religious fog we seem to be trapped in. (By the way, if you are unfamiliar with the abbreviations of Catholic religious orders, OCD stands for Order of Discalced Carmelites. I know you were thinking obsessive-compulsive disorder.)

Sister Ruth writes:

We must move into the shadowy mists of detachment. Far on the horizon, see - God appears, and his coming spreads a mist over all the earth. We should want this silencing, shadowing mist, that cuts us off from unnecessary things - things that are not him for us. We cannot truly see them until he comes, so it is better to live in the mist - detachments, silence of desire - accepting the mystery. We must shroud our souls in Advent mist.

What?? I have to move into mists and fogs? How will I ever see God clearly if I do that? I can't even see my own hand in front of my face!

First, remember that God is mystery. Yes, we can know Him, but not fully, not in this life. We catch glimpses of Him in our sacraments, in Scripture, in those around us.

I think Sister's big point here is: stop relying on yourself. Stop stockpiling "stuff" in order to fill up that God-shaped hole each of us has. Everything we know, see, hear and touch in this world is distorted - we cannot see its full beauty or its full ugliness.

What we have to do, says Sister Ruth, is plop down and get very comfortable in the foggy mist. If we do so while fully trusting in God, He will not only keep us safe (and here I mean our true "us" - our souls), but He will reveal Himself at the right time.

We have to get comfortable with the fog. That means silence. Give yourself time and space to pray be shutting off the noise in your world. We must detach ourselves from all things that take our attention away from God, or worse, putting someone or something in the place where only God can be.

Even tougher: we have to trust that God has allowed this fog, and He will lift it when He knows it is the right time. Our job is to sit and prayerfully wait.

Perhaps when you were little, a parent gave you the lesson my dad gave us: if you get lost in the woods (which was a very real scenario for us), STOP MOVING AROUND. Sit and wait, Dad said, and we will find you. If you keep moving, it makes it harder and harder for you to be found.

In this Advent season, sit and wait. Be calm. Get comfortable with silence. Ponder what parts of your life you need to detach from.

Most importantly, know that God is with you in this foggy dew. You are not lost. Be patient. And God will reveal Himself. Yes, there in the mist and fog: God is there. What upon Him.

My baby, he wrote me a letter

One of the casualties of our post-modern age is the handwritten letter. Can you remember the last time you received one? We hardly even s...