In my life’s journey, I needed to accept that there are critical moments when the Lord moves me out of my comfort zone and throws me into a wilderness period of reflection, purification and renewal. Often these times are painful, isolating and dry. It seems like a pit of stagnation when nothing is happening, just spiritual darkness and dryness, and no other soul can help me get out of the dungeon. And yet I often find out at the end, that once I embrace this, it actually becomes a period of utmost growth, learning, restoration and inner strength.
Thus after ten years of fervent and furious service in a prayer group setting, I have decided to rest and leave. At first, there was much spiritual kicking- I resented, resisted and rebelled against such an idea. After all, I was very comfortable with what I was doing- it gave me tremendous personal joy, reward, affirmation and acceptance from people of the same wavelength. The task of sustaining what I was doing was easy and no longer involves hard work.
But in the midst of these, of course, is that undeniable gnawing feeling that something was not quite right. I could not define “that something”, except that it came as “no desire” to attend, participate or continue. “That something” also made me feel that I was losing personal connection to the God I once loved with so much delight and zeal. This seemed very strange to me and many of my community members, for how can one lose a connection to the Lord we adore in such a prayerful setting, for after all the activities are God-centered. I started to explore the reasons for this battle. I blamed the devil- he was at his tricks again. So I cast him out, prayed for deliverance, and commanded him with the word of God to leave me alone. As I did, much of my fears and heaviness disappeared but “that something” was still there. Then I blamed myself- my sins probably brought this on me. I prayed for swift repentance and went to the sacrament of reconciliation frequently. The dark cloud looming over me was lifted up but “that something” was still there. Baffled by what was happening, I asked the Lord what was really going on. I told Him that since I surrendered my life to Him ten years ago, I have no intention of leaving Him and letting go of the great graces I have received.
The answer came through three things- a rose, a sunset and a book. Once on my way home, I picked up a yellow rose in the middle of a busy train station. It was slightly crushed, bruised, but it has not lost its wonderful scent. I had a feeling that St Therese, my patron saint, who answers prayers through a shower of roses was interceding for me. If there is any saint who understands the darkness of the soul best, she is one of them. She knew what I was going through and gave me an assurance that there is hope in what was happening to me. A few days later, I was awed by a magnificent sunset. The Lord often speaks to me through the healing balm of nature. The sun was such a perfect ball of soft red, yellow and orange that one could look at it without any discomfort to the eye. I had a feeling then that the Holy Spirit is giving me back my anointing and as He promised me on the day of my Baptism in the Spirit, He will never leave me. Then one night, I was given a book by my sister-in-law Nancy, Joel Osteen’s, “Become a Better You”. It was a confirmation of what was happening to me.
God, he says is a progressive God and no matter where we are in our life, God has more in store for us. He never wants us to quit growing. He wants us to reach new heights in our abilities, in our spiritual walk, in our finances, careers, and personal relationships. Of course, I have known all these before. But His message came like a hammer on my head, to remind me that God knows me best- not even myself, not my family, nor my brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter how much they love me. God knows when I need that time of rest, renewal and the readiness for new vision. All I needed was to trust Him and use the waiting time to get closer to Him and understand His great plan.
There is much to do at the waiting time anyway- if used wisely, this waiting time could be the most nurturing and revealing time of who we are. While I am waiting for God’s next assignment, I have learned to build a better relationship with my daughter and husband, family members and friends from of old whom I somehow “shelved” in favour of community service for years. And now that my granddaughter of six months has added joy into our family life, changing nappies, sterilising bottles, bathing and baby-sitting have become offerings of love.
The Lord has taught me that getting up in the middle of the night to attend to her is just as spiritually anointed as serving a large community. God sees both events and weighs them according to the purity of our hearts. The Lord has also taught me a valuable lesson- it is not all about me, and if He uses me to further His Kingdom, it is His work and nothing of mine. There is also the unlearning of old habit patterns. When we do the same thing over and over again, we can become so comfortable and we can take many things for granted. We may even lose our better judgment and become critical of others and ourselves. Instead of allowing the Lord to do His work, it is a great temptation to claim the credit and we can hold others back from new growth too.
Joel Osteen recommends that when we come to a closed door or something does not work out in our life, instead of seeing it as an end, regard it as God nudging us into a better direction. Our God is God of new life. As long as we are rooted in Him, He will help us give birth to more in the future than what we’ve lost in the past. All we have to do is press forward and believe that the best is yet to come. And as one spiritual writer said: “God has never put anyone in a place too small to grow.” Just honour the seed He is placing in your heart and press forward.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
This article was first published on 10 June 2010