Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Look Back

I wrote this after receiving a letter from a young, enthusiastic campus minister. He told about the baptism of a young convert, about how she longed for the Holy Eucharist, week after week. I remember that feeling. When I was 19, and in college, I became a Catholic. After instruction, I put off my own baptism for six months at the request of my father. I think he hoped I would change my mind. But week after week, I longed for the Bread of Life. I was so in love with God. On fire. More in love than I ever would be again. And I am still in love, but now it is the love of a long relationship.

A Look Back and a Bit of What I Have Learned

I remember how I thought the day of my baptism and first eucharist would never come. When I was young I felt so on fire with love for God. That fire and enthusiasm lasted so long I thought it would last forever. I have learned something, though. After a time, those fires cool, just as in a marriage the honeymoon has to end. That doesn't mean that love ends, just the initial intense period of falling in love.

As time goes by in a marriage, and in our relationship to God, we become more comfortable with each other. We are so sure of our relationship that we don't even need to speak out loud. So it is with Christ. We have learned to be always aware of the other's presence, but don't need to talk. We communicate without words. It is a prayer without ceasing, the practice of the presence of God. That will continue for the rest of your life.

A day will come when it seems that he has abandoned you. Or at least moved to Australia. When that day arrives, remember that it is the next stage in your faith journey, that of the dark night. It can last a short time or many years. Look at Mother Teresa; for her it was 50 years.

The way you will survive it is this: First, you have the memory of these days. Cherish every moment that you are on fire with the love of God. Remember it. Write faithfully in a journal. You can reread it someday when it seems dark. Second, you can see the fruit of your labor- if you are honest, and if you have a good confessor. You can tell that God is there and that your relationship is still strong, if the result of your effort is good. "By their fruit you will know them."

Saint Teresa of Avila said of this time, it is like the infant that the mother once held close in her arms. But when it was time for the child to learn to walk, she stood behind, with her arms open, one on each side, to catch her child If he were to fall. It isn't that God isn't there, God is right there with you, ready to catch you if you begin to fall.

When this darkness falls, don't despair. Remember that it means you are growing in faith. It means that God is using you in such a manner that you can't know of his presence. Sometimes it is our faith in times like this, when we don't feel the presence of God, that is the most inspirational to others, and gives them the joy of consolation that we lack for a time. Most often, we aren't even aware of the affect we have on others, and have to be told, or simply have faith that it is happening. So for today, "Run while you have the light of life" toward God. Follow wherever he leads. Be obedient to whatever he asks of you, even if it is as strange as building a boat in the middle of a dry desert. You will be ready when the flood comes. And later, when everything seems covered in water and there is no land in sight, you will have today to remind you that all will be well.

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