OK, since a couple people asked, I’ll share the rest of the story that I alluded to in my previous post: what happened when I decided to let go of my anxiety and just trust God. (I hope my atheist readers are taking a break from blog reading today. They’ll think I’ve lost my mind once and for all!)
So there I was, driving around a dark neighborhood, a zillion anxious thoughts running through my head: “I cannot believe I’m running late AGAIN! Am I ever going to be on time for anything again now that I have kids?! And isn’t it JUST MY LUCK that Google Maps took me to the wrong place when I was running late to begin with! Is my friend going to be offended that I didn’t show up?! Should I call my husband and see if he can navigate me to the right place, even though he’s trying to deal with all three kids?! I wonder if he’s getting really stressed out watching them after his twelve-hour day at work!…” You get the idea.
I was stuck in this mentality that since I’d screwed everything up by being late and getting a bad map and getting lost, I was on my own; God’s will would have been for me to not screw up in the first place, and now it was up to me to figure it out. Luckily, I was able to pull out of my anxious rut long enough to remember that that was not the case. God has a will for us at every moment, even when we get ourselves in bad situations. I realized that it wasn’t too late — it’s never too late — to turn to him and humbly seek his will. So that’s what I did. I made the choice to let go of my anxiety, to trust that God guide me down the right path. I decided to pull over to pray and think, so I turned down a dark side street.
As I was slowing down to park, a bright object caught my eye: a shining statue of Our Lady.
Some small church had a little outdoor chapel with a white statue of Mary, which glowed in the light of a big floodlight. In the darkness of that unlit neighborhood on a winter night, it stood out like lighthouse on a dark sea. It was so beautiful, and so uncanny that I’d seen it as soon as I’d decided to seek God. The only prayer I could say was just, “Thank you.”
I was so drawn to the statue, so eager to express my thanks to God and his Mother for giving me this little sign. I wanted to get out of my car to go pray in the chapel, but that seemed dangerous in this dark, unfamiliar neighborhood. A thought popped into my mind, and I knew with certainty that it’s what I was supposed to do: I’d go to my church.
A sense of peace washed over me. All of my anxiety was completely gone. I wasn’t supposed to go home, I wasn’t supposed to try to make it to my friend’s event, I wasn’t supposed to squeeze in some errands. I was to go to church. On my way over I turned on Relevant Radio and one of the first things I heard was a guy talking about how his life changed after Our Lady guided him to go to church one night. (I’m not making this up, I promise!)
When I got there I was surprised to see a lot of cars in the parking lot. I walked up to see some note about the Feast of the Something Something on the door and could hear that a Mass was going on. I didn’t think we usually had Mass at 7:30 on Fridays, so I planned to just peek my head in the door and then head out, maybe going to find the nearest Adoration chapel to pray for a while. But when I looked in I was surprised to see a good friend standing in the entry hall with her baby, so I walked in to say hello. While we waited for her to go in and receive Communion I asked her why she was there at such an unusual time.
She responded by telling me that it was a Vigil Mass for a holy day of obligation: the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Mary’s feast day. I’d had no idea.
Chills ran down my spine. God seemed so close that I was almost tempted to look over my shoulder in case he and Mary were standing there. I looked in at the glow of the sanctuary, the angelic music wafting all through the building, and felt I was in a warm oasis of life and beauty. I also realized that it was almost two years to the day since I first began going to this church (which, of course, I blogged about at the time). It was a wonderful moment of feeling safe and at home, realizing how very far I’d come since the first time I stumbled into this strange place.
I left the church after the Mass ended, knowing that I had done what I was meant to do that night. Earlier this week in prayer I had asked Mary to pray for me, and to bring me closer to her. I’d also asked for God to show me how I can make it to daily Mass more often — and in figuring out how to squeeze in going to church for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception I discovered some local Mass times that I hadn’t known about before that will allow me to make it happen.
I think the events of Friday night were answered prayers. It was one of those times when everything seemed to come together, when God seemed so close that I could practically touch him. And I could have so easily missed it all if I’d continued to be anxious, if I hadn’t stopped and made a conscious decision to put all my trust in God.