This post is part of the Flashback Series featuring posts from the site archives. It was originally published on March 2, 2007. I wrote it during Lent, after I had been extremely ill with a severe flu that my dad brought back when he returned home from his job in Abu Dhabi. I was particularly disappointed about the illness because I had expected such big things for the last Lent before we would officially become Catholic.
My flu symptoms are finally gone, though I’m now left with a raging sinus infection that leaves me with a constant, throbbing headache and heavy fatigue. It was impressed upon me how sick I’ve been when I went to the doctor yesterday to discover that I’ve lost seven pounds in the past couple of weeks…no small feat when you’re 13 weeks pregnant.
As I lay in bed last night, unable to sleep from a nagging cough, I wondered if there was perhaps something I could learn from this, or that maybe this illness directly coincided with the beginning of Lent because I was meant to gain something spiritually from it. I quickly decided that unless God was trying to reveal to me that “being sick blows” or “it totally sucks to have a sinus infection” that this was just a purposeless, totally annoying illness that did nothing but derail all my big plans for Lent.
I spent a while dwelling on how this illness has completely inhibited my spiritual progress: my big vision of having an extra prayerful experience at Ash Wednesday Mass, to get up early to pray the Rosary, to go with good Catholic friends to a Knights of Columbus Friday fish fry — all wonderful plans that did not come to pass. I’ve felt so rotten I’ve barely even been able to remember to say a few prayers here and there. But as I listened to this internal dialogue something jumped out at me:
It’s all about me being in control. It’s all about MY plans.
And as I thought back over the past couple of years, I realized that, in general, I have always expected to grow closer to God on my terms. I want a sign that fits my requirements at the time and place of my choosing; I want my first Adoration experience to be powerful so that I’m easily motivated to go more often; I want this final Lent before I enter the Church to deepen my faith according to the schedule laid out on my calendar, starting with a stirring Ash Wednesday Mass and ending with a movie-quality Easter Vigil experience. And when things don’t happen in the manner, time and place of my choosing, I promptly resign myself to frustration and despair.
I have never, I realized, been able to let go and trust in God.
Illness was not on my carefully-crafted Spiritual Growth Agenda for Lent 2007, so I threw up my hands and lost much of my zeal. This mentality is very typical of me, and I see now that it’s a major roadblock to faith. I don’t know if trust in God comes more easily for people who were raised in religious households, but I can definitely say that when you’ve lived your life as an atheist it’s hard to give up the notion that you’re in control, that your life is yours to plan and manipulate at will. Because I’m so entrenched in my role as organizer and leader, whenever I think of setting aside the checklists and the calendar and just prayerfully letting God guide me, I have this absurd gut-reaction thought that’s something along the lines of, “What if God screws it up?”
So, yeah. I have a lot of work to do. But I’m glad to have realized this because, looking back on my spiritual journey so far, it’s now glaringly obvious to me that I am not usually willing to fully (or even partially) trust in God, and that I’ll never become the person he wants me to be without it. I suppose I keep waiting until my faith is rock-solid and every single doubt has been washed away before I put too much trust in this mysterious God of ours. But perhaps that’s backwards. I’m starting to think that trust comes before faith, that God will draw me close as soon as I’m willing to admit that I’m not the one who’s running the show.
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