Saturday, July 18, 2015

I've Been Here Before...

I'm having a moment. I'm going through a troubling time in my life and I'm having a moment, a special moment, and it seems familiar. I think back to when I was struggling to ignore the Church's teaching on artificial birth control. I had started to learn things about it, the reasons behind it, but I still ignored it. But, after several years, I started to notice a pattern: people started to enter my life to challenge my ignorance. It started as callers to radio shows dedicated to explaining Church teaching. Hosts of Catholic television shows started bringing it up more often. Magazine, newspaper, and website authors started to mention it from time to time. Then I started meeting people in real life, at church and at the Knights of Columbus, and they started talking about contraception's very real connection to abortion. I kept shutting it out, trying to remain in my ignorance, but I could feel the change in me; I could feel myself getting weak. The Lord was trying to teach me and he hounded me all the time. I could no longer feel peace when I was with my ex-wife. I wrestled with it whenever characters in a movie or TV show talked about enjoying contraception and sex without consequences. It kept beating me and beating me, like waves against an old, decrepit dock, until finally the dock collapsed from the strain. I couldn't ignore the logic anymore. I couldn't shut out the consistency this had with the rest of Church teaching and the Gospel message. It all made sense. It was a roadblock to truly hearing the message of selfless, sacrificial love that is supposed to exist in our lives, and in a particular way in marriage. I was finally defeated; like throughout life and like throughout existence, God won and evil lost.

I'm having one of those moments. Like a veteran of a past war, I'm starting to see the troops amassing on the border. Like a man who's spent his whole life on the sea, I can sense the rumblings on the horizon, the storm that will soon be approaching.

I've been reading books, or at least trying to read, and there are four in particular that have disrupted the original daily reading plan I had developed: Be a Man! by Fr. Larry Richards, A Way of Desert Spirituality by the Hermits of Bethlehem, Alcoholics Anonymous, the "big book" that's used in Overeaters Anonymous groups, and the OA Big Book Study Guide by Lawrie Cherniack. Reading these books, sometimes all within a day or by rotating them each day, they are all starting to align. It's like when planets start to align on those rare occasions and they form a giant bright star in the sky or a bright cluster. Or it's like several storms and pressure systems all coming together to form a Hurricane Sandy over my head. Just this morning, within all four books, they all spoke about self-discipline, abandonment to God's graces, stopping with the excuses, and taking care of the body with exercise and an end to gluttony. All four of them. I'm halfway through some books, just barely cracking others, but they all had the same message at the same time. And I have family encouraging me to submit to the power of God (getting prayed over), or to seek out the help of others, such as therapy - the AA and OA books are encouraging the same thing by going to the weekly meetings and seeking the transformative power of God's graces.

I've been here before, with artificial birth control. Or the death penalty. Or government assistance. Each time I dig my feet into the ground and tell God that he doesn't quite understand what real life is about, he proves himself right and myself wrong. Each time, through no real effort of my own, I start to get surrounded with reminders, anecdotes, shows, movies, news reports, books, personal testimony of friends, family, fellow parishioners, and saints; wave after waver after wave crashes against me, knocking the wind out of me day after day until I finally crumple under its power. As I head out to the supermarket, to most assuredly come back with good stuff, but also junk food, I see the troops mounting; I hear the thunder and see the dark clouds rolling in. I can feel it in the air. I can sense it in the words I'm reading...

God's about to teach me something, and it's not going to be pretty, but once the battle is over and the storm has cleared, all that remains is the beautiful sunshine, the chirping birds, and the smell of the fields of flowers where just before was barren and destroyed by pollution, warfare, and torrential storms.

I don't think I'm ready yet. But when have I ever been truly ready?