I was having an interesting (and tearful) discussion with one of my clerks this morning. She is exhausted by recent events in her life and unsure as to why the experience is now manifesting in physical ailments, befuddled thinking and overwhelming feelings of wanting to run away and hide.
When I say she is "unsure" I don't mean to imply that she doesn't understand the well-documented mind/body connection. She gets that; what she doesn't get is why she is still feeling so bad. After all, the icky stuff hit the electric rotating wind machine awhile ago - shouldn't she be over it by now?
Oh, boy. I know just what she means.
Often I find myself mystified by what I have come to call 'emotional flash backs'. Out of nowhere, memories of something I did that was stupid or immoral will slam into me like a 10 ton wrecking ball, or I will be given another piece of information about something that is already getting bigger and bigger and the thought of "NOPE CAN'T TAKE IT!" will make my mind light up like a tilted pin ball machine.
I am always puzzled when this happens.
As we talked, I started to try and articulate what I think is going on when the idea of "that's it- enough!" hits me. Let's see if this makes sense to any of you.
As a woman of Faith - a Catholic Woman trying hard to live as a Catholic Out Loud - I get up every morning and make a very deliberate and willful decision to live my life in adherence with the teachings of Jesus and His Church, just for that day. It is not a decision I make lightly; to try and do so means I am going to be walking a path that is in direct contradiction to the path offered by today's society. I am going to be called names for it. I am going to be held in contempt for taking the path I choose. I am also going to be loved and admired, and not believed (you've been celibate for HOW long?)..in other words, all the things I am going to be doing because of that decision are going to take strength and determination.
Most people don't want to do it. They choose an easier version (I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior and so I am assured of salvation...good bye) or they reject any notion that they have to make the decision at all (organized religion doesn't matter as long as you are a good person). They adapt the beliefs of the world (women should be priests, all marriage is ok)and then try and wind a pretty ribbon labeled Christianity around their hodge podge of ideas.
I understand. Trust me. I used to think like that as well.
But something happens when you have a personal encounter with Reality. You find that it is impossible to live a life that does not conform to the Teachings of that Reality. So, despite the hardship and the stumbling and the lack of popular support, one finds themselves trapped by their own need to do the next right thing.
What this means is, every morning I make that deliberate and willful decision to follow the Way when I know I am not going to be able to do it. I am going to fail.
My goal is to be perfect, as my Heavenly Father is perfect.
In the case of my clerk, because she too is a woman of Faith, she had to offer help to a friend in need. The help turned into a long nightmare for her and her own family, until she finally had to deliver the woman and her four children to a shelter. She could not longer keep them in her own home. Her own children were becoming stressed out, a family pet was injured, the friend turned out to have serious mental illness issues and all in all the experience was becoming crazy.
And now, of course, she feels so sad and defeated - she had so wanted to help.
I shared with her that I have learned I cannot do any of this Catholic thing without the grace I receive from the Sacraments. I told her that without that grace, I cannot be the woman I am today - the one with little sleep and no time to get her hair cut.
I have shared that one of the toughest character defects I have is my tendency to feel bad when the help I give seems to either fall short, be rejected or actually do no good at all. I so want to be all things to all people, like St Paul writes, but I can't - I am just no good at it.
Trying to accept my own limitations seems to be an ongoing struggle for me. I am not sure if it is pride and ego. I think it would be simple to dismiss it as that but I don't think that is it.
I honestly believe I am deeply disappointed when people around me cannot accept the incredible gift of grace that is so freely offered to them. I am disappointed because I know the strength, joy and beauty of that gift. I WANT them to have it. And when it is not accepted, the pain I feel in my heart is not because I didn't give it to them - it is because they honestly do not know what they are missing.
And that makes me sad.
So we cried together a little and then laughed at ourselves and then went back to work. Today I am grateful for that moment in my office.
Because today I got to share the gift of humility with someone else.
What a great thing it is to share!