Did you ever have a time in your life where you felt like you were hanging by your last thread? Everything around you seems to be upside down and you are stuck with no way out?
These times can come and go in our lives, even in the spiritual life. We feel like we are making no progress in prayer or it seems useless and so very confusing. So what can we do when these situations are upon us?
Recently, I have been learning about St. Ignatius of Loyola’s rules for discernment. These rules are based upon 2 basic “states”: Consolation and Desolation. Without getting into too much detail, consolation is when our emotions, reactions, and prayer feel peaceful and productive. Its when we “enjoy” the spiritual life, it feels fruitful, and we experience the goodness of God. Desolation is just the opposite: prayer and God seem very far away and our spiritual state can sometimes feel like that first sentence… upside down and unproductive.
So, what can you do when you feel this way? When everything in you seems to want to avoid prayer and God? Or you are simply so confused that you feel helpless?
Over the past two months I have had the opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream from my childhood. While I was taking my afternoon walk in the meadow, I observed a monarch butterfly carefully scanning the plants and leaves. This little monarch then stopped briefly on a small sapling. Ah! Delight of my heart, I had just witnessed the laying of an egg!
I received permission (to my jubilant surprise) to collect a few of these eggs and raise them! Each one received its own little habitat (ok, I placed the plant clipping into a plastic water bottle) and off we went! I watched them grow and provided fresh milkweed as necessary. They grew very quickly into happy, healthy caterpillars.
Once they were full grown they ventured off (to the edges of my protective netting) to affix themselves for the next stage of their journey. This means they made a small silken thread, held on with their back pseudo-feet, and hung upside-down! Perhaps you can see why they form the perfect example for us to examine. Hanging upside-down by a thread. Within about 24 hours, a green chrysalis forms and they shed their skin. Then they wait again in this little green sac for a good 2 weeks.
Our waiting can mimic this natural process of nature. It is a hidden waiting, a hoping for a sense of Presence; an experience of Light. These hidden graces come in quite disguised ways: some sudden knowledge of one’s weaknesses revealed; a quiet peace that flows through the heart, letting one know that all is well, all is good. Our final emergence, hopefully, will be as beautiful as the monarchs’, but we are still waiting for that final blossoming. While we may go in and out of more intense periods of waiting during our life. Some of which may feel peaceful and others feel upside-down and filled with tension, we must continue to wait in expectation. To accept the hidden graces quietly slipped into our souls at each moment.