short excerpts...other writings...upon occasion or as prompted...
The tiger in the water? A representation of my life -- spirit and environment!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Friend's Dark Days

My friend, Jean, was the instrument through which God nudged me (well, more accurately, pulled and pushed me) back into the flock, beginning with a very clear conk on the head. So, I was used to going to Jean for spiritual advice and help.

Help, though, was something I was called upon, surprisingly, to do for Jean not long after she had helped me so remarkably. The need to help Jean unnerved me at first. I had depended upon her insights and guidance up until that point. Now she needed me, and I was not sure that I was ready. There was, however, no choice. I had to be ready.

Jean handily worked in my building, so she often dropped by after work, and we would grab a bite to eat, talk, or do something together. One evening, as I was working late, Jean burst into my office, eyes large and frightened. “Beth,” she exclaimed. “I think the Evil One is after me!”

I had never heard Jean or anyone else mention evil in those terms before, so I was taken aback at first. “What do you mean?” I asked.

“I suddenly feel estranged from God,” she replied. “I feel like I am being pushed to do things that I would not normally do and that God would not want me to do.”

“Such as what?” I asked. She would not tell. She said that she was ashamed of the urges. I understood that they were related to selfish acts, wantonness, cavalier treatment of family members, and other characteristics that just were not Jean’s. We prayed together, and she left in a calmer state.

This one session, however, was not to be the end. She came by nearly every evening, and we prayed. Always for the same thing: to bring Jean back to where she had been spiritually, to eliminate this negative influence, to be in compliance with God’s will. Although it seems that I am unceasingly praying, given my history and idiosyncrasy, when I petition God for specific help, I usually ask only once, assuming that God heard and trusting God to respond in the way that is best for the situation or person about whom I am praying. With Jean, though, it was different. It seemed that just as soon as Jean leaped over one hurdle, another was placed in front of her. Just as soon as one prayer seemed to have been answered, the need for another prayer appeared. Just as soon as her faith reared its head, it was stomped into the dust again by something she kept referring to as evil. I even saw her do things that I found incomprehensible. Those acts were not in keeping with Jean’s character as I knew it to be.

I began praying for her every day, for hours. I also read St. John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Soul. It seemed to speak to some of what Jean was experiencing, but not all. I thought that if she read the book, it might help. Although Jean seemed lost and desperate and to a point depressed, she was unwilling to read the book. She felt that it would make her feel more, not less, trapped.

I, too, became desperate. At one point, I recall marching around the mission grounds in the small town where I live and proclaiming that I would not pray about anything else until God brought sunshine to end the darkness that Jean was enduring. In all, I spent more than 20 hours in petition for Jean.

In the midst of all this petitioning, one not-so-fine evening, I asked God to allow me to feel what Jean was feeling so that I could understand better. Immediately, the Presence departed from me. No matter how much I tried to communicate, I could not feel the presence of God. I felt lost and alone. I had not realized how much God had become an every-minute part of my life. Irony of ironies, I desperately wanted back the Presence that I had earlier tried so hard to evade. “Where are you?” I asked again and again that evening. I received no answer.

When I awoke the next morning, the Presence was back. Thank God! From that brief disappearance of the Presence, I understood that this was akin to what Jean was experiencing. Now I know how terribly depressing that experience can be. I also understood that what got me through that night was faith without spirituality. Clearly, God had been spoiling me, granting me spirituality, not forcing me to walk in faith alone. Since that experience, I have often wondered if I am capable of living by faith alone. I knew at the time that I did not want to have to try. “Please, God, don’t do that again!” I implored. “I am too weak for that. I don’t like it when I cannot feel Your presence.” If the purpose of the dark night of the soul, as some have suggested, is to create great longing for God, I can attest to its effectiveness after just a few hours.

Two weeks later, having emerged into daylight, Jean told me that 18 years earlier, she had met someone she thought was her guardian angel. Among other things that person had said to her was the following: “Some day you may experience temptation and trial. Should that ever happen to you, I hope that you will have someone at your side to help you.”

She did. Ironically, Jean, who had served as God’s instrument to shepherd me back to the flock, had me at her side. Even though I did not know what to do or what I was doing when I was doing it, I had God to guide me. So, Jean, though she did not know it, could not feel it, and even at times did not believe it, had God at her side throughout her ordeal. I was clearly little more than a conduit through which God pulled Jean back from the forces of darkness that were dragging her away and deposited her once again in the light. I like to think, though, that I was the person Jean's guardian angel had hoped that she would have 18 years earlier.

This excerpt is adapted from my book, Blest Atheist (MSI Press, copyright 2009).

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About Me

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I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism, I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).

My Other Blogs

100th Lamb. This is my main blog, the one I keep most updated.

The Clan of Mahlou
. This is background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family. It is very much a work still in progress. Soon I will begin posting excerpts from a new book I am writing, Raising God's Rainbow Makers.

Modern Mysticism. This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.

Recommended Reading List

Because I am blog inept, I don't quite know how to get a reading list to stay at the end of the page and not disappear from sight. Therefore, I entered it as my first post. I suppose that is not all that bad because readers started commenting about the books, even suggesting additional readings. So, you can participate with others in my reading list by clicking here.
I do post additional books as I read them and find them to be meaningful to me, and therefore, hopefully, meaningful to you. One advantage of all the plane traveling I do is that I acquire reading time that I might not otherwise take.