Last week, I attended training called, "Building Resiliency: Surviving Secondary Trauma," which could be titled "How to Live as a First Responder." In a nutshell, it teaches you how to deal with the stresses and traumas that first responders deal with day to day.
In one of the exercises, the facilitator passed out post it notes and had everyone write down the three most valuable things in our lives. We then passed the paper to someone else at the table and they were to scratch out the first thing listed--symbolizing that thing being taken away from us.
There was an audible gasp from someone in the class as they realized what they had to do. I actually chuckled when I got my paper back. I had written "faith" and it seemed appropriate because for the last several years, I had been trying to ditch my faith for a variety of reasons.
I had stopped going to Sunday mass, much less any daily masses. I had stopped praying and I had even stopped going to confession and adoration. The only times, I let God into my life was Sunday evenings when I was teaching confirmation. That was because it was a responsibility I had agreed to. There was also my annual retreats to Notre Dame. Looking back, I'm not sure why I continued to go there every summer when my spiritual life was a wreck.
I've heard it said, that Hell is a choice or that Hell is the absence of God. I believe that the loneliness and despair I've been feeling for the last several months felt like hell on Earth.
It's also been said, "the sheep can run fast, but the shepherd can run faster." I knew that all God wants is a personal relationship with Him. I also know the words of St. Augustine who said, "my heart is restless until it rests in you, Oh Lord." But I kept running away and I believe God allowed me to feel lonely and desolate as an act of compassion so I would turn back towards Him.
The first cracks in my stoney heart started at Notre Dame this year at the opening talk with Mike Patin. It continued by my going to confession, and being able to receive communion for the first time in years. I was also aided by being able to talk to different youth ministers while I was there.
But I was stubborn and still tried to run away.
There were more cracks when I went to a Sunday mass in August and my parish priest welcomed me by name, despite not seeing me for years. And even moret at mass for the Assumption of Mary when I felt God's presence and love.
But even then I was still stubborn and continued running.
I think the scales really started coming off of my eyes when I decided to take my therapist's advice and sought spiritual advice from a priest. As soon as I contacted the good padre and made arrangements to speak to him, I felt like a light switch had been flipped and I began receiving spiritual relief.
At this point, God had to be shaking his head in disbelief and as I still tried heading for the gate because even after my meeting with the priest, I still wasn't there. I've still had to go to confession every couple of weeks but I feel like I'm coming around more and more. I've gone to Sunday mass the last couple of weeks. My spiritual life is still a crap show but it's looking better.
As in the past, I've used the blog as a way to help me grow spiritually and I hope now that I've started it up again, it will continue to do the same and I hope to share it with you.