Happy New Year my friends! It is so hard to believe 2010 is over and a new year has begun. This year went by in a blur, which makes trying to look back over it dizzying at best. My well-intentioned plan of reviewing my journals for the past year took longer than I planned. I was startled to find I had filled five and half journals, not counting the notebook I used while on retreat or the separate journal where I record short notes on scripture passages. I’d forgotten how much had happened during this past year.
In looking back over the year, there were a great many entries on the day-to-day stuff of life. The year started out with the kids being sick and their record number of doctor visits. There were many days worrying about missing time from work and how I would have the money to pay my bills. But there were also the deeper entries. My growing frustration in the parish as time and again the adult ministry was formed and re-formed, eventually morphing into a model I ultimately can’t accept. The emotional anguish of selling my wedding band and diamond engagement ring, a sad reminder of all the empty promises, unfulfilled vows and lack of discernment that it symbolized. That which had meant so much to me fetched enough money to pay my car taxes and re-register my car. There were my weekly Lenten meetings with Deacon Ron, both a retreat and great gift which yielded new challenges along with a number of strange and vivid dreams along with numerous cross-references to the my notes on scripture passages or other books and papers. I gave my testimony for my annulment, which is still pending as this new year begins. There were the three days of bailing out a flooded basement during Holy Week. Then the Beginning Experience retreat the weekend after Easter filled with the upheaval of anger that I’d tried to bury or just plain forget. The joy of Mother’s day when Eugene made his First Communion and stood at the pulpit to give his first witness talk – a few kind words about me as his mom. The increasing concern over the continuing deterioration of my health. The agonizing decision to leave the parish that has been my home and haven for 25 years to escape the constant head games of my ex, only to end back there for Mass. Taking my first vacation alone, I relished the solitude and freedom to enjoy a pilgrimage of sorts to the home of one of my favorite poets. Parties and dinners with dear friends were bright spots throughout the year. The hellishly hot days of summer and long lazy afternoons spent at the beach trying to escape the heat and humidity. My struggles during the Week of Guided Prayer to find both focus and honesty within my heart, while moving from concern to fear as my eyesight rapidly decreased. That was a time when wild and seemingly random drawings filled a fair number of pages. Gradually those gave way to the letters to God. And always the nagging worries about the boys, the bills, and my health. There have been struggles to set goals for great future plans but the day-to-day living has often proved too pressing for such plans.
I could go on for pages but on this Feast of the Epiphany, I have to say I feel cheated. The year went by so fast. There was never enough time and what time there was felt harried and scattered. As with the rest of this year, Christmas came and went far too quickly. The Feast of the Holy Family followed the day after Christmas and I missed Mass that day, being trapped at home by the blizzard. Now I’ve arrived at this day a mere 8 days after Christmas. I was only able to hear the beautiful Gloria sung twice at Mass and people are already posting on Facebook that it’s time to pack up the Christmas decorations and get back to normal life. Wait! Stop! Let me catch my breath and take in all the wonder that is part of the birth of Jesus.
The image of the Wise Men crossing the desert in the dark with only a star to guide them has long been my favorite. Their understanding that something amazing had occurred and their search for the mysterious king hits a raw nerve with me. I know something amazing has happened, something far beyond my understanding. I know this king is someone I seek, yet I know only what little I have read or been told about him, which seems like far too little. I am reminded of my many walks along the beach at sunset, returning to my car with only the moonlight to light my way. There is just enough light to see my way for the next few feet. On this spiritual journey across the darkened desert I bring with me only the gifts I have, which seem like precious little. When I find myself before the king, what gift do I ask of him? That much I know for certain. The gift I seek is the fire I saw in my father’s eyes as he lay dying, a fire I have yet to find words to describe – a melding of faith, trust, love and fierce desire that burned brilliantly as his soul shone through his cancer ravaged body. But I knew from the moment I saw it that it was a fire I wanted above all else. As the years have slipped away and my life’s mistakes have mounted, I asked less and less for the fire or for anything at all. My pleas have far more often been “please don’t hate me” which has lessened to “please don’t be angry with me” and further still to “please don’t be disappointed in me”. Only recently have I learned to ask again. Now asking simply, “Be with me here.”
This past summer, as my vision slipped to its lowest point ever, there came a moment when the question raised in my heart was this:
“What if this is the path I need to walk to obtain that fire? What if the only way to receive that gift is to accept that all of the random chaos that is my life is part of something beyond my understanding, requiring the one thing I struggle most to offer – trust. Am I willing to make that journey?”
Without a doubt, but not without fear, I still want that fire and if this road is the one I have to walk to get there, then everything that happens along the way is worth it. Every step brings me closer to that which I seek.