I pulled up this blog tonight, for the first time in months, to share a post with a new friend. After my friend headed home, I spent a little while browsing, caught up in the bits and pieces of the last few years of journeying that are chronicled within this space. Reading my own thoughts brought smiles, cringes and nods as I reminisced and realized again how circular life is – how the truths that I was learning in those moments are truths that I continue to learn in new ways on a daily basis. I was reminded of the illustration of a spiral staircase – whether ascending or descending, you come again continually upon the same view, but from a slightly different perspective. My experience of life, and particularly the spiritual life, is like that – the same truths (and often the same sins), but in slightly different contexts.
I mention this circular perspective because I came across this paragraph, from a post I wrote nearly 2 years ago:
this journey this last little while has been teaching me new things about spiritual realities and spiritual warfare. This is a part of my journey that I don’t talk a lot about it in public forums because it’s just a bit too “out there” for most written forms (or really for most conversational forms either!). That said, this month I’ve learned again about facing and combatting intense spiritual attack, and about ways of responding to the many spiritual realities that I have for some reason been given the gift of being sensitive too. And I think it’s important to say that here, in this place where I’m chronicling this journey with Catholicism. It’s important to say that this journey is something that has stirred opposition – not just in the physical world, but in the spiritual as well. And as I’ve learned and re-learned ways to combat that, and to manage my own responses and sensitivities to it, I’ve also found some sort of peace in it. There is something in facing such fierce opposition that convinces me that this is the journey that is right for me at this time, no matter where it ends up. And that, at least, is just a bit hopeful.
I went to meet with a priest recently, to ask some questions, to seek guidance on how on earth to connect with other young(ish) Catholics who were excited about faith, and to have confession. It was an important time, and I walked away encouraged and hopeful, and headed home to nap before a night shift. I had terrible dreams that afternoon, and pretty much every time I slept for the next two weeks. In the midst of those weeks I began to dive into a commitment to a greater devotion and faithfulness in some areas of my life – things that felt unfamiliar, and some that were entirely new. Add to that that the anxiety and depression that have been an ongoing battle for my entire adult life kicked into high gear, I had some incredibly odd and challenging work shifts, and just a general feeling of heaviness and oppression that I couldn’t quite shake and I was feeling pretty miserable. It seemed like every positive step I tried to implement was immediately counteracted. (For example, I planned some healthy meals, shopped for the items, and my stove promptly broke in a bizarre and dramatic fashion, leading the healthy food to sit unprepared in my fridge for a couple of weeks while I worked with my landlords to purchase a replacement.)
I’m pretty slow at times, so it took me a bit to piece together what I was experiencing. Finally, one afternoon, after a truly horrible Sunday where I simply could not shake the feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, I texted a couple of friends, asking them to pray and headed out with my camera to take a walk and try to soak in some beauty and truth to counteract the lies that were overwhelming me.
It was the following morning that I realized that this wasn’t a coincidence – that this was spiritual. As I began to draw closer to God, to pursue community, to pursue choices of health and wholeness, I promptly began to face opposition. Over the course of that week it was helpful to recognize this, to talk with some dear friends, to ask a few trusted people to pray.
That opposition to moving forward seems to have settled again for the moment, and I’m left scratching my head. It makes me smile that I’ve learned the lesson so many times that the enemy of our souls always opposes that which moves us towards greater wholeness and deeper communion with the Father, and yet despite all those times, it’s still difficult to recognize that opposition when it occurs. There isn’t a formula that works every time when the opposition comes, and that drives my control freak nature crazy. I like formulas and plans that have points and subpoints. I don’t like figuring out a new solution to the same old problem every time the problem occurs. And yet, I’m learning that while the “solution” this side of heaven seems to differ each time, there are things I can lean into. I can lean into the truth that I am covered and protected by Christ and I need not be afraid. I can lean into the truth that something right is happening if the opposition steps up. I can lean into the truth that there is a place of growth and breakthrough coming. And I can lean into the truth that sometimes you just have to keep walking, even when it’s the hardest thing you’ve done.
It felt a lot like the hardest thing. But it has been worth it. The dreams are settling out a bit. The heaviness that marked my days is becoming less pervasive. The anxiety and depression have ebbed, back into the well-managed place I’ve worked hard for – the place where they shape and define very few of my days. I am settling into new routines that are causing questions and growth edges to spurt all over the place. I’m feeling hopeful that there is a community of believers for me in this city. And I’m grateful for the lessons and reminders of things that are invisible, and the need to be ever aware of the realities we can’t see, and ever in prayer, resting in the truths of Christ. And so I walk forward, even on the hard days.