I read somewhere once that God’s love is such that, if necessary, He will take your life in order to save it, that He would rather take you to Himself as you are than see you fall into a deeper state of sin and despair. Fortunately in my case it has not yet come to that, as I would like to accomplish much more here before I go where, in truth, I long to be. Yet I have often found in my own case that when I ask God’s help in being strong enough to overcome a challenge or a temptation, His solution is simply to take it away. It is not always an easy solution to deal with. After all, it’s not how I wanted my prayer answered. I asked for strength to face a challenge, and instead He took the challenge away! It’s one thing not to trust myself, but does He Who gives strength not trust me either?
This madness is even harder to face when it involves people. I spend a good deal of time suffering from what I call the Wizard’s Curse: to be ever loved but never wanted. I have been very blessed to have a variety of people in my life who have come to love and respect me, and I love and respect them as well. In a sense, all of my relationships are romantic; be they with family, Muses, Intimates, friends or even acquaintances, they all bear imprints of imagination, adventure, and passion, if only on an intellectual level. But on those infrequent occasions when I feel an even deeper pull towards someone, the desire for a richer friendship or perhaps a more intimate communion, but I don’t seem to making any real progress in that regard I will pray for assistance in determining if it is right, and for the strength to step back if it is not. Invariably the prayer is answered by the establishment of a barrier, whether of time or distance or impropriety or simply inconvenience, and not one of my construction. And these sudden barriers are a very hard thing to face. A little over a year ago, facing one such barrier drove me to spend any time not at work or in church locked up in my Tow’r Room (a name given by one of my Muses to where I live) drinking wine and eating pizza for about two weeks. Yes, for someone who wants not to feel lonely, being forced to be alone is the great spiritual battle.
I’ve been engaged in one such battle for a little over a week as He Who gives prepares also to take away – and it is only one of several battles I have been fighting recently Yesterday, as I sat trying to will my weary soul out of atrophy, I had a look at the daily Mass readings. The first reading was taken from the Second Book of Samuel, a passage that takes place just after King David, who has had in mind to build a temple as a permanent house for the ark of God’s covenant, has been informed by the prophet Nathan that God will instead build a house for David by establishing a dynasty that will last as long as the covenant is kept.
After Nathan had spoken to King David, the king went in and sat before the LORD and said, ‘Who am I, Lord GOD, and who are the members of my house that you have brought me to this point?’
The passage struck me as incredibly profound: the king sitting on the ground before the ark in utter amazement at the blessings that have been given him, for no other reason than God willed it so. It moved me so much that I did something that I hadn’t done in a few weeks: I prayed the Office of Readings. For those who don’t know it, it is a primary part of the Liturgy of the Hours, an incredibly rich set of prayers, hymns and readings that are meant to sanctify each day and all its activity. In this office, one of the readings was taken from the sermons of Saint John the Serene, a passage in which he discoursed on the first line of the 27th Psalm: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” The translation that follows is my own:
Having been thus illuminated, the inner human being does not wobble, does not fall back from the path, but tolerates everything. He who from so far off sees his homeland withstands opposition, is not saddened by passing affairs, but is made strong in God; he pushes down his want and upholds himself, and has endurance in his lowly state. Light so very true, which illuminates every man coming into the world, gives itself to those that fear it, shines on whom it will where it will, and reveals itself to whom the Son wills.
It’s in moments like these, reading and thinking upon the wisdom of he centuries – after all, most every question we can asked has already been pondered over! – that light truly does dawn upon Marblehead, and I realize that these things or these people haven’t been taken from me because God does not trust that I am strong enough to face them. Quite the opposite is true: He knows that He has made me strong enough to face the challenge of living without them. I’ve been doing much better since reading that passage, and if I can just remember it when the trials come, then maybe I can be strong enough to ask in the right way: for assistance in being alone if it is right, or to send me a companion if it is not.
And so my dear readers (however many of you are out there), when you’re experiencing your dark nights of the soul, by all means pray for strength, but look for the light as well so you can see what it is you are being made strong for. As another (albeit fictional) wizard was once heard to say, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”