Lent this year has been among the most difficult times of my life, and that of our household. Never would I have chosen the sorts of disciplines we have been experiencing. Nor has the Paschaltide brought swift deliverance and resolution. Things seem to be brightening, but the tendrils of darkness still remain. It makes for an odd cacophony of emotive voices in one’s soul. Our Lent was not filled with the abstinences of so many others, being a household with a nursing mother and infant, and a toddler. Ours were rather different sorts of abstinences, few of them self-chosen. Whereas my relationship with God has almost always been one of peace, it has, for going on sixty days now, been largely one of pain. The masks have been removed from certain aspects of my life, and such revelations are not altogether pleasant and many of them are frightful. Never has the stress of these weeks been so constant an irritant, so powerful a catalyst for my own anger and argumentativeness. I have spoiled by snappishness and petulance moments so brief and fleeting that could have otherwise been filled with more happiness and joy.
This is not to say that we have been bereft of the ministrations and blessings of God. Despite my faithlessness he has remained faithful. Fellow Christians, members of our parish, our families, have blessed us very tangibly in gifts, the use of vehicles, and the blanket of prayers. Even my own wrestlings and doubts have been calmed by the opportunities to hold my daughters in my arms and rock them to sleep. Never has the bedtime liturgy of the Our Father, a couple of hymns, and the stillness of relaxation and rest been so sweet as in the past couple of weeks. Never has my daughters’ laughter rang so deliciously in my ears.
What has been hope-inducing these past couple of weeks is the capacity to track in reverse what appear to me to be the footprints of God, his gracious providence through banal daily events. How many times do flights get delayed coming into, out of and through O’Hare due to spring-time thunderstorms? And in the space of that delay, I browsed the bookstore and bought a job-hunting book. That book led to some realizations about inadequacies in my resume, which I addressed in the days immediately following. That revised resume led to the two current initial screening phases of two job positions–both of which companies (or their recruiter) contacted me after having viewed my (revised) resume online. For the previous month and a half my resume got no action. Would I have gotten even these nibbles had I not revised my resume? Would I have revised my resume had I not purchased and read the entire job-hunting book during my flight delay and the subsequent flight? Would I have browsed the bookstore and come across the book had there not been a flight delay?
Some of the current experiences we are going through are the result of ignorance and poor choices. Economics is, quite literally, the law of the home, and we have just simply not been taught or trained in those laws that make for an economically stable home. Both of us being in and out of graduate school for all of our married life does not help a whit, of course. But this simply increases the imperative nature of the simple basic principles upon which a Christian home can be managed. So, having purchased the aforementioned job-hunting book, a day or two later I was once again browsing the bookstore for a related title. Instead of that title, however, I came across a book that provided the sort of simple and helpful laws of the home necessary for a family of four. Having digested its contents, I am trying to begin the formation of habitual behaviors that will enable us to address our current failures and protect against them in the future.
Despite these acts of grace by God for our salvation, however, the struggles and the consequences of them still trace their marks on my soul. I find myself, perhaps, like St. Thomas, in the days following the Resurrection. Hearing the hopeful word, wanting so desparately to believe it, but fearful of trusting such a preposterous account. So, he retreated from that hope and attempted to find refuge in what could be seen and touched. I want a job. I want a home for my family. I want us reunited geographically and not flung out across the vast midwestern plains. I want to both see and believe.
I do not know if I can take the Saint’s lesson for me, to have the conviction of things not seen, the assurance of things hoped for. I am, right now, too much like the Saint in his flesh. I walk by sight and not by faith. Still it is for me to remember these backward-traced footprints. It is for me to remember that the blessing is upon those who do not see and yet believe. It is for me to cry out with the Saint, “My Lord and my God.” But I do not know if I have even that much faith. God is ever gracious, but I am double-minded and am tossed about.