When I can’t pin down, categorize, and name an interior struggle I tend to oversimplify it. Or I pretend it’s not there and that I’m just complaining and need to be more grateful. I think sometimes as we pursue the spiritual life we have to allow our struggles to exist without needing to conceptualize them, trusting they have a purpose. I’m not saying we should despair or give in to things that harm us, just that sometimes there is a purpose to our struggles that we cannot know yet.
“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)
There has been a certain aridity in my life the past few years, one that I’ve tried to pin down as my own lack of effort, my own straying, or my own poor decision making. Sure, those things exist, but perhaps something deeper is going on. I can’t quite grasp it now, but I feel it. And I’m trusting God that it’s Him, and that He’s keeping me here for a reason, and that although it feels uncomfortable and I’d like some consolation, I can wait in this tension. Sometimes we give ourselves superficial consolation by assigning triviality to a struggle we cannot understand. We tell ourselves “It’s not a big deal”, or, “I’m just tired”, or “it’s just hard to be a mom/work full time/single/married”. Our struggles aren’t trivial; but without some way to categorize them it can feel like there’s nothing to grasp onto. Without naming the struggle it feels like we’re making it up.
“Once we have become acclimated to the liberating role of boredom in our prayer life, indeed come to prefer this desert over the fleshpot of religious experience, as our prayer life may once have been, there is yet more freeing up and deepening that the practice of contemplation will continue to do. But we may well not see this deepening; more likely we see our prayer life crumbling, yet all the while there is a deepening taking place as we are exposed to things within ourselves that we would rather not see, but need to see.” (Martin Laird)
I’m wondering if I need to learn to live through this, taking every little glimmer of beauty as my portion for the day and letting that be enough. Today it was the new leaf buds on the tree that over hangs our back yard, illuminated by the sunlight as I looked out the window. The beauty caught me off guard. For now it is these graces that sustain me.