Trepidation and Grace

Trepidation and Grace

I remember being 17 when my mother was going through the dresser drawers in my bedroom as she was putting folded laundry away.

“They’re not mine!”

The words of denial trickled from my mouth as my mom held up a pack of Newport 100s.

“Pam must have put them there.”  [sorry, Pam.]

One lie flowed into another way too easily.

Looking back, it’s almost comical.  How could I possibly have been so ignorant as to think my parents wouldn’t find out that I was smoking?

Just wait… the ignorance gets better…

A few years later a pregnancy test (actually 6 pee sticks and a blood draw) would verify that this unwed 19 year old was indeed pregnant.

I was a skinny thing back then and figured I could hide my little belly from mom and dad for 9 months.

The title of this blog should be, “Not the Brightest Crayon in the Box”.

The title of this blog should be, “Not the Brightest Crayon in the Box”.

Oh… the things we try to hide.

I imagine that you, dear reader, are not as stupid.

But, the reality is that we all do things in our life that we would like to hide.  We’re no different than Adam and Eve who started it all.  Instead of fig leaves we use dresser drawers and over-sized clothing.

As I’ve gotten older and started taking my faith seriously, the paradigm shifted.

The things I hide aren’t as ‘big’ or obvious as when I was younger, but their significance is more weighty once they are discovered.

A few years ago, my spiritual director (SD) and I were discussing my disposition toward youth ministry work.  At that point in time I had made the decision to leave diocesan level ministry and return to the parish.  I was hired by the largest church in our diocese to retool their youth program.  It took a lot of time and energy building relationships and tearing down silos.  Frankly, it was exhausting.  18 very difficult months later, with the help of my SD, I decided to step away.  The journey had led to a decision that was heart-wrenching.  I was burned out and and needed to take a sabbatical.

I took great pride in the work I had done in ministry.  It felt good when I received affirmations from adults that were part of the teams that I trained or from the young people whom I was able to walk with on their journey of faith.

The more I reflected on my time working in parish and diocesan ministry, the more emotional I became.  Then depression set in.  I missed the people and the work of bringing them closer to the Lord.

Or did I?

There was an a-ha moment when my SD sat back and said, “You know, I wonder if the Holy Spirit has uncovered for you the sin of vainglory.”

ummm…

Are you sure?  Because I thought I was all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips.

Sheepishly, I had to ask what vainglory was; my bag of chips blew apart.

I won’t get into the details of our discussion which ultimately led me directly to the confessional.

Suffice it to say, I was mortified.

And yet, there was a freedom knowing this would be one of ‘those sins’ that I would continue to struggle with.  As the saying goes, “Better the Devil you know…”

[Even as I type this, I am keenly aware of the fine line between wanting the reader to understand where I’m coming from and hoping for accolades by the discovery.]

It was a moment of grace.  But it stung tough.

It was a moment of grace.  But it stung tough.

This is what I both fear and look forward to as I begin a new journey.

Through much prayer, patience, and the grace-filled guidance of my SD, a gate has opened to an unexpected path.  This path will take a few years of study, contemplation, and reading.

Recently, I received the very first book on the reading list.  Only one chapter in and I’m reminded of the sting of self-awareness.

“The Seven Deadly Sins – A Thomistic Guide to Vanquishing Vice and Sin”, by Kevin Vost, PSY.D., begins with this quote from St. John Climacus:

“Wretch, tell us the name of your father, the name of the mother who bore you to bring calamity into the world, the names of your loathsome sons and daughters.”

And, this is how anger replies:

“I come from many sources and I have more than one father.  My mothers are Vainglory, Avarice, Greed.  And Lust too.  My father is named Conceit.  My daughters have the names of Remembrance of Wrongs, Hate, Hostility, and Self-Justification.”

Wretch, tell us the name of your father, the name of the mother who bore you to bring calamity into the world, the names of your loathsome sons and daughters.”

And, this is how anger replies:

“I come from many sources and I have more than one father.  My mothers are Vainglory, Avarice, Greed.  And Lust too.  My father is named Conceit.  My daughters have the names of Remembrance of Wrongs, Hate, Hostility, and Self-Justification.

– St. John Climacus

I liken my soul to that of my home.

I’m not a good housekeeper.  My home is ‘surface clean’.  There is no clutter’. I don’t like ‘knick-knacks’; my style is more minimalistic.

Just don’t look closely at the floors; they haven’t been mopped in a long time.  There is gunk behind the toilet.  And, please don’t open the microwave.

Regarding my soul: the outside might appear to some as religious, possibly even pious and good.

Only God knows the true me and those places I have yet to discover.

The more I allow the Holy Spirit into the crevices of my being, the more I realize how much work is ahead of me, and I steel myself for the sting.

While looking forward to the graces of self-awareness and healing of my sins, I seek solace in Psalm 139 and in the Mercy of Christ.

Please pray for me as I pray for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: