November 11, 2018 - a day sandwiched between IHM Founder's Day and Immaculata University Charter Day (as well as the 100th celebration of Armistice Day). I "forgot" this by which I mean, I was aware that Saturday and Monday were days of celebration for my IHM sisters, but did not use these days as motivation for my joining them for Mass at the IHM Motherhouse with my husband. No, quite honestly, I was there because I had a three hour Alumni Board meeting ahead of me and figured I could see some of my friends at Mass beforehand. Besides, nothing quite beats the feeling of being home in a beautiful prayerful space.
As the presider mentioned in his homily, the readings of Sunday focused on the widows of Scripture. The first reading from 1 Kings told the story of Elijah who requested bread and water from a widow who was in the process of giving her last food and drink to her son. The Gospel focused on the widow who gave her last coin - which, in turn, allows Jesus to say that she was the one who gave the most; not in quantity but rather in quality of sacrifice. During Mass and then later during Adoration, I began to reflect on how perfect these readings were to be on the day sandwiched between two days of importance. For me and my heart, these were readings that gave true definition to what it meant to have creative hope, an aspect of the charism of the IHMs.
Creative Hope is a concept I have considered, reflected upon and even have written about numerous times. It is the part of the IHM Charism that I hold most dear. I cannot really narrow it down to a time or an experience that really made me believe in Creative Hope. But rather, it was a series of every day experiences, during which I watched many Sisters consider numerous challenges and how each one of them could use Creative Hope, that is, a hope that works creatively with God toward an accomplishment of God's Will. Creative Hope became for me, an opportunity to be real and honest with God, giving to God my greatest hopes but also allowing God to speak God's perspective and how I could be of use in the accomplishment of God's Will. Most particularly, this would happen during a time when there seems to be no other options - this is the end of the road for one thing or another.
In the readings, these two women were at the end of the jars and jugs. They had no more to give than the last of it. Their defeat was obvious as they spoke to the others in the stories - I have nothing else to give, my well is dry, I am at the end of the road. I felt that many Sisters have felt this as well - moments of despair and defeat. I thought specifically of Mother Camilla as she asked not one, not two, but seven farmers for land on which she could build the University. Did she feel defeated? Did she experience deep despair in her prayer life? Did she say to the last farmer, "this is it, this is the last place I can go before I give up?" Or did Mother Theresa Maxis have many moments of desperation when she laid herself down at the foot of the cross after her experiences of pain, exclusion and perhaps lack of peace and affirmation in her vocation as a religious woman? I can imagine these women, just as the widows in Scripture, experiencing the same feelings and yet, because of their charism of Creative Hope, also finding peace in resting that God would lead them to God's Will in a way unthought of by themselves.
As I continued my time in Adoration, I found myself a friend in these women. I had been neglecting feelings and emotions of despair in my life. I had ignored the fact that I have been feeling lost and lonely in my relationship with God; that somehow, during my person trials, God was not there with me. My experience of self was plummeting because I felt so incredibly unworthy of God's Love and the trying events in my life were happening because of something I did; I deserved them.
Flash forward to Sunday evening. I was sitting on the couch, having just finished dinner with my husband. Cooking, mind you, clears my head and allows me a moment of happiness. Cooking and baking, have become my newest outlet. At any rate, we decided to catch up on the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy, a guilty pleasure, for sure. The episode ends and I suddenly hear one of my favorite Christian artist playing in the background of the closing scenes. The day before, when I was driving alone to a Bridal Shower, I had the album on. Sometimes music catches me by surprise - I can be singing along and suddenly, the depth of lyrics hits me deep and I am embracing tears falling down my face. The same song in the episode was the song that the day before had me sobbing in the car alone. So naturally, I was moved again to tears and yes, the type of sobbing that makes even water proof mascara run. In one swift movement, my husband's arms were wrapped around me.
As a Campus Minister, I am seemingly expected to have it together in terms of faith. I know faith, I live faith, and by all means, I should have a good relationship with God. But I have been going through a period of time where my experience of God is that I show up at Church, I go to Mass, I pray for the grace to keep going, but I'm still kind of upset with God. We aren't really on speaking terms right now. I guess that makes me real and authentic, but to be honest, I don't like it. I'd rather be talking with God consistently and maintaining a good relationship. But recently, I've been lost in despair, feeling quite lonely and often feeling defeated. I've felt this way because it didn't seem like God was actually with me in these moments of hardship or that God gave me these challenges that I just couldn't handle. I had given God my last and this was the end.
But yesterday, I realized I had been failing to see God in my husband. As he wrapped his arms around me, I realized God had been with me, because who else had been going through these trials with me other than my husband? I realized, too, that there were others in my life who saw that I was experiencing hardship and have gone out of their way to make sure they were simply there for me. Of course, I realized, too, the importance of my students who never fail to make me laugh and give me hugs randomly on days that they don't even know I need it the most. Like the women of Scripture, Mother Camilla and Mother Theresa Maxis, I had experienced giving my last. There's no saying if I'm out of this feeling quite yet. But if it took the woman in Kings a whole year to finally get herself in a good place, God will be patient with me. I have been reminded again to hope creatively - to live in hope not despair and to allow myself to be creatively formed to do God's will. I have been rescued.