NO FEAR NEW YEAR (Reject It)
My oldest memory of the MGM Lion’s Roar is terrifying. I still have a visceral response to this King of the Jungle’s vocal assertion of power. But when I was a small child, the fear was so real it invaded my dreams and manifested in my first real nightmare. In my dream, the lion came into our house and ate my whole family, while inexplicably leaving me alone. I woke up petrified and unsure of the difference between the dream world and reality.
I felt paralyzed in my bed but I was so afraid that I forced myself to run to my parents’ room. Mom offered me three choices, and I chose the third:
1) Talk about my dream with Mom - no way I wanted to revisit it.
2) Climb into bed with her and Dad - Dad had a snore as loud as the MGM Lion.
3) Go back to bed and say a decade of the rosary. I was promised that I would fall asleep before I was finished, and indeed I did.
Over the years, I have noticed a pattern of violence, perceived or otherwise, re-visiting me and magnifying itself in my dreams. I therefore do my best to protect myself from this by avoiding unnecessary exposure to violence in content such as movies, books and tv shows.
A STRENGTH BEYOND MEASURE
Recently, a personal encounter with my adult daughters talking about their individual, but normal, struggles showed up in my dreams in an irrational form of violence. This is not a new experience, and, as usual, it paralyzed me at first. I know better now than to lie there while the images loop relentlessly in my head.
So, I got out of bed and decided to pray, hoping it would shift my focus and bring me back to reality. I have shared that my favorite form of prayer is Centering Prayer, which involves nothing but silent openness to God’s presence. I wondered if I could shed the intrusive thoughts of my dreams in order to pray. Here’s what happened:
Sitting in total darkness is a surprising comfort to me, so I sat in an unoccupied room with no lights on and began to pray. I felt the chair beneath me and allowed it to support me. The thoughts were there, but, in this place of safety, I consciously addressed them with “I reject you.” The thoughts eventually left me. But what happened next surprised me.
My thoughts went back to the chair. But this time, in noticing the chair, I began to feel strength in me. I felt so strong, I was worried I might break the chair. Despite its interior closeness to me, I knew this strength was not my own.
“Could it support someone so strong?” I thought. And, with that thought, the power left me.
I was on vacation with my family and didn’t have my journal with me to record this experience, but I knew I would not forget that strength. It was fleeting, but the uniqueness of the power within me created a lasting memory. When we face our fears (in a safe place) and reject them, what’s left? A strength beyond measure.
EXPERIENTIAL KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
I have felt God’s presence before, but this was new. I don’t remember glimpsing the actual power of God before, let alone feeling it within me. I was grateful that the sensation was fleeting because it was all I could bear at the moment. I’m quite sure it was all I could bear ever again.
I will carry the memory of this strength with me, especially in moments of fear. It’s perfect timing as my NO FEAR NEW YEAR comes to a close. After all I have experienced this year (and it was a lot), I am left with an experiential knowledge of God’s constant presence in our flawed, ordinary, boring, broken, everyday lives.
I know this because I have dedicated time and effort to shed this fear, after recognizing it as a lifelong obstacle to God. And my recent experience teaches me that when you clear away the obstacles, God is there. This is an actual reality for me now, not just something I learned about in Catholic school.
If you reread some of my articles, you will notice that my NO FEAR NEW YEAR began with pain and regret and continued with challenges. I hope you notice, as I have, that God was with me throughout, encouraging and even urging me to free myself from this obstacle to our relationship.
When fear presents itself to me again, and I know it will, I know I have many earthly tools to turn to: write it down, cut the crap, judge not, be curious and reject it to name a few. I’m also sure that I have received divine assurance that God’s encouragement, love, and power will be with me every step of the way.
Aside from this new experiential knowledge of God’s power, I have gained a certain spiritual flexibility that resulted in a deeper understanding of myself and of God. These are the goals of spiritual direction. It’s an absolute joy to be in their midst.
I assure you my experiences as a directee and as a director have helped to facilitate this experience. Could God have gotten through to me without spiritual direction? ABSOLUTELY. But I personally found it easier to savor rather than fear the journey because I had a companion who is equipped with these tools and in whose presence I feel safe and comfortable to share intimate details about my relationship with God.
The longer I experience spiritual direction, the more open I am to sharing my journey with others too, like you, dear readers. I feel your presence as I write and imagine your companionship along the way. It is my hope that you feel God’s presence as you read, understanding that God is present in our true presence to one another, whether it’s physical or through the pages of a blog.
What a year it’s been! Praise be to God and Onward ho!