I seem to have unintentionally started a new trend on my blog: writing a piece each Advent called “On waiting.” The Lord has had something new to teach me about waiting each Advent for the last three years. I’d call it coincidence if I didn’t know any better.
This Advent has been a strange one for me. Just a few days before it started (on Thanksgiving, to be exact) I entered a period of spiritual dryness and desolation. I didn’t feel much for mass and prayer all of a sudden. Any thoughts of intimacy with Christ felt forced and made my heart wince. Spiritual matters didn’t energize me and give me joy anymore. Just days before I felt so sure of Jesus’ love for me, and I was feeling pretty darn good about my decision to discern the possibility of religious life. I felt such a strong desire for it, and had received a few positive signs seemingly confirming my desire for it, when I was in consolation. But that desire, that drive, that joy, for my possible vocation and for spiritual things in general, had just evaporated. I suddenly felt empty, uncertain, and even abandoned.
It was hard not to be scared when it all started. I’ve survived one season of desolation and feel like I came out of it much wiser and more mature, but that didn’t stop me from being frightened by this new dryness. I found myself questioning, once again, whether the love that I felt Jesus had shown me in consolation was even real, and that’s a scary feeling no matter how advanced you are in the spiritual life. The first few days and weeks were spent, like my first encounter with desolation, begging God not to lead me into such a dark, cold place. Not again. The fact that I’m discerning my vocation made it even harder and even more confusing. Do I stick to how I felt in consolation and continue moving forward with the process? Do I put it on hold until I’m in consolation again? I wearied and sickened myself with anxiety for the first few days of darkness. I turned over questions about my vocation again and again in my mind, wondering if I had missed something, wondering if I had failed somehow. Do I REALLY love Jesus in such a way that would make me want to marry Him? Does He REALLY love me the same way? Am I cut out to be a sister? Can I be sure of anything anymore?
After a few days of wrestling, though, I began to feel at peace with this new dry spell. My prayers went from simply “Get me out of this darkness quickly!” to words that echoed Jesus’ prayer to His Father in Gethsemane: “Get me out of this darkness quickly, but if that is not Your will, then let whatever Your will is be done.” Because Jesus is God and I’m not. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Lord has led me to a personal season of longing and waiting during Advent, which is, well, a season of longing and waiting. He had a reason for bringing me here, and to refuse to accept His plan would possibly deprive me of whatever graces could be waiting for me at the other end, an in the present darkness.
I want with everything in me to throw off this feeling of darkness and absence and uncertainty. I want to feel that passionate, inebriating love that Jesus has shown me. It’s the same thing I wanted when I experienced my first desolation a few years ago. But I was pretty selfish a few years ago. I didn’t want Jesus for His own sake. I wanted Him for the warm-fuzzies He gave me, and when He took those away, I didn’t see the point in choosing Him anymore. I abandoned Him. Even though it’s forgiven and in the past, that decision has been weighing on me a lot lately. I left Him in my darkness because it wasn’t easy or convenient for me to stay with Him. I chose myself over Him, my comfort over His friendship. But as I said earlier, I think I’m a little wiser now, and I know that that’s not how a relationship with Jesus (or anyone, I suppose) works. So I’ll wait for consolation to find me, because I know that I have no other choice. I don’t get to decide when I’ll feel consoled and at peace again; that’s entirely on Jesus. I’ll wait because more than just wanting the consolation and the feelings, I want Jesus, and I want what He wants.
And if this is what He wants, to lead me through the valley, into Gethsemane, so be it. Because the valley, Gethsemane, those dark places, they’re really good at teaching us how to be faithful. And how to pray. This period in Gethsemane is teaching me the value and the meaning of Jesus’ words there: Not My will, but Yours, Father. But it’s also given me a new prayer, one that I wish I had known years ago when I went through my first desolation: “I’m not going anywhere.” They’re words that Jesus probably longed to hear from His disciples in His agony in the garden, when He asked them, “could you not wait with Me?”
I don’t know what the Lord has in store for me in this darkness. Perhaps He wants me to accompany Him by giving me a share in His abandonment, to teach me how to be with Him even when it doesn’t feel like there’s anything in it for me: no joy, no peace, no pangs of love. Perhaps He is asking me the same question He asked His disciples: “Will you wait with Me?”
If that’s what He wants, I’ll wait. Even if it’s not, even if it takes me awhile to figure out what He wants, I’ll wait.