More often than not lately, I’m empathizing with the Israelites and their golden calf worship. OK, not really the ones that did the actual worshipping, but more like the ones who awkwardly stood on the edges of the crowd watching everything go down but doing nothing to stop it. I would’ve been one of the ones, mouth agape, discreetly taking pics on my phone to post to IG with the hashtag #prayforthesedamnedfools while secretly agreeing with them in frustration. Now before you go thinking I’m going to melt down all of my gold jewelry (all four pieces) and cast them into the likeness of Elsie the cow, let me explain a bit.
Surely, it’s no surprise that the world’s gone mad. We don’t know where to pee, for crying out loud. Our social media timelines are exploding with some of the vilest, hate-filled rants and memes I’ve ever seen. Two weeks ago, a kindergartener who attended school with my kids was brutally murdered with her brother and mom by her daddy, who then turned the gun on himself. Countless family members and friends are dealing with the diagnoses and ongoing struggles of several mental illnesses that are ravaging their lives. Today, I learned that a friend is facing the prospect of her eldest son running out on his family.
I’m so over it. All of it. There are times when it’s all I can do NOT to pray, “Dear sweet Jesus, be a lightning bolt and just zap us all,” because I’m not sure how much longer my heart can handle this deep heartbreak and sorrow.
You can tell me to “pray, hope, and don’t worry” (©196something, St. Pio, All Rights Reserved) until you’re blue in the face, but when even the Holy Fathers – going back at least as far as Pope St. Leo the Great – are telling us unequivocally that sh*t.is.getting.real, well…I’m gonna pray and hope, but I am REALLLLLLY struggling with that “don’t worry” part.
I can understand how the Israelites felt. They had been enslaved, life sucked, and it wasn’t getting any better any time soon, as far as they could tell. God heard their pleas, and sent Moses to spring them out of that hell-hole. Spring them he did, in a plague-filled, pillar of fire, Red Sea splitting kinda way. High fives all around, y’all. God’s got our backs and we are headed to the Promised Land. Get in mah belleh, milk and honey!
Then, the bottom seemed to drop out. Wandering in the endless desert, hot as heck, no end in sight, and then Moses just up and climbs a mountain. He’s gone a hot minute, no one’s seen him in days (who can blame him? We’re whinier than a two-year old whose straw has a crease in it), and we’re easily distracted by ALL THE DISCOMFORTS. He’s like a mom hiding in the bathroom for just five minutes of alone time with Jesus (because let’s face it, toilet time is prayertime, amirite?) and we’re the kids who help ourselves to the cheerios and milk and spill the milk and make a huge mess but what did you expect us to do, mom, because you were never coming back and WE WERE STARVING.
Yeah, that’s how I feel. When are you coming back, Jesus? We are starving. Starving for goodness, and truth, and beauty. Starving for authentic love, harmonious families, edifying friendships. We’re starving for health, for peace, for full bellies. We’re starving for the peace the world cannot give.
We’re starving for You.
And so, we distract ourselves with idols – with pop stars, with thumbs glued to smartphones, with the drugs of noise and moral decay. We binge-watch Netflix. We binge-eat ourselves into obesity. We binge-argue with strangers on Facebook about crap that is only getting worse because we sit on our butts instead of actively engaging and encountering those around us. We focus more on carving out “me time” rather than prayer time**, “vent” our frustrations as complaints instead of seeing them as opportunities to grow in virtue, and we’re so mired in our own sinfulness that we blame all of the bad things on You, Lord – because nothing could POSSIBLY ever be our fault.
The thing is, God’s time is crockpot time, not microwave time. Everything tastes better when it’s slow roasted to perfection rather than being nuked for 30 seconds. God knows what He’s doing, and He hasn’t abandoned us. He’s using the trials we face to work on our souls – to chip away at our pride, our selfishness, our bravado. He sees the big picture, and He’s allowing the mess we’ve created to, paradoxically, help us work out our own salvation. He’s testing us in fire. We’re precious to Him. We are His gold. He’s present in the little things, the small graces of each day. He lets us know He’s here – and if we put down the phone long enough, turn down our headphones, and step outside of ourselves, we’ll see it. We’ll taste it. We’ll feel it.
Even better, we have something the Israelites didn’t. We have the promise of Our Lord. He knew times would be challenging; He know we’d starve for Truth. He knew we’d be tempted to surrender hope. His words are worth reading, repeating, and treasuring when we feel most abandoned:
“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in My name-he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid…And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. –John 14:26-27, 29”
We don’t need distractions to escape the misery. We have the promises of Christ.
Jesus, I trust in You.
**Lest I get comments about how, especially as wives and mothers, “me time” is good for ourselves and our families – and indeed that periodic relaxation and rest and reflection time is necessary to restore our souls to enable us to be what God is calling us to be – please know I’m referring to the mindset of the culture at large. Recharging is important and should be done, but as an addition to prayer time – not as a replacement for that time with Our Lord.