Hope

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope. For hope would be hopeĀ for the wrong thing.

T.S. Eliot (American poet and Anglican convert)

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Right now that’s how I feel. I want to have hope, but I don’t know what to hope for. Things are difficult for my family. Even a month ago, things seemed as if they could still be normal. But now our options have closed in and it feels as if we are about to go through a narrow tunnel. We have no idea when, how, if we will emerge on the other side and where we will be.

I guess it’s not trust if you can see what lies on the other side. We would appreciate prayers.

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Tethered again

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I know that I promised I wouldn’t write any more about the Sacrament of Reconciliation on this blog for quite a while, but almost a year has passed, and I think I could get off with one small little post.

When I considered becoming Catholic, I felt about the same level of enthusiasm for going to Confession that a dog feels about having a bath. My dog doesn’t think that baths are necessary, and I thought that confession was one of these unnecessary things which Catholics had added to Christianity.

Suffice to say that by the time, I actually went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I had changed my views on this considerably. Father K told me that I should go to Confession once a year ‘or when I felt the need to go’. After the trauma of making my first confession, I appreciated that it was useful and necessary, but I couldn’t imagine ever actually feeling the need to go.

I have been proved wrong on that last count. Sometimes I have felt so far away from God, that I have begun to wonder if confession would help. The first time I felt like this, I asked a Catholic friend how you know if you need to go to confession and realised that if I was asking the question then I probably already knew the answer. I told our parish priest how I was feeling. Without putting any pressure on me, he told me that he would hear my confession the next day if I still felt the same way. My answer came in the peace and relief I felt when I knew that I could go and confess the things which were bothering me.

I haven’t felt the incredible feelings of peace which other people talk about experiencing after the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I think that I am resistant to being carried away by feelings. However, I have felt as if I have been unblocked spiritually and able to move on.

There is still a Protestant part of me which is extremely suspicious of things like confession. Recently I was puzzling over the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and trying to justify it to myself. An image drifted into my mind of a helium balloon, bobbing around in the air high above the ground. I was the balloon. The ground was a long way below, but I was tethered to it by a long string. Although I moved around in the air currents, I was reassured that I wasn’t going to be blown high into the atmosphere where I might burst, or be carried away to a far off place.

The long string was my faith and the ground was the ground of my soul, the deepest part of me where God dwells.

Sharp gusts of wind put a strain on the string and it snapped. I began to float away. The strains of life and the bad choices I had made had been too much for my faith and I had lost contact with the ground. I was high up in the sky, and I wasn’t able to retie the other end of the string on my own.

I realised that the Sacrament of Reconciliation was the help that I needed to retie that string and renew my relationship with God.

As I meditated on this, I looked down and saw that some people had grabbed the end of the string, and were smiling and waving up at me. I was too far away to see their faces, but I think that they were the saints, letting me know that I wasn’t alone and that they would help me not to drift away until I had a chance to restore the link of faith.

My very last thought on this was that every time the string breaks and is retied, it gets shorter. The balloon moves a little closer to the ground, and I move a little closer to God.

 

What have bank cards to do with faith?

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What have bank cards to do with faith? Since starting this blog, I’ve had a lot of mishaps with bank cards. Even though I didn’t really intend this blog to be about bank cards, I felt a need to vent my feelings by writing about these muddles. I thought that the unfortunate series of incidents with bank cards had come to an end in the spring. However, I made another careless mistake recently, and this time I was not quite so sanguine about it. I began to wonder if bank cards and faith are not quite such wholly unrelated subjects after all.

The muddle started off simply enough. I relaxed. I was on holiday abroad, and I sat in a busy cafe and ate ice cream with my family and didn’t think too much about the purse I had shoved deep into the rucksack beneath the swimming stuff and the sun lotion. We went for a swim in a lake, and hiked back along a quiet mountain path as shadows lengthened in the soft evening light. We didn’t quite reach our holiday house, before the children began to flag, and we stopped to rummage through the rucksack for the emergency food rations. By the time we got back, the hillside was in shadow and we cooked a quick meal and bundle the kids into bed. My husband unpacked the rucksack afterwards. I knew that I should really have checked where my purse was and put it back into my handbag, but I was far tired and it didn’t seem to matter. I was hardly going to need it that night.

The next morning, I was just about to hunt for my purse so that I could go out and buy milk when I suddenly fell victim to the holiday tummy. The least said about the next few hours the better, but I can report that I was not in any condition to worry about where my purse was, never mind try to locate it. I wasn’t quite sure where this evil bug had come from. A few days later, when we were out and about, I caught one of my children filling the water bottles from the bowl of the fountain where people spit and pee and let their dogs bathe, rather than from the stream of running water. All was then clear.

To give me a bit of peace and quiet, my husband took the kids out for a longer hike. I recovered remarkably quickly and decided to hike up the mountain to meet them. Before I left, I hunted unsuccessfully for my purse, but expected that it was probably still in the hiking rucksack, which my husband had taken with him. Mild anxiety turned very quickly into total panic, when I met up with the rest of the family and found out that my purse wasn’t in the rucksack.

I walked back to the holiday house to check again. Although I was walking through some of the most stunning scenery in Europe, I was utterly miserable, because I was coming to the following conclusions:

– My purse must have either been stolen the previous day in the cafe or been lost on the way back to the holiday house.
– In either case, I was very unlikely to ever see it again.
– Because it had taken me almost twenty-four hours to realise this, someone had probably used my bank card and my driving license to take a large sum of money out of our bank account.

I tried to pray, but my faith felt like a threadbare rag which no longer covered me. I was assaulted by feelings that I was a bad, good-for-nothing person whom God couldn’t possibly love, and that God had just been waiting for me to relax and let my guard down, in order to punish me.

A thorough search of the holiday house, including under beds and in drawers and kitchen cupboards, revealed no sign of the missing purse. I phoned my bank to cancel my card, and just before the credit on my phone ran out, I heard the assistant gabble something about all cards held in this name will be cancelled. Now I had another thing to worry about. It was a joint account. Did that mean that the bank would automatically cancel my husband’s card too?

Because half of our holiday money had been in my purse, we didn’t have enough money left to pay for train fares to the airport. While my husband went out to try and make another withdrawal from the cash machine, I went through the following worst case scenario:

– We won’t be able to get any more money out because
a) a thief has already emptied the account, or
b) the bank has also cancelled my husband’s card
– We won’t have enough money for food and so we will have to starve ourselves so that the children can eat.
– We won’t have enough money for trains to the airport. I couldn’t think of a way around this one.

My husband returned with some money, and none of these fears were realised, but it was still a pretty grim evening.

The morning sun, brought a little more hope and optimism, even though my schedule for the morning was going to be a long, hot hike to the tourist office on the off-chance that someone had handed in a lost purse, with possibly a detour via the police station, to officially report a missing purse.

Just before I set out, my husband said that he would make one last search of the house. I didn’t have any hopes that this would yield anything. However, he shook out the covers and checked the bed. There it was, wedged between the bed and the wall. I had checked under the bed the day before and had totally missed it. All night, I had been worrying about the missing purse, while I was lying right beside it.

I am utterly convinced that God must have a sense of humour.

I am still not sure quite how or why this mix-up happened, but it showed me that when push comes to shove, I still have a shockingly bad image of God as a petty tyrant who is waiting to pounce if I let down my defences for a moment and actually enjoy myself. There’s no point blaming it on my Calvinist upbringing. It’s my problem now, and I have to deal with it. The incident also showed me how vulnerable I feel and how little faith I have when the security of my bank card and access to money is (apparently) taken away.

I think I need to revisit ’30 Lies About Money’ by Peter Koenig, an unusual book which begins by stating quite frankly that it is about the relationship between money and soul.