Thursday, January 19, 2006

Human Frailty - Part Two

How does one get to the point when their spirituality becomes frail? What kinds of circumstances happen to cause a person to become that downtrodden that their faith no longer exists or is weak?

Like physical frailty can cause emotional frailty, I believe that physical and emotional frailty often leads to spiritual frailty. Physcial pain due to an illness or injury does cause a physiological response in the brain. Emotional illness or psychological trauma causes basically the same response. When a person's brain is assaulted with a constant barrrage of pain and/or anxiety, a person will become weaker to outside forces. A person becomes extremely vulnerable at this point. The situation is totally out of that person's control. So, how does a person respond?

I'd like to answer that question by pulling out some of my own life experiences. I can think of several times in my lifetime when my own spirituality - my relationship and faith in God - was frightfully frail. Probably the first time I experienced that rift with God was after my mother's death when I was fourteen. I spent years after that being angry with God for taking Mom away from me, as I was virtually an orphan. I lived with my Dad and a couple of my brothers, but they weren't very understanding or supportive of a girl my age. In fact, the opposite is true - if anything, I was ridiculed and put down and teased a lot. During high school and college, I immersed myself in extra-curricular activities - but in retrospect, I think it was my way of running away from God. I didn't want a thing to do with Him - all I wanted was just just live life MY way. Little did I realize that the frail relationship I had with Him left me very, very vulnerable to attacks from forces which led me even further away from Him. I was consumed with anger, bitterness, and rebellion against Christian beliefs.

I married when I was twenty one, right after my junior year in college. While my husband and I married in the Catholic church, neither one of us were "practicing" Cathlics per sae. I was still searching for an answer to take my pain away. I didn't realize that all I had to do was reach out my hand to God, and He'd be right there to help me. I wasn't as angry or bitter or rebellious over the next few years - but I was very sad and depressed. Again, that left me vulnerable to drifting even further away from God, and I felt all alone. My spirit and my soul were as frail as a tiny new-born kitten.

I decided to pursue my Master's Degree in Social Work when I was about thirty years old. This process allowed me to do some pretty intense soul searching. I began to pray, ever so tentatively, to ask God to make some sense out of my past life, to help me in my present life, and to guide me in my future life. And then, IT happened. I had a medical crisis where there was a question of whether or not I had cancer, and which required me to have an operation which would not allow me to ever bear my own biological children. Over the next several months, while I was very physically and emotionally frail, my spiritual frailty was transformed into a very strong faith in God. It was a metamorphosis of sorts. Granted, there were times when, once again, those forces tried to attack me to bring me back to being vulnerable once again - but I learned how to rely on God for my strength and my comfort. I had to let go of my intense need to CONTROL everything. He was the one constant in my life that pulled me out of the darkness and into the light. Without Him, I would not be here today.

All of my experiences - the painful and the joyful - have allowed my relationship with God to grow and get stronger. I am one of the blessed ones. Unfortunately, I think that other people don't ever allow their spiritual frailty to be healed by turning to God and accepting Him into their lives. It may be out of fear, or a need to "control" their own destiny, or anger, or a lot of other reasons which hold them back. I am thinking in particular of members of my own family who are still bitter and resentful and afraid. And I pray for them on a daily basis.


At 10:01 PM, Blogger Hector said...

There have been times in my life when I was away from God, but never due to a bad event or an illness. In my mind, i can't understand why in the face of a severe illness or something like cancer one would not just surrender completely to God. However, I do read about people that are typically religious, but are too sick or to hurt to pray. I guess it happens often...

At 10:43 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

Here's a thought, by C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity: If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worst of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.

What keeps us from God, and is the root of all evil, is Pride. From Osama to Hitler, and in all of us in between, it flourishes. We want to be God. We want to control our lives. It's a constant struggle, and, in my experience, never ending. The impossibility of such control leads us to surrender to despair, bitterness, anger and violence. Still, you give us hope that overcoming it is possible. Maybe not completely until we're resurrected, but possible to some degree here on Earth.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Gina Burgess said...

Really great posts, Val. It has given me much fodder for thought.

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Paula said...

Great post Val! I hate that you had to suffer the way you did, but am so glad you came to a crisis of faith and chose God. God is using you in ways you may never know, to help others. You have helped me and listened when I needed a friend. I always remember our phone call during the week Ally left us as a dose of good medicine. Just the sound of your voice was food for my soul.

God Bless and have a great weekend!!!

At 5:51 PM, Blogger HeyJules said...

This post was great because we got to see a more personal look at you. I love a good "How I came to God" story and this one sounded an awful lot like mine. (Okay, mine was a mental imbalance while yours was a physical one, but other than that...)

I couldn't agree with you more. There are three sides to humans and we so often tend to think the balance lies between the physical and the emotional wellness and forget that the spiritual balance has to be there, too or the whole thing will just keep tipping over.

At 6:26 PM, Blogger ukok said...

So eloquently written, Valerie. The more I read, the more I realise that we are very similar in some ways :)

God Bless.

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

I'm glad you found God. You are a great person becuase of that.

At 8:39 PM, Blogger My Kid's Mom said...

Hi Hector: Thanks for stopping by and offering your thoughts.

Kevin: I agree - Pride is the root of all evil. And I appreciate that you think that my overcoming my "control" struggles gives others hope that they can overcome theirs. In a way, I must admit that I think, if I can do it, then ANYONE can do it - because I had sunk so low.

Hi Gina - It's been so long since I've heard from you - thanks for stopping by. . .

Hi Paula - and I pray that our friendship grows deeper and stronger. I have enjoyed our phone calls, and am so glad that we've been able to reach out to each other!

Hi Jules - Yes, I've thought that our lives have had many similarities when I read something on your blog!

Ukok - Thank you, my friend.

Sarah - What a very kind thing for you to say - thank you so much!
I'm looking forward to reading more about your story!!

At 9:27 PM, Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

Interesting reading, thanks. Both my parents died when I was young (Dad at 8 and Mum at 15.) Interestingly, I was 30 when I finally dealt with the grief issues involved. Luckily I found a very skilled and experienced counsellor. Maybe there is something magic about being 30!


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