I began my Advent retreat faced with new challenges. Rambo had left for his own retreat out of the country. The situation at work went from bad to worse. Within one day of setting a goal of engaging deeply in spiritual reflection and gratitude, I was mentally cussing out this person and that person. By day 2, I had coined “You’re ruining my Advent” as my rationale for the recurring anger and frustration. Even during prayer, I found myself praying for Jesus to take control not out of faith and acceptance but because my mind was going negative places. I had missed the point.
Saint John of the Cross wrote about the “dark night of the soul”, an experience of great suffering and confusion that tests one’s strength and faith. I have lived through many dark nights due to emotional struggles, physical illnesses, family crises, and work-related conflicts; I cannot say that my recent experiences are a “dark night” experience. However, I gave in rapidamente to negative thinking, to resentment, judgment, self-righteousness, all those thought patterns and ways of talking about others that get in the way of my faith and my growth. I’m quick to throw ajos y cebollas all around. While I know that I cannot control others and that I can control my own reactions, I chose to lose control, if only behind people’s backs and in my mind. Nobody was ruining my Advent without my permission and involvement.
Brett’s birthday fell on the second to last day before the winter break, during the 3rd week of Advent. I logged into Facebook to change my profile picture to commemorate this day. As often happens when I think of Brett, I was reassured.
My Advent has been filled with love, love from M, love from Rambo (via Skype), love from my samba family, love from my boss, and love from the speakers and writers at Dynamic Catholic. Even that one person who gets on my last nerve on the regular showed me love; this sometime nemesis turned out to be my secret Santa. I had sent a mean text about this individual minutes before when my colleague approached me. When I heard the news, I laughed at the irony and the lesson. Despite our differences and occasional skirmishes, this person had spent two weeks giving me thoughtful gifts. As we shared a hug, I scolded myself for being close-minded and resentful, for not showing mercy.
Advent is about waiting. It is the period of waiting in darkness for the light of dawn. I struggle with my own darkness, whether it is the darkness of depression or the darkness of anger and anxiety. I wrestle with that darkness; I may have to crawl towards the light. I won’t be stopped.
|Morning at Machu Picchu, July 2014. Photo by me.|