So I told Fr Ganz that I am currently reading C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed after reading excerpts of it in The Question of God (a book comparing the lives and believes of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud). I read the following passage and it could completely relate to Lewis - I couldn't have said it more perfectly...
Where is God? When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be - or so it feels - welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?... Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.' ...When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of "no answer." It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent gaze. As though he shook his head, like, "Peace, child, you don't understand."
After Fr. Ganz gained an insight as to where I honestly stand right now, he said we should get together to further discuss my current thoughts and questions. Thank goodness for people who are willing to invest in our young lives! I am thankful for people like this who see an opportunity to make a positive impact on someone and go for it!
So there we sat, a 58-yr-old Catholic priest and a 27-year-old overwhelmed girl, in the corner booth of a Portland bar discussing questions of life and faith. We sat for several hours, me vulnerably sharing my struggles, he offering his wise council. It's hard for me to sum up the words Fr Ganz spoke to me, as he tends to speak in elegant and picturesque ways. But here are a few thoughts that stick with me:
- If you were able to enter God's presence, see Him face to face, and he were to ask you "My child, what is it that I can do for you?", what would you say? Or would you be so filled with peace as he looked in your eyes and called you by name that all of your worries, requests and questions disappeared? Like Orual in Lewis' Til We Have Faces.
- Our culture and language only use the word "faith" as a noun. We don't have a verb for faith (the closest we have is "believe"). So when it comes to faith, we say that you either have it or you don't. But even in times when you feel like you're losing your faith or that your faith is smaller than it use to be, you can still be faithing (for lack of a better verb). One of my biggest frustrations is when I try to explain a doubt or struggle to someone and they simple say, "Just have faith." or "Just believe." Rather than, "It's ok, even good, to have those questions. Keep going and explore your faith." Like Reepicheep in Lewis' Prince Caspian.
- As you go through the deep and heavy areas of life, remember the good in the bigger picture of your life. Things you know to be true, but are sometimes overlooked. Fr Ganz started our conversation (and reminded me at the end) that despite current struggles, God has placed me in such a wonderful and unique place; with my job, my family, my community, my desires for life. He reminded me that it's important to always remember those aspects of life and what God has already provided when I'm figuring out the tough parts of my faith. Such a good reminder.
So I didn't leave tonight with a clear understanding of God and a confident, peaceful spirit. But I was able to openly talk to someone who cared enough to listen and could encourage me in my faith journey. Because it is a journey. Sometimes you just need someone further down the road to meet you where you are and then give you a little boost. To agree to continue down the road with you and say, "Let's read The Chronicles of Narnia together and look at those questions through a different lens. It's quite an exciting adventure!" So we're going to keep faithing!
I'm so thankful to have my wonderful family up here, the Moores, who invite me to their home for special holidays such as Thanksgiving and Easter. The Moores have a very special Thanksgiving tradition which I have come to be a part of. Each year during the week of Thanksgiving, each person should call someone who they haven’t talked to in a while who has influenced or impacted or contributed to their life. It might be a former coach, teacher, friend, family member, or whoever. The idea is to thank them for what they have meant in your life and, since you haven’t seen them in a while, to encourage them and honor them. At dinner on Thursday, we will go around and each person will tell who they contacted, why that person got a call (how they impact your life) and what their response was. We don't tell people often enough how thankful we are for them. This is a great excuse to do that!