When All Is Said and Done
The holiday feeling is fading. The joy and peacefulness of Christmas is disappearing. The hopefulness and bright-eyedness that comes with the dawn of a new year is dissipating. When all the gifts have been opened, the greetings have already been exchanged and there are fireworks no more, what I feel like we’re left with is…reality.
And what is the reality? It is the daily grind of work, relationships and struggles, not cocooned in the bubble of bright lights, cheerful songs and vacation. And I sigh. Here we go again.
No one knows what is in store for us in the coming days. We hope, we desire, we try to steer our lives towards where we think we should be. But as we all know, where we aim to arrive is not always what becomes reality for us. Surprises and sudden turns happen, whether we like it or not.
Last year, who would have thought I would finally be able to do my long-ago desire of going thru a thirty-day Ignatian silent retreat? Who could have warned me that after all that silence, I would come out to the environment of the national elections where all the peace from the retreat was shattered by the bickering of people with different political beliefs and choices? Who could have told me that as the year progressed, I would cry often for people I didn’t know personally but whose bodies I would see in the news, lying on the streets, covered in blood and shabby cloth or newspaper, whose murders appear to be taken with just a shrug and looking away? Who could have predicted that I would be back on the streets, protesting once more against something I felt so strongly about and which caused me sleepless nights or restless sleeps and more tears? Who would have imagined that by December, I would already be so wrought by many things yet so free from certain attachments I have held on for so long?
Consolation and desolation are two words I learned so much about in that retreat, not just theoretically but experientially. In Ignatian Spirituality, simply put, consolation means being closer to God while desolation is the opposite of it and refers to moving farther from God. Consolation is not necessarily a good experience or feeling, in fact, it can be the worst circumstance and yet, its grace is that it brings God within nearer focus and deeper relationship to a person. As Father Jun Bugtas SJ mentioned in a talk, it can sometimes be a “human low but a divine high”. On the other hand, desolation can be the best feeling or event in the world, except that the focus becomes on the self or what’s worldly rather than what’s with God.
I have always loved the holidays. I look forward to Christmas every year. I always anticipate New Year’s Eve. But with all these comes a cloud, a feeling of dread and a foreboding: when all of these is over, what happens next? And I realize that all the happiness and joy become fear. Fear for what can be, especially nowadays when I wake up not wanting to know what’s going on in the country and the world just to protect myself from negative thoughts. Nowadays when questions on my personal choices are hovering in my head. Nowadays when black can be made white, wrong can be acceptable and a day can mean loss of lives and a timeframe that brings people closer to self-destruction.
Can these fears be a human low but a divine high? Is there consolation from going thru such confusion and fear? Is God going to be near this 2017?
I would say yes. That thirty-day retreat gave me a reservoir of thoughts, feelings, and experiences – all concrete and personal – that cannot make me believe nor imagine otherwise. God knows me, God cares for me, God loves me. And God always stays close. God never lets that reservoir run dry, no matter how many times I draw from it. Last year, I drew and I drew from that same reservoir and months after I started, now, I would say that it is still full and overflowing. Because its Source is generous with consolations and love.
So let the holidays finish. Let reality proceed. I am still afraid for many things and I am still afraid for what can be or cannot be. But with this God I have come to know and allowed to love me, I can say that, when all is said and done, I have every right to be afraid but I have no reason to be.