Last week we had the flu. It put both of my very, very energetic brothers in bed for days. Neither Mom, Dad, nor I had it quite so bad, although I did “take to my bed” for most of one day. I suppose I was actually getting more sleep than usual, because I started having strange, vivid, multitudinous dreams every night– the last one I remember was Monday morning, and it involved septuplets which I couldn’t keep fed and cared for, but which (I think?) at some point, mercifully, metamorphosed into dolls so my neglect didn’t bring on some tragic end. The last several days, I admit, I have not gone to bed early, which has helped to silence (or at least exhaust) my subconcious.
Being home, feeling aimless and unable to really do anything or go anywhere, made the week seem like an eternity– which is only a slight exageration. One of my brothers stretched his fever over into Sunday, which meant I had to take off another day to stay home with him on Monday. Thankfully, he did finally get over it, so he didn’t miss another week of school.
The oddest part of it all, for me, was the feeling of gloom that settled over me. It really felt like a torturously long exile from life– a few days of the flu! I couldn’t shake it. Not only was I having wierd, paranoid dreams, but I was waking in the morning overshadowed by worry over something or other. Things that, in the course of life, I just shake off, hand over to God, and don’t worry about. All the spiritual questions that lay quietly in the back of my mind waiting for an answer rose up and knocked the universe out of whack. My normal view of life, the desire to cheer, the trust in God, had mysteriously evaporated in a few days. Laugh if you will; right now, writing this, I realize the overcast skies are clearing, but a few days ago, it was real and I couldn’t shake it!
I suppose times like that are inevitable in everybody’s life. I know there are those who descend into that overcast valley for months and years at a time– perhaps I can sympathize a little with how they feel, stuck with the world passing by.
I feel challenged to reevaluate my own spiritual foundation, to strengthen the faith that so easily, amazingly, wavers.
This evening I came across a quote (from “Seeking the Face of God”, by Gary Thomas) which seemed particularly apropos:
When we love Christ only for what He brings us, including spiritual feelings, we are loving ourselves, not loving Him, regardless of the sacrifice we think we are offering. The dark night of the soul purifies our motivation and keeps us from becoming like the crowds in the New Testament who followed Jesus, not for His teaching, but for the miraculously supplied bread.
When we live by faith and not feelings, when we persevere no matter how dry we feel, Teresa of Avila said, we show we are among those souls who “would want the Lord to see that they do not serve Him for pay.” That is, we want the Lord to see that we will serve Him regardless of whether it gives us pleasure or pain. We will serve Him because He is God and Lord and because He has captured our hearts and our wills.