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When You Hit the Wall – A Reflection

April 8, 2020
Statue of Saint Ignatius of Loyola—Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama

As I look back over the years I remember hitting the proverbial wall. Not in the sense that my fist went through it, but in the sense that I ran of steam and collapsed. Tonight I watched my beloved hit that wall… and I hit it myself.

We have been literally slogging along trying to offer virtual services and fellowship for the congregation I serve. There have been so many moments of joy and thanksgiving as we worshipped together. But for us it comes at a cost. Tonight we called my Mom’s sister in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Tomorrow would have been my Mom’s 87th birthday. It has been two years and five months since we laid her to rest. Four months later we laid Denise’s precious Mom to rest.

When you add the emotion of the call tonight with my Mom’s sister and the exhaustion we are feeling, we hit the wall. Now as we sit on the deck and look up at the stars I wonder. I wonder how long, O Lord… I wonder, where are you in the midst of this pandemic. I search, I wonder, and I pray…

As we watch the pandemic sweep this globe we wonder… my Aunt’s companion Jack has a son… his name is Alec (my grandfather’s name, my middle name, and my son’s name) who has contracted the COVID-19 virus. Jack is 102 and his son is in his 70’s. Once again it hits close to home. How long, O Lord, how long.

As we walk the journey with Jesus we approach the Last Supper… Gethsemane… the Betrayal… the cruel treatment… the torture… and that is only on Maundy Thursday into the break of day when the cock crows three times as Peter denies Jesus…

As we sit under the stars tonight I wonder… Orion is visible in the sky… my constant companion no matter where life or the military sent me. Always a beacon of hope… of home… Jesus, did you look to the stars in the sky for comfort as we do?

It all washes over me again… in the midst of it all, I turn to my spiritual mentor, my brother, my friend… for encouragement, for advice, for companionship on the journey.

In his Autobiography, The Seven Story Mountain p. 91, Merton shares the following about the journey of grief— Indeed, the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers the most: and his suffering comes to him from things so little and so trivial that one can say that it is no longer objective at all. It is his own existence, his own being, that is at once the subject and the source of his pain, and his very existence and consciousness is his greatest torture.

May God guide us through the Valley of the Shadows much as he did my spiritual mentor and as God guided Jesus… show us the way, Oh God, show us the way…

  1. I wish I had words of comfort for you both, but I don’t, so I will sit here with you and cry. Hugs, my dear friends.

  2. Joanne permalink

    Entering suffering fully sooner — ah, courageous (though it often looks nuts from the ground). The stars seem like a good beacon to me, a tether/anchor in wonder that makes us look up to orient. Having had a conversation with my own spiritual director (as I continue to companion others) today, I heard “be gentle”, “be with”. For those of us who so love and wish to serve those we are with by call and circumstance, these words proved a reminder to me of what should be obvious. We need the gentleness and tenderness we work to extend. So, thanks for writing. And breathe and be very good to you brother friend from afar, yet near. Go very gently, treat you tenderly, and enter whatever is now as you can with no demands. Wonder, but breathe, rest, hush too. Sorry for my running on. Thank you very much for your words.

  3. Hugh Hamilton permalink

    I lift you up in prayer, Padre! May you find firm footing and renewed zeal as the God who loves you tends to your heart and soul and mind and strength.

  4. Durl permalink

    Michael, thanks for your devotional thoughts. You two take good care of yourselves, and don’t forget to mention the two of us in your prayers.

  5. Oh, Michael, it’s no wonder you and your beloved are struggling. These are incredibly stressful and draining days we are all living in. You have been continually pouring out, helping, supporting and ministering to others, and it has taken an inevitable toll on your bodies and souls. May the Lord comfort, console, and refresh you in the same way you do for so many, as He guides you into setting a more manageable schedule. And may you rest in His all-sufficiency as you seek to recover and recoup necessary energy and strength. You matter. Do take care of yourselves and do whatever it takes to heal and be whole. Sending prayers and blessings across the pond. 🙏🏻❤️

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