Tuesday, April 01, 2014

My Spiritual Wilderness

The Rev. Joan Beilstein
The other morning when I was praying my private devotions, I experienced a moment of deep sadness. It washed over me so powerfully that I spent some time with God reflecting upon it. I realized I am in a place of spiritual dryness. Not that this is bad...times such as these sometimes bear the most soul fruit, but they sure aren't fun places to be in. So let me tell you a bit about the spiritual desert I am in.

As I look around world, I see so much distress. The grief of 
the family members who have lost loved ones in the crash of Malaysia flight 370. The anxiety that is mounting as our nation and Russia are locked in what may result in economic hardship or, even worse, devastating armed conflict. Closer to home, the illnesses and deaths of people I love, from my parish and in my own family.

Such global and local distresses, has reminded me once again of the shortness of life. In this season of Lent – this season of self-examination – I have been compelled to ask myself some poignant questions. What has been the meaning of my life? What have I achieved? What have I failed at? What hopes and dreams must I really now let go of? Who are the people I've loved well? Who are the people I've disappointed and not loved so well? What sins have I committed through my actions? What sins have I committed by my omissions? How can I make amends - is it too late? And what will my life be like if my spouse and loved ones predecease me and I am living on into very old age?

A wise therapist who was on my very first parish lay committee said to me: "What people need most to understand about the spiritual life is that the norm is dryness. The mountaintops are gifts to be treasured to help us endure on for days, years, even a lifetime." I was blessed he was open about his spiritual life and struggles (something most Episcopalians aren't willing to do).

Today, I invite you to reflect upon where you are in your spiritual life. If you are in a period of dryness, reflect upon it and if willing, share it with someone you trust. If you are in a good space with the glow of the mountaintop still around you, rejoice. It is truly a gift to aid you on your journey. No matter where you are though – whether in a good place spiritually or troubled and impacted by local or global distresses – remember to have faith and hope in the Lord who says to each of us, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

The Rev. Joan Beilstein is rector of Ascension, Silver Spring.