I have been having to let go of a few things recently. My 8 year old son has decided to stop calling me ‘Mummy’ and now calls me ‘Mum’ – He’s not my baby any more! My 10 month old has moved out of our room into her own room and my 4 year old is getting ready to start big school in September. Letting go is not easy.
It got to the point a few years back where I felt I had finally let go of everything and given it to God. And in my conscious mind I had. But the heart is full of secret chambers that hide deep, deep secrets. So deep that sometimes you are not even aware of them yourself.
In January this year the Lord was calling me to do something. I didn’t know what, and I was hesitating to give my ‘yes’ because I know what that means – He wants Everything. I had also recently just given birth to my third child and wasn’t sure I could commit to anything else. But eventually, one day when I was driving home from the school run I felt the prompt that now was the right time. So I said “OK, here you go – here’s my ‘yes’. I have no idea of what it is you are calling me to do but here is my ‘yes’ anyway – Jesus, I trust in you.”
Little did I know that this was a preparation for Carmel. The thing is, that when the Lord calls you into the desert with Him you go alone. I mean, you can take literally nothing with you. And it seems that in the deepest secret chambers of my heart I was holding onto something – security.
I got married 14 years ago aged 20. I went from living with my parents to living with my husband. I have never lived alone. I have always had someone to take care of me be it emotionally, financially or whatever. I have never been on my own with anything my entire adult life. My husband is my rock – he always has been. A week after I gave my ‘yes’ to God, my husband collapsed on the sofa with an unknown illness. By the next morning he couldn’t raise his head off of the pillow. It was terrifying, no-one knew what was wrong with him and he was getting worse. Blood test after blood test came back negative and at one point we even had the heart wrenching conversation “You know where all the life insurance documents are right?”
To cut a very long story short, after a month of searching we eventually got a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). There was relief that it was not life threatening. There was despair that there is no real cure. If you can imagine having run a marathon and having the flu and the worst hangover of your life – well that’s CFS. Every day without a break I would wake up to watch my husband suffering terribly knowing there was nothing I, or anyone else could do to help him. His courage and resolve throughout all this puts me to shame. He truly is the bravest man I know. The kids took it in their stride as kids do.
The hardest part for me is that my rock had been taken away from me. I was terrified and alone and had to hide my feelings not only from the kids but from my husband who had enough to deal with just getting through the day. There was not a day that went by for months and months that I would just find a place to be alone and just cry out of desperation and fear. I was alone in the dark with no-one to cling onto. “Why are you doing this to us?!” was all I could say to the Lord.
“Where are you hiding,
Beloved, having left me to moan?
Like the stag you fled
After wounding me;
I followed crying aloud, but you had gone.”
– St. John of the Cross
It began to dawn on me in prayer that there was something within me that was an issue, and the Lord was leading (a better word would be dragging) me through it. I was given the consolation of Our Lady reminding me that when I hold the Rosary, it is really her holding my hand. But things didn’t end there. The Lord also brought several ‘false rocks’ into my path that in varying ways seemed to offer me a perfect solution to the fear and despair I was experiencing. “Why are you doing this to me?!?!” These were some of the biggest tests I had ever had to face. Each time the Lord was testing me to see if I would rely solely on Him or not. He was testing me to see if I was ready to go into the desert with Him alone.
After much struggling and agonising, and being stripped down to my core, it seems that at 34 years old, I finally am ready!
My husband has improved so much since January and now is fairly normal at home. He has a good prognosis and has been told to expect to make a full recovery – in time. It could be a few years – we just don’t know. I the mean time he will remain at home and enjoy spending time with the baby. This does mean that because he cannot work we now have no income for the foreseeable future and I would ask you to pray about that for us. But quite frankly, I am at the point now where if we lose the house, we lose the house. So be it! It’s just a building and we can find another one if we have to. I am learning the true meaning of detachment – in every area of my life.
It’s been the hardest 8 months of my life. I’m bruised, but not broken. The main feeling I have is of incredible gratitude and relief that the Lord allowed me to go through this now, so I can learn to rely completely on Him and draw even closer to Him. I am beginning to learn the incredible beauty, purpose and value of suffering within the context of a relationship with Christ. He was amongst other things, preparing me to enter the desert that I now realise has always been my home – Carmel.
I hope this gives some insight into what has been going on for the last 8 months. I have not written about it before now because i had no way of articulating what on earth was happening. This is by no means the end – and there is of course much more to this story, but I’m afraid those things are to remain deep secret desert conversations between me and the ruler of my heart.
So now i ask you – What attachments are hiding in the secret depths of your heart?
“…In the happiness of the night,
Secretly, unseen by anybody,
Looking at nothing else,
With no other light or guide
Save that which was burning in my heart.
This light guided me
More certain than the light of midday,
To where one awaited me
Whom I knew well
In a place where no one would appear…”
– St. John of the Cross