One of the fruits of my retreat back in August was the suggestion/encouragement of the chaplain to seek out a spiritual director. This had been something I'd been considering for a while, but working for the diocese has presented a bit of a challenge for me. I wasn't sure at all how to approach a priest (I wanted a priest because I wanted to be able to incorporate confession) that I work with OR how I would feel about talking about struggles in my prayer life, marriage, etc with someone who is also a co-worker, even if somewhat removed. Well, turns out that Fr. Jon (from the retreat) is best friends with a priest here in WV. A priest who I already knew and who I knew I could trust to be faithful to the magisterium. While the importance of this is, I hope, somewhat obvious, it will make even more sense in a little bit.
When I got back from the retreat, I emailed Fr. D and asked if he would be open to being my spiritual director. In the email I expressed my nervousness about this process and especially that we work together, though not closely. Fr. D is the pastor at a parish nearby and I have worked with a couple of his couples who were preparing for marriage. One of the things that became clear to me at my retreat was that being accepted/fitting in/being viewed positively is one of my idols and I shared this with Fr. D, explaining that I needed to let go of this idol and by reaching out I was taking a first step.
SO, all of this said, we had our first meeting back in early October and our second meeting last week. The first meeting was, as I expected, a bit of a "get to know you" general meeting. Fr. D already knew my general story of past use of contraception and now IF (he was a nurse and in the Navy (but not a nurse in the Navy) before becoming a priest - cool, huh?). So, it was easy to get right to some of my emotions.
Leading into my second meeting, I was struggling. Really struggling. I don't often post about it here, but I have a really hard time with this question: "Did I do this to myself?" (meaning: did my 12 years of using contraception cause our IF? Did I do this (IF) to myself?) Now, I do not post this here partly because you are all always so kind and loving that I can hear your comments of love but also partly because so many of you did not use contraception and I'm sure it just rubs salt in your wounds when I share my hurts knowing that I might have, in fact, caused our IF. So, quite often I go to a pretty dark place when I start down this spiral. It is usually pretty fast and all-consuming. And because this is the place I came to process it, and I don't process this part here, the spiral is all that much faster and darker.
Just before my visit last week, I was heading down this spiral and happened to say so in an email to a friend (I was apologizing for sounding so whiny here when "I probably did this to myself."). Her response was nothing more than the hands and feet of Jesus reaching out to me. All day, when I would start down the spiral, I'd reread the email. And when I started my session with Fr. D it was the first thing I told him about - about my struggles with this issue and about the email.
Now, Fr. D's faithfulness to the Magisterium is obviously important, but because of this very issue it is extremely important to me. More important than the fact that he has not done a lot of spiritual direction and more important than whether or not we were coworkers. I needed someone I could trust to be straight with me, not let me BS my way out of things, and not sugar coat the truth when I needed to hear it. And he didn't. But I was still surprised by his answer. While I know that I know that I know that God is not punishing me, when I start down this spiral, it's hard to remember. And he walked me through some questions to determine intent and culpability and got me to a place where, at least in my head when I'm feeling very sane and very rational (which isn't often I'm afraid - darn hormones), I realize that I did not, in fact, do this (IF) to myself. That even if medically, my use of contraception contributed to our IF, it is not something I *did* to myself. It's hard to wrap my mind around, I admit it, but I trust Fr. D.
AND, while all this was important, it is my homework that is even more important. The email I received that I kept going back to is the start of it. I am to keep a binder/journal/something with things (emails, quotes, scripture, letters to myself, etc) that pull me out of the spiral. If I start going down it, I'm supposed to pull out my journal and read the things I've put in it. I have the perfect journal, a gift from Alison over a year ago, that says "Keep Calm and Carry On" on the front - see?, I told you it was perfect. I've got a bunch of things bookmarked and ideas for it so far, I just need to take some time and print them out/write them down. I'm looking forward to some time to do so this weekend.
So often, when our hormones, emotions, lack of sleep, and any other number of things that are part of life occur, it causes us, well me, to lose sight of what I know and believe. It's easier to believe that I caused our IF than to face the unknown; it's easier to believe that God is punishing me than to accept there just might not be an answer; it is much easier to slide right on down the spiral into the dark than to stop myself and claw back to the top and the light. It's nice to know that I know have a place to go to remind myself of what I know and believe.
Different conversations have come up on a couple of blogs and on twitter lately that I have responded with "have you considered spiritual direction?" and I thought it might be nice if I shared one of my experiences with it here. I won't be sharing every detail (for example, I had 4 things to do for homework after our session last week, this is just one of them) here, but when it's relevant and something I think might help someone else, I will share. Certainly, what works for me won't work for everyone, but maybe just
I'm happy to answer any questions you have about spiritual direction, as someone once did for me. You can leave them in the comments and I will answer there or you can email me (RebeccaWVU02 at gmail dot com) if you prefer.