Friday, July 15, 2011

The Healing We All Need

The human being has a terrible fear of uncertainty.

I know I do. Since I was a child, my introspection, obsessiveness, and anxiety have convinced me that I cannot trust in myself. I cannot be confident about my opinions of myself. I cannot be confident that I am seeing reality in the right way.

Yet I have to judge. I have to act. I have to live my life and attend to my responsibilities. Even in my present, convalescent environment, with external pressures kept to a minimum and reliance on simple routine, still I am a man, a husband, a father, a companion to my wife and an example to my children, and--to the degree that I am able--a help to others. I still must work. Every day, I work on myself. I work on the healing process. I work on projects in the struggle to keep my profession alive.

Yet I often do not feel grounded. For many years, I attempted to trust in a kind of "Christian ideology." I attempted to impose a conception of what was "necessary to be a good Catholic" on the awful ambiguity of my life. It required a fair amount of rationalizing, interpreting, and good old fashioned fibbing to stuff the mess of my life inside this box so that it would not haunt my sense of self-confidence. Alongside of this, of course, God was at work, I was praying, seeking Him, and genuinely desiring (in however wobbly a fashion) to do His will and to trust in Him. Yet the ultimate uncertainty of my ideas constantly undermined my confidence.

Illness has forced me to face the need to rely on other people. What a relief it would be to abandon my freedom to their judgment. There is the temptation here to trust in other people's coherence, as if the reason why I follow the guidance of my wife, my doctors, my friends and my spiritual director is because they "have it all together" and I don't. But this kind of trust doesn't hold up either, because it is clear enough--sooner or later--that they are weak human beings too, with flaws and limitations and failures of judgment.

I have to trust in Jesus. This, for me, is not only a spiritual but also a psychological necessity. I am grounded in Jesus. I cry out to Him and beg for that certainty, and to keep my life centered on Him. In the Church He lives as a Presence for me now: as a way, as gestures, as a companionship. And other persons are given to me by Him to help me to insert myself into that life. It is He who works through them. It is because of His love for me that I can trust them. Even if we make a mistake, I can trust that He is behind us to catch us.

Look at this great mystery: marriage. Eileen and I do help each other and together we carry out the task of shaping an environment in which our children are growing. It's not because we are coherent. It's because marriage is a sacrament. It's grounded in Him. From here, it becomes possible to perceive that my relationships with my other companions are grounded in Him, in the communion of saints; that my relationship with every human person is grounded in Him who is the Savior of the world; that my relationship with reality is grounded in Him who is Lord of all creation.

Beyond any pathological condition, there is that radical anxiety, that radical fear of uncertainty, that afflicts us all. The healing we all need comes from Jesus. This is why He says, "believe in me."