Monday, July 06, 2009

The race

A few weeks ago, we had two diving incidents over the course of a few days. That Saturday we came back from our beach trip a few hours early so that Mary Clare could attend the final swim meet of the year. This divisional meet was held at the new indoor pool, the natatorium. (a quick aside: spellcheck doesn't like the word natatorium and wants me to change it to sanatorium, moratorium, crematorium...) There were about 6 different swim teams crammed underneath the football stadium bleachers. I thought our time would be spent indoors so we had dropped off all our beach gear, including the chairs. While Steven ran home to get them, the kids and I held our "place", which by the time he arrived ended up being about 4ft square next to the trash can to put 3 chairs and all our gear! I kept wondering why in the world we had left our vacation for this claustrophobic catastrophe that could not seem to get started. The YMCA playground pool was sounding more and more promising.

But finally it was time for the meet to start and after a few events, it was finally Mary Clare's turn for her one event: the 25 meter freestyle. She was pumped up and ready to swim her heart out. As the other kids slowly wandered to their starting blocks, she immediately climbed up and took her starting position. Right at that moment the buzzer went off for another race for the older kids. Mary Clare dove in right away and swam her heart out for at least half the length of the pool until she felt the "false start" rope that was released across the pool to stop her from swimming any further. She headed back to the blocks and was soon ready to try again. She swam well but I'm sure was so exhausted that it wasn't really her best swim. Steven and I felt so bad for her, but she really took it in stride.

Then a few nights later we took the kids to the nieghborhood pool for a late evening swim before bed. The girls were taking turns diving in to Steven in the deep end. All of a sudden I heard Ellie crying and Steven calling for me to help. Mary Clare had dove in before Ellie reached the edge of the pool, hitting Ellie's eye (goggles) with her hip, causing a big cut in Ellie's eyebrow that required a trip to the emergency room for some medical "superglue".

Tonight I've been thinking about Mary Clare's early dives and how they relate to my own spiritual experience of the past few years. As I've written about before, I have been a member of a lay movement for several years. I joined when Mary Clare was a toddler and I was deep in the throws of new motherhood and thrilled to find my own little "roadmap" for the spiritual life. I knew many families in "the movement" who I greatly admired and I had great hopes that this was the solution to maintaining my spiritual walk in my vocation as a wife and mother.

I fell in love with all the aspects of this group...the people, the prayer commitments, the retreats, the team life, the spiritual direction, and the writings. I tried to share it with all my friends and thought that it was the perfect means to holiness for young families.

I dove in with my whole heart.

I was the ideal new member, full of vigor and zeal. I was ready to do whatever apostolate (ministry) I was asked to do. Although most of my friends weren't really interested, I swam on with my eyes focused on the goal: holiness. We moved towns for a time, and I was still on fire for it, trying to encourage more young moms in this college town to consider this movement. My prayer life was going well and the movement had become a true part of who I was.

We settled back in our home here and once again I was spending lots of my time in my involvement with the movement. But as I started officially homeschooling this year, and our weekly meetings moved locations, my zeal for it all was starting to wane. I was feeling frustrated and burnt out. I had always received wonderful guidance, and one of my spiritual directors had told me that my homeschooling vocation had to be a priority. I took that to heart and focused on my family this past year.

When the news of the horrible scandals of the founder of this movement came about in February, I was devastated. I had looked to the writings of this man and admired so much about him. I knew a family member of his personally, and to me her charity and holiness spoke volumes on the sanctity of her family and the founder. But now his persona was all a lie, a fraud, and my heart was, and still is, very hurt. We were also in the midst of Mary Clare's knee surgery and recovery, Steven Joseph's heart diagnosis, and some other family issues. So I took time during Lent to just step back and await further information on how things might continue.

That was the time of that rope being put before me, stopping me in my tracks and requiring me to turn back around and swim through all the memories and analyze just what this movement was for me. I don't think I'm finished swimming through that yet. I don't feel like the place I'm in right now allows me to discern fully where I want to go from here. My spiritual life feels like it has been turned upside-down and I feel a lot of confusion on how to proceed. My faith has been shaken, as can be imagined. When you put faith in people before faith in God, it's a given that your faith will be shaken when those people fail. Because people always fail.

But God does not fail. I'm so thankful to have a Father in Heaven who always looks out for my best interests, and who loves me even when my relationship with Him is lacking. I'm thankful to have a Church where the sacraments don't hinge on my belief in them, and where the Mass is the Mass even when my body is there without my heart. Yesterday I spent most of Mass in the Narthex of the Church with a young mom and her twin toddler girls. The girls and Stevie had quite a time running to and fro, and soaking in each other's smiles. I tried to remember that moment of joy and laughter. God was with us and giving us grace in our state of life in the Narthex, barely hearing the Mass going on inside the doors. And right now I'm trying to do the same; finding joy in the unknown state I feel like I'm living in, grasping for hope rather than despair, and looking to light before darkness.

I'm inching to climb back to those starting blocks again. Mary Clare was so ready to dive back in again for the race, and I yearn for that childlike faith. But I am where I am, and I think I have yet to climb out of the pool in order to try again. I'm taking in some deep breaths and resting my soul for the newest race, and trying not to be too anxious about what that race entails. It will come when it comes, and my faith (even without my heart and mind) rejoices in the fact that God is already there cheering me on and waiting for me at the finish line.


Neen said...

I truly mourned when I left the movement and realized everything wasn't what it should be. Try to hold on to where God wants you to be and not where someone else that you thought was more holey, thinks you should be. What I am trying to say is that God meets us in the struggle more so than in the feel good prayer time. Sorry I know that doesn't make much sense but I love how you have shared this. Your wording is beautiful and so is your faith. I kind of feel like I am watching MC stuggle in that swim. I know it will be good for you again but I also know that you have to get there to try.
Thank you for sharing.

Lillian said...


Praying for you, sweet Blair.

veronica said...

Beautiful reflection, Blair..blessed are you who persevere through these trials with blind faith and hope...your reward shall be great.

mom-in-training said...

Blair, you said this so well. Your words are inspiring and speak to many who I'm sure can relate. I think we all go through moments where our faith is shaken. But faith in God keeps us on the right path, even if that path may not always be clear to us - "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."

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