This post is based on Week Seven of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.
I felt the hard, cool rock in my hand. I slowly felt each bump and groove with my fingers as I attempted to stuff the intense feelings that were welling up within me. Despite my best efforts to hold them back, tears poured down my face as a wave of emotions surged. The mixed feelings of sadness and anger boiled over as I took the rock in my hands and hurled it into the lake in front of me. Without thinking, I yelled, “Enough! Enough, Lord!”
The release, both of the rock and my emotions, startled me. I fell to the ground and put my head on my knees and sobbed. I hadn’t planned on facing the reality of all that had transpired in the three months prior to my silent retreat. The silence and stillness, though, brought me face to face with it all—the shooting, caught on video, of a man in my hometown; the shooting and killing of cops minutes away from my home; the massive flood that impacted the Baton Rouge area and required us to rescue my parents by boat; and the diagnosis of a family member with terminal cancer.
I was at my breaking point. I could no longer stand the suffering and hurt I was watching and experiencing. Too much loss around me, too many unexplained behaviors, and too much pain. I had enough.
I felt like Jesus as he prayed in the garden, begging God to take it all away, pleading for the hurt to stop in me, in my loved ones, and in our world. I was acknowledging both my sadness and utter dependence on God as I surveyed so many situations that were completely out of my control.
As my sobs slowly silenced, I heard three words, “I am here.” I then kept repeating them over and over again in my head, changing them to, “Jesus is here, Jesus is here, Jesus is here.” At some point the inner anguish of that moment subsided, and I felt a calm come over me, a felt sense of peace. I stood up and walked back into the retreat house, not with prayers answered or clarity on what to do, but with an assured confidence I was not alone. Jesus was with me in what felt like darkness.
It reminded me of Pope Francis’s words in Lumen Fidei:
Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light.
I have replayed that scene over and over in my head and returned to it in prayer time and time again since it first happened. That release, as startling as it was to me, opened up my capacity to notice the accompanying presence of Jesus. I more easily can see Jesus with me in my prayer, working through others, and in the actions I feel called to take in response to the suffering I see. And on days I struggle to see it, I remind myself: Jesus is here.