Today, I was listening to “All Things Considered” on NPR – National Public Radio. Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest, had an article on Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India. In it, he mentioned that he had just read the journal(s) of Mother Teresa which were recently published. She writes that she felt God’s absence (for 30+ years). What a long time to pray to God, and not hear anything back! What a long time, to seek God, and not find Him! I still believe that “s/he who seeketh, findeth” – but it can take a long time. It may take a life time.
Listening to the Priest made me reflect on the times that I have “experienced” God’s absence. I could not come up with specific times or instances, but I know that I could come up with a list of things that made me feel like God was absent. Unanswered prayers, unsatisfied needs and wants, worsening situations, and a ton of things that just didn’t make sense. These are just a few examples. As I always do, I considered times when I have done things that denied somebody my presence, or times when somebody did something that denied me his or her presence. It may be “small” things like being too busy to pay attention to somebody, not responding to emails or phone calls, not being available to love or be loved, etc. I went back to the times when I really needed somebody and the person was not there for some reason. How did I feel? What was the worst time? How did I feel about life? It was easy to come up with the answers because the memories are vivid.
What would it feel like to long for something or somebody and never attain resolution to the longing? What would it be like to live every single moment of the rest of your life with this unsatisfied desire/need? What would you do while this emptiness haunts you? Considering such questions made me realize how impeccable Mother Teresa was, and how lucky I am not to have such a need. I have needs, but there are incomparable to what we are discussing here. I also realized that I need to be thankful every day for God’s presence. I have read a couple of holy people’s lives in which they talked about the absence of God at times. They talked about how unbearable it was. I remember reading about Vassula‘s experiences in one of her books. It must be a terrible feeling.
Last thought: how about the times when I don’t think about God or do things that hurt God’s feelings? If He loves me the way He claims He does, (which I believe is true,) and if He longs for a close and personal relationship with me… and I don’t give it to Him, then His life must be unbearable as He waits and hopes and hurts for me to go to Him. If He hurts that bad, and then I show up some day to ask for some trivial favor that I really “need”… “fast”, how gracious of Him to even allow me to finish my “prayer”! After getting what I wanted or needed, I leave and go back to my life “without God”.
So, as I thank God for His presence in my life today, I also pray for forgiveness for my absence.