“Saying to the prisoners: Come out! To those in darkness: Show yourselves! Along the ways they shall find pasture, on every bare height shall their pastures be... I will cut a road through all my mountains.” -Is 49:9, 11

Disneyland on sweltering summer day, the crowds of Time Square on New Year’s Eve, sitting in traffic along California’s Pacific Coast Highway. These places may be filled with excitement, possibility, and freedom (in theory), but in reality, they can be tiring and energy-draining. I go into introvert overload and my mild claustrophobia kicks into overdrive. I just want to go home and be left alone.

This dynamic occurs in prayer as well. I asked God to offer direction, to “say something,” to answer me. At first whatever comes up in prayer is met with gratitude and hope. When the initial energy from the retreat subsides or my enthusiasm for Lenten commitments begins to wane, instead I feel discouraged and tired. I took the risk to undergo a journey of prayer. I dared to make a change in my life. Now I am crowded by missed opportunities and false starts. What started as a dream day at Disneyland now feels like a nightmare.

Recognizing how the false spirit fuels this desperation for ANY way out can provide a starting point to re-orienting myself towards God. For me that involves:

  1. Looking behind me: Like the emergency preparedness speech on the airplane, “In some cases your nearest exit is behind you.” Once I reach a dead end, my temptation is to think the entire journey was a waste, but sometimes the new opportunity was just behind me. Rather than staring straight ahead, I need to pause and look all around me.
  2. Hanging onto truth: I often begin to doubt the initial grace or sense of God. Although it is difficult to sit with these “pieces” of life that do not seem to fit together, I try to hold onto them if I do not know what it means.
  3. Countering isolation with community: For me the false spirit makes me feel like I need to figure everything out on my own. Trusted friends, spiritual direction, and faith-sharing groups provide concrete spaces of encouragement and support.

Today’s readings reassure us that God does not lead us into abandoned, darkened alleys. He will carve roadways through mountains, lead us to the springs and pastures even when the landscape seems desolate, and create opportunities where there are none. When my prayer begins to feel like a narrow corner with no escape, perhaps I am the one who boxed God in and not the other way around.

when all I see is the wall in front of me,
help me to remember that no matter what
you are on the other side.

Jen Coito

Photo Credit: Richard Sandoval