The Abyss of Anonymity


For when you are feeling like you are teetering on the edge of it...

By Carolyn Shields

I was slouched in the back pew of a chapel last Monday, my converse up on the kneeler and my head resting on top the pew. I normally end up in this position, staring at the ceiling. During a particularly uneventful adoration, I decided to count how many family and friends could fit inside for my future wedding, because I am a woman. (One hundred and fifty. Sadly, my mom's side alone is 528 people...thank God for Plan Bs).

On Monday I was praying about pretty big, pretty typical things: employment, abandonment, men...when I realized that I was bopping my head to Thick as Thieves song Ghosts. I wonder how many times God sighs at how distracted I become in prayer, even in an empty chapel.

But then I had a eureka moment. With anxiety gnawing at me with What Is Life, I realized that I've been praying, "Lord, I will find you in the silence. You seem so far. You've left me directionless. But I'll go into the silence. I will find you."

But maybe the more valiant thing is to wait patiently for my Holy. I've always been a Planner and a Doer, so when I have no plans or when I'm not doing anything, I panic. I simply do. So since God seems so quiet and left me at this abyss of anonymity, naturally my reaction is to dive into the silence to seek Him. The plan? I have none. I don't even know what I mean by that, "finding Him in the silence," but I'll do it. And though no one is asking us to be brave or to do what scares us, I think it would necessitate more strength to remain still.

You were within me, and I was outside myself, and sought you outside myself!
— St. Augustine

And I am unemployed, no longer a student, and not independent. But I am not without hope.

"Human beings are more than the sum of the goods they can accomplish," Philippe writes. "They are children of God, whether they do good or cannot yet manage to do anything. Our Father in heaven does not love us because of the good we do. He loves us for ourselves, because he has adopted us as his children forever."

Anyway, I've been ill here lately, so I’ve had plenty of time the past two days to shiver beneath my quilts and stare at the ceiling, trying to guess the punch lines from jokes that Male Friend sends me to make me feel better, and reflecting on where/what/who I was the last time I was this sick. It was months ago, the morning when Old Boyfriend broke up with me, during the time I was intensely discerning post-graduation life.

Meaning, I should be in Liverpool, England right now, playing with kiddos but instead I lay here sick with a job interview this week for a tax firm downtown. Riveting, huh? But we have to remember that we are making these choices as we go along:

LORD, I have thought about it and prayed to know your will. I do not see it clearly, but I am not going to trouble myself any further. I am not going to spend hours racking my brain. I am deciding such and such a thing because, all things carefully considered, it seems to me the best thing to do. And I leave everything in your hands. I know well that, even if I am mistaken, You will not be displeased with me, for I have acted with good intentions. And if I have made a mistake, I know that You are able to draw good from this error. It will be for me a source of humility and I will learn something from it.

It's good and it's ok that we want to understand the meaning of every little thing in our lives, that we want to know all the little details. That's natural. But the motives behind this desire may not always be right. This desire often rises from a sense of deep insecurity. But hang in there, because He whispers to us in this silence. We need only sit and listen.

We were not meant to be anonymous souls. We were created with this desire to know, and to be known, and Philippe goes on to say that if we seek God's will with a sincere heart, we will receive the light to understand it.