"apart from me, you can do nothing"

Lake Wylie, SC

A man stopped on his way home from work yesterday and offered us a ride. "I'm feeling a little low on good deeds," he said. He ended up driving us all the way through Charlotte to the edge of South Carolina. We found a church close to where he dropped us, just as a service was starting, and met a woman there who invited us home with her. So we're clean again and well-rested and nowhere near where we thought we would be yesterday.

Back in the library today, getting our bearings again, I've been thinking about a recent article on Mother Teresa. About her apparent inability to feel Jesus' presence for decades. She shared this privately with confessors, but her letters have recently been published as part of the canonization process. Of course I can't say anything about Mother Teresa's spiritual life, not knowing her personally. But the unusual and unexpected revelation does stir up thoughts.

I guess the first concern that comes to mind is whether we can serve God well without a sense of connection with God. I've had many periods of darkness and confusion, and felt lost at those points, unsure of how to move forward. Unsure of where God is right then. But this temporary feeling of isolation has almost always been good for me, a way of making me stop and focus and listen, so that I can sense a leading that I've perhaps been too ignorant or inexperienced (or proud) to grasp before. But I'm suspicious of any encouragement to carry on, even in a "good work," if I've lost the sense of God's continuing presence and leading. When Jesus spoke of his own work, it seemed to be with a continual sensitivity to what his Father wanted him to do and say.

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. (Jn 5.19)

But what if we're not sure of God's leading, yet it seems like we're already doing the best, most saintly thing? I guess that's my second concern, the difficulty of pausing or stepping back from something so obviously "good"—especially when there is a great amount of social support and admiration and gratitude—when our only trouble with it might be that we can't sense God's presence any more. Perhaps I'll never face that difficulty. But I would hope I could resist being pushed forward because everyone else is so sure it's what God wants. Because isn't the relationship with God more important than whatever we might do for him?

Maybe that's one of the best revelations in contemplating a story like this: the deep-felt realization that what I really want is simply to be a child, continually held and loved and led by God.