I had my wisdom teeth extracted not too long ago, and so I was put under general anesthetic for the first time. In the moments before I lost consciousness and after I regained it, the surgeon and his assistants were right there, constantly asking me how I felt and reassuring me that everything would be okay. Needless to say, it felt really strange – and by “it” I mean the attention, not the surgery. I mean, how often do we have people hovering around, checking in to see how we’re doing? It’s just not a typical part of the human experience.
There are so many aspects of life that are unsettling, confusing, and even more uncomfortable than being poked with an IV. We discover things that alter our perspective. We lose faith in people who have disappointed us. We grow apart from friends. We hear or see things that we simply cannot un-hear or un-see. Sometimes we say things that we cannot un-say. And it is not as if these occasions come with a warning: there is no pre-op to prepare us for having our hearts broken. (If only!)
Some people believe that accepting Catholicism means signing on to a constant Jesus-high. How many times have we seen pop culture portray “Church-people” as happy-go-lucky, seemingly clueless human beings who sing praise-and-worship and listen to emphatic sermons and hold bake sales to support orphanages and homeless shelters? So. Not. Accurate.
Just because we strive to love God, grow in virtue, and follow Church teaching does not mean that we always have a great time doing it. It does not free us from bad relationships, destructive habits, embarrassing secrets, or mood swings. In fact, if anything, as Catholics we are more tormented by all of these things because we actively try to tune in to our consciences. In brief: we do not always feel okay.
I was once told in Confession that when your spiritual life just doesn’t feel right, despite your best effort, it might be that God is “working” on your soul. This made me think of an analogy of God as a surgeon. He knows that we cannot fix ourselves by ourselves, so He takes the opportunity to help us along with whatever amount of tweaking and tinkering that He thinks we need. Sometimes we don’t know know what’s going on – as if we have been put under anesthesia – but we can trust that God wouldn’t have started this procedure if He didn’t think we would handle it in the long run.
So maybe it is better to recognize that you are a work in progress than to feel like a finished product. Maybe the reason that we don’t always have people asking us if we’re okay is that God doesn’t need us to always be okay. He needs us to be who we are. Sometimes we are not okay. And that’s okay.
Sarah Blake is a Philosophy and Christianity & Culture student at the University of Toronto, which means she gets to spend her days reflecting on truth, beauty, and goodness. Sarah also teaches piano and is a regular volunteer for the pro-life movement. She has recently co-founded the first virtual pro-life club for homeschooling students: the Homeschool Pro-Life Action Network.