August 4th, 2012Just Show Upby Dena Hunt

I have a friend who’s one of those people endowed/cursed with a native helpfulness. As a medical professional, she knows that such an impulse is useful. As a friend, mother, spouse, she’s learned that it’s not always so. It can get in the way of another’s self-respect, or someone’s struggle to develop of a healthy ego, among other hurtful things. Unbridled, it can become the addiction called “enabling” and do great harm. But my friend is old enough and experienced enough to know that. So, when she decided to get credentialed in spiritual guidance, I thought it was probably a good thing.

It turned out to be a very good thing. I consulted her a while back about an ongoing problem. I know it’s not unusual; in fact, I believe it afflicts us all to some degree at some time or other. However, left untreated, it can become soul-destroying acedia, when spiritual dryness can lead to an aversion to prayer—even to the entire subject of faith and the practice of faith. She responded with three words of advice: Just show up.

If you can’t meditate, set aside the time and go through the motions anyway. If you can’t concentrate on the mysteries of the rosary, say it anyway. If Mass is dry, dull, banal, tedious, attend anyway.

What do you do if you’re not sure you believe any more? What do you do when you feel the weight of doubt, the fatigue of boredom, the loss of meaning, even the death of love? Analyzing, agonizing—nothing helps. Everything that matters deeply to you has abandoned you. Finally, you’re left with the stark realization that you can’t fix it. Two choices are before you then: Go under, sink, give in, surrender to the current of despair, which you know is stronger than you are anyway.

Or you can Just Show Up. Eventually, you discover that one thing has not abandoned you: your will. You can still choose. You can, in the absence of all certainty or desire, choose by your own will to show up anyway. Then other discoveries follow—like how to love back. It’s an act of the will, not an emotional indulgence. And it’s thankless, anonymous, and personally ungratifying. And you discover that you really can handle just being one of the nameless ninety-and-nine left alone while he attends to the one who is lost and not yet found. (Weren’t you once the lost one yourself?) You discover a capability you didn’t know you had—fidelity. And then still another—obedience. And so on—just by showing up, nothing more.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

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  • August 5 2012 | by Cheryl Pederson

    Dear Dena,
    Beautifully True -- would make a great pamplet / handout for the Year of Evangelization and beyond. As a great quick reminder for ourselves, as an answer to bored teens, and a quiet invitation to people who church-hop wanting to be entertained, etc.

    Yes, please?

    Cheryl Pederson
  • August 5 2012 | by jerry

    dena, love the idea that we are of the 99 and must sometimes fore-go His explicit attentions while He focuses on the 1. (not that he couldn't focus on 100, of course, but it's a nice metaphor.)
    we can offer up our dryness for the salvation of the 1.
  • August 5 2012 | by Dena Hunt

    Thanks, Cheryl. Please feel free to do what you like with it.
  • August 6 2012 | by Colin Jenkins

    Dear Dena,

    Thank you for this very helpful article. Would you have any objection to me reprinting it (with proper citation) in a newsletter that I publish through my office? Thank you for letting me know either way, and God bless!
  • August 6 2012 | by Dena Hunt

    To Jerry: The idea of the 99 is to stay with the flock; don't wander off somewhere. If we do, and we get lost, he'll find us. But one way we can "love back" is by being patient (Patience is another discovered capability).

    To Colin: Of course you may. I'm glad you liked it.
  • August 7 2012 | by Colin Jenkins

    Thank you Dena!
  • August 8 2012 | by Cheryl Pederson

    Thank you Dena!
    Cheryl P