The theme of the conference was facing the darkness. At our first session, the Bishop noted that our country is bitterly polarized and faces serious problems. Many citizens are demoralized and/or angry. Many members of the Church are dispirited. So our question was, how can we find and proclaim the good news in challenging times?
Our sessions were really helpful. Two points particularly stuck out for me.
First, God does not make mistakes. My life may well seem awry. I may feel inadequate to the challenges I face. But we Christians are people of the good news. We know that God is in charge. Even when things seem bleak, God is present. Even when things seem hopeless, we are working our way, however fitfully, towards God’s kingdom. That is our faith. We just need to be reminded of it sometimes.
Second, our faith can help us weather the inevitable storms of life. Our leader advised us to seek “a bigger container” (abc for short) when we are struggling. Our natural tendency is to see a problem from our own limited perspective. Our limited perspective is the small “container” we start with. But we can broaden our perspective. We can try to see our problem as others might see it. We can try to see our problem as God might see it. That is the bigger container. (I don’t entirely understand why we call this a smaller or bigger container, but I get the point.)
A colleague noted the pain he felt when he saw a parishioner struggling, and even thought he could discern a solution to the problem, but could not help the parishioner make it happen. That was one of the times our conference leader suggested getting “a bigger container.” For the immediate future, all the priest could do was accept his inability to help, and live with his pain and frustration. Difficult as it might be, that seemed to be God’s invitation to the priest in this situation. The bigger container was seeing his challenge as an invitation from God.
According to our leader, whenever the darkness threatens to overwhelm us, we can seek God in the midst of the darkness. We can listen for God’s invitation to live in the darkness. That doesn’t make the darkness go away, of course. But it can help us to live through dark times without entirely losing sight of the light. And that can be a great gift.