It was the final activity of the retreat weekend. We were each given a blank white tile and some markers, and were asked to write or draw something that represented our experience of God. The tiles would be placed around the altar at the closing liturgy. As soon as I got my tile, I knew what I had to do. I was in a challenging place in my life. My career wasn’t going where I had hoped, relationships weren’t developing as I wanted, and my mom had recently passed away after a two-year struggle with cancer. So on my tile, I wrote exactly how I felt about God at that moment—angry, frustrated, pained, confused—using colorful markers and colorful language as well. Then I went outside, found a secluded spot, and threw the tile against the wall as hard as I could, where it shattered.
Today’s scriptures are full of the promises of God: Isaiah’s bold proclamation of God redeeming Israel, the psalmist praising God’s kindness and mercy, Jesus’ assurances that all will be made right in the end. But tucked away in all this optimism is one plaintive line from the people: “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.”
If we’re to find God in the chaos, first we need to acknowledge we are in chaos. We need to check in on how that makes us feel and share those feelings honestly with God. Yes, we trust in God and know that God is on the side of justice and those who work for justice, but right here, right now, it’s chaos, and we feel forsaken. I think God appreciates our honesty—at least I hope so! In fact, it’s God who quotes the complaint of the people, not to rebuke but to affirm, with a mother’s love, that it’s okay to feel this way, and that, even so, God will never abandon us in the chaos.
- Check in with yourself. How are you feeling about your life, your community, or the world?
- How are you feeling about God right now?
- Share those feelings with God and see what comes up for you in prayer.
Douglas Leal serves as Chief Mission Integration Officer with Providence St. Joseph Health, a multi-state Catholic health system. He also has experience as a management consultant and as a professional actor and director. Douglas is a frequent presenter on spirituality, faith formation, liturgy, and other topics, and is the author of the skill-building book for lectors, Beyond Reading: Advanced Training for Proclaimers of the Word (LTP).