Ginny Kochis explores the spiritual effectiveness of the "fake it till you make it" technique.
Six months before he asked me to marry him, my husband dumped me on the steps of our university chapel.
Yep. It’s as tragic as it sounds.
If you’re translating this into traditional rom-com tropes, we were the friends-to-sweethearts type. We met on the first day of freshman orientation, terrified kids acting like we were cool. He had a skateboard, his hair was a mop of mahogany curls and sideburns, and he wore vans, a flannel, and a campy t-shirt. My breath kinda stuck in my throat.
But as some relationships are wont to do, ours took its own sweet time. We were friends for 37 months, 5 days, eleven hours, and thirty minutes.
And then, suddenly, we weren’t.
We were holding hands.
We were sharing stolen looks during retreat team meetings.
We were snuggling next to each other in crowded downtown bars and coffee houses: I with my Dos Equis (it was Houston) or a giant mocha chip frappuccino thingy (I was fru-fru); he with his bourbon (an intellectual!) or Cafe du Monde (black).
We were falling in love, or at least I thought we were, and I was caught up and floaty and making pro-con lists of staying in Texas after graduation or walking away and heading home.
I was leaning toward staying.
That, or dragging him home with me.
And then he broke my heart.
Time passed. I was angry. But surprisingly, my ire was directed toward God. How could he bring this solidly Catholic, smart, handsome young man into my life and then rip him away from me?
God must not have loved me at all.
I’ve never been great at suffering. Mass, prayer time, the sacraments all became a chore. My best friends dragged me to church and to rosary nights and to events with the Catholic youth group we helped mentor.
“Ginny, we know you’re angry, and we get it,” they’d whispered, “but a break up doesn’t mean God’s abandoned you” It was an opportunity, they said, a chance to cultivate faith in the desert.
“It’s okay if you’re not ready to run straight to the Father, but at least try and meet him halfway.” (Side note: I am still partially convinced my best friends are actually angels, but this has yet to be confirmed.)
So. I went through the motions -- said I would fake it till I made it at the time. I was so angry I couldn’t hear God’s voice through the rage-filled (interior) screaming: not during Mass, not at prayer time, not at the Adoration chapel on the hill.
But I went and I tried.
Just because my heart denied it didn’t mean it wasn’t where I needed to be.
Eight weeks, three days, and 27 minutes after that fateful chapel-dumping evening, I found myself at an H-town brewery table. Across from me sat the man who’d broken my heart.
I was still angry when he called and asked me to meet him. I was still angry on my way through the establishment door. I was still angry as I watched him push a pint around the table with an anxious, pointed alacrity.
And then I heard a whisper I’d been missing:
“I’ve chosen you for one another. Trust Me and meet him halfway.”
So if this story has a moral, here’s what I suppose it should be:
When you fake it till you make it in matters of faith, my friend, you aren’t actually faking it.
Your actions might feel dry. They might feel mechanical. They might feel blah and devoid of heart and like a strain at the cellular level. But know that even the simple act of going through familiar, prescribed motions speaks volumes about you, your faith, and your desire to be close to Him.
You haven’t walked away.
You’re still making an effort.
You still believe in His love for you, His patience.
He’s reaching out to you.
Go on and meet Him halfway.
Not sure how to power through those dry spells?
Here are eight tips for finding Him in the darkness, from moms and women just like you.
Say a short prayer - in this case, I'd say, "Lord, help me to do what you want me to do." Another idea is to go to Confession - receive that grace that waits for you there. Lastly, ask a friend to pray for you - the prayers of others are very powerful! (Amy, Catholics Online)
I go to the Blessed Mother. Sometimes with a formal prayer or sometimes to chat with her. (Mary Ellen)
I spend 10 minutes in the morning with Jesus in the Adoration no matter how I feel, so the days that are rough, I just say over and over, Jesus, I surrender myself to take care of everything, even my lack of faith, love, etc. And I have random reminders on my phone for that prayer so that I can try to bring Him back into my daily life. My favorite online chapel is here. (Ceci, Catholic Fit Moms For Life)
When I feel spiritually dry and far from God, I have to detach from social media, let go of some commitments, and create more silence in my life. God is always present and there for me but I can get too busy to notice. I have to carve out the space and quiet in my life to hear His voice and let Him love on me. (Brittany, Good Books for Catholic Kids)
When I feel spiritually dry or exhausted it’s often a sign that I need to back away and create some new space for Jesus. I allow myself to pick one thing a day as my opening to God, and not worry about what I’m missing or how I’m feeling. It might be a Rosary, one Bible chapter, or 10 minutes sitting quietly.
I don’t announce this time, nor do I apologize for it. It’s something necessary in a relationship to retreat, cultivate, and refocus without the bending, rending, and force of public spirituality. (Kirby, Under Thy Roof)
Go to confession and adoration. Keep showing up even if it seems God isn't (though I've found it impossible not to feel He is with me in an adoration chapel). (Kathryn, The Joyful Leap)
I spend time in Adoration. The silence forces my busy mind and anxious heart to just stop. Sometimes it can take a full hour to regain the grounding that is His peace. (Kimberly, Passing Through Mountains)
When I feel spiritually empty, I look at my recent commitments and behaviors. Often, my dryness is indirectly self-created; I’ve let a thousand to-do’s take over my time and have lost focus on what’s truly important. Removing a few things from the schedule, and saying no, creates much-needed prayer and reflection time. (Jen, Faith and Fabric)
Copyright 2020 Ginny Kochis
Image: Pixabay (2017)