September 23, 2011
Part one may be found here.

Contributed by guest writer, Natasha.

STRESS: A MODERN PLAGUE
Stress is the modern day plague.  It runs rampant through our lives, sickening most of us though we may not know it.  I struggled greatly in writing this trying to divine what was at its root.  Why, I kept asking myself, is stress so prevalent and so destructive today?  Why is stress the hallmark of our era?  I can point my finger to the never ending array of tiny stresses that add up in our day to day lives: traffic, cell phones, computers, television, lights, noise, isolation, immorality, materialism, hedonism.  But even these didn't truly answer the question for me.
As I delved into the more philosophical elements of the subject, I became aware of the growing spiritualism of our society.  I reminded myself that God, in His infinite Goodness brings all things to the Glory of Himself.  I wanted to see the reality of what was going on, not just the surface symptoms.  This temporal life is a mere shadow of the spiritual reality of eternity.  That which we cannot see is more real and has more substance than what we do see.  Our senses, taken as judge and jury in our modern world, are but a frail means of experiencing and knowing reality.  Stress, seen in this light, is simply a dastardly symptom of our spiritual blindness.  When we reject God and all His ways, when we turn our backs on Wisdom, we begin a free fall into chaos and darkness.  But the human person was created to worship, was created to live on for all eternity with God, as a spiritual being.  We cannot help ourselves. We automatically begin to seek out something that is higher, more powerful than we are.  If we do not find God, we fill the hole with anything at hand: food, alcohol, drugs, money, sex, hedonism, materialism, humanism, politics, manmade philosophies, spiritualism.

THE LIGHT OF DAY
So, in the end, I realized that it wasn't so much that I didn’t live in a society that hung out its wash on Monday, or that I had more than two brands of toothpaste to choose from.  It wasn't that no one told me what I was going to ‘do’ when I was grown.  Much of what has changed in society is good.  It is good that a person can choose what they want to be.  It is good that we are not mired down by superstition born of ignorance.  It is good, obviously, that we can cure diseases, and that we can learn from other societies around the world. It is good that we can see and know and experience this planet in a new and wondrous way.  It is good that we can, even in some small fashion, help our poor brothers and sisters who live thousands of miles away from us.  It is good that we have the internet so that we can hopefully bring light into the many areas of darkness.
I believe my slot in the time continuum of the universe is a precarious and often frightening one.  It is as if all things have opened up, been brought out into the light.  Much of what was secret and unknowable, from the formation of the stars to the formation of a human cell is being illuminated.  God wants man to live freely, to love and serve Him because man desires it for himself.  This cannot be if man is in fact NOT free to do so.  If his belief, his religion, is based on fear or societal pressures, if his practice is simply cultural and not truly spiritual, then what is it worth?  Man must, I believe, once again choose the good for himself and for his world because of the very fact that it IS good.    Just as Mother Church was blown wide open with Vatican II, I believe all of society is being blown open.  A lot of nastiness has been brought out into the light of day in the Church.  There are many festering wounds that need to be cut open with the scalpel that is God's light, and cleansed.  So too, a lot that was unholy and untruthful in society had to be brought to light in order to be purged and healed.  All through history, God has revealed Himself slowly.  What we once believed as sheep herders in a desert we understand more clearly now and so the shape of our belief has changed in form, though its substance remains the same.   But man is a small and fearful creature.  He is a creature that fears more than anything else the powerful forces of change.  Our society has undergone breathtaking changes all occurring at breakneck speed.  And if all things in the physical and material world reflect and reveal to us what is happening on the spiritual plane, then what can we glean from this?
I believe that what God is teaching us now is that we are as a people, as a created species, capable of greatness unknown even to ourselves.  Jesus himself told us that if we but had faith the size of a mustard seed, we could tell a mountain to get up and move.  I don't think we have even begun to grasp the profound truth of these words!  Man was made to be higher than even the Angels, a truth so shocking it caused war within Heaven itself.  God is, in our times, revealing Himself in a new and profound and totally frightening way.  He is, I believe, once again, shaking the foundations of our faith.  Just as Christ came to reveal his Father to the Jews and to open the gates of Heaven to the gentiles in a way that was so SHOCKING and unlooked for that it destroyed the Temple and shook the very foundations of the earth, God is, in our time, revealing His desire for us to come to Him through the Holy Spirit and to walk the earth once more as free and familiar with Him as Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden. 
God is revealing to us how madly in love with us He is and how it pains Him to have any separation from us at all.  He wants ALL people to come to Him.  But man will not budge from where he is at if he remains comfortable.  And so, God must rattle our cages, rock our boats.  Not until our present lives become so painful to us will we turn again to Him that is the source of peace. 
We are a society in pursuit of happiness.  But happiness is as illusive a thing as fog in the air.  Move closer to it and it evaporates before we can grab hold of it.  Happiness is not a virtue; it is not a gift of the Holy Spirit.  What we long for is to be consumed, to be loved and desired, to be at peace, to be known, to love and know in turn.  And God is the only place we can find any of this.  We are, as St. Augustine so wisely stated, restless beings until we rest in Him.



NEW WINE SKIN


I came to the conclusion that stress is indeed pervasive and nasty and harmful and a symptom of all that is wrong and unhealthy about our modern life.  I also concluded that this being the case, it is also a powerful instrument of change and a harbinger of God's hand moving in our world.  I was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue - a precursor to Addison’s Disease or Cushing’s Disease depending on which end of the spectrum it takes you - a very debilitating disorder that has very effectively stopped me in my tracks.  I am not physically and emotionally capable of very much.  I am a person who can no longer be a doer of many things.   I have had to switch to a very small plate indeed - more a saucer, really.  It has caused me to stop and evaluate my life with a fine tooth comb.  This disorder of my body is revealing to me much that is disordered with my thinking, with my beliefs, with my ideas and ideals.  Another layer of the onion has been stripped off and quite frankly, I feel rather raw and exposed.  I see it as a microcosm for the state of the world today. 
All of my bodily functions have been affected. I was not able to extract nutrients from my food, my store of vitamins and minerals was depleted, my very cells could not maintain homeostasis and every system in my body was suffering.  Adrenals are responsible for the foundations of almost every hormone produced and utilized in the body.  Every one of them was being adversely affected by my condition.  I was developing allergies.  I was losing muscle mass and gaining toxic and very dangerous fat stores.  My blood sugar was unstable, my mental processes hindered severely.  My emotional health was suffering.  All of which was affecting my outlook on life, my experience of my family, friends, of God Himself.  Stress was killing me slowly from the inside out, as it is doing to our society.
And so, I have before me the task of becoming a new wine skin.  It's as though I have to start again, from the beginning and rebuild my body and my person from the inside out.  I see this now as a great gift given to me, but it's a scary one.  Change is not easy.  Change is frightening.  However, my inner structures must be torn down if God is to rebuild them, this time on a foundation of stone instead of shifting sands.  I know that it is a process that will be repeated many times in my lifetime, just as the world will continue to ebb and flow through times of change and times of stability.  Our lot, those of us who live in these times, is one of instability and great change.  We do not live in a time of great consolation.  We do not live in a time of flourishing art, edifying philosophies, and illuminating thinkers.  We do not live in a time of piety or soberness of living. 
But all these things and more are born out of hardship, and from the desert do great saints come.  The more we feel the desolation, the overwhelming burdens of modern daily life, the more stressed out we become (or maybe I should say the more we become AWARE of these things) the more we can be assured that God is there, very close at hand, to take us deeper into Himself.  He is calling us.  The harvest is ripe.  Souls are more hungry than ever.  There is more need of Him than in any time before in History. 
How will we respond?  Will we add to the stress of our daily life, will we heap burdens upon ourselves and those around us, or will we be a source of light and refreshment in the world?  Not by doing, but rather by learning the fine art of being.    Will we abandon the false structures of our lives and hand ourselves over to the Creator of all things and allow Him to show us how to construct our Ark?  If we live in a time that leaves all possibilities in the palm of our hand, will we take the stress inducing and deathly road of madness and build our Tower of Babel?  Or will we humble ourselves and give everything to God, give ourselves to His service, allow Him to bring about in our lives that which He envisioned for us since the beginning of time?  Will we chose the path of peace and serenity, of wholeness and well being?  Before us, this generation more than any other, is stretched out life and death.  Which will we choose?







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