A short while ago, I was happily whittling about my life until my inner world came to a screeching halt. For reasons too complex and private to recount, I was forced to face myself in a way unlike ever before. There was a torch beaming into a dark, cobweb-infested basement I hadn’t let myself think of–much less enter–for a long time.
I had nowhere to hide. I had to contend with a demon, one I had avoided for too long, one that planted itself firmly in front of me and refused to stop tormenting me until I fought back.
And I did. For several days, I walked around ashen faced, prayed with as much conviction I could muster, employed superhuman strength to go out, get some sun, enjoy some company, so I could remain sane. I’d start most days by forcing myself to stomach spoonfuls of cereal so I could make it through without passing out.
Then one day, the pain hit a whole new level, causing me to instinctively plunge down into the emergency supply of supplications. I kneeled over and repeated: “Innalillahi wainna ilayhi rajioon.” Over and over. Then I made the invocations for anguish on a rosary. And as I said it, I felt terrible, so terrible, it could only be rock bottom.
There was nowhere to look but up. So I did.
From some place I did not know existed, something started flowing freely in my thoughts: God is merciful. God is compassionate and He loves me. God is generous, the source of all Good, and will give me Good, Insh’Allah.
I was stunned, but I kept going. I was also wary that this was just a temporary euphoria, some mechanism to give me relief so I could be prepared for the next wave of pain.
But as the light grew, I recognized the thing that seemed so unfamiliar at first: hope. A voice steadily told me what to do, how to handle myself, how to move on. It was like looking down and realizing that the pain was emanating from a phantom limb. I still hurt. I’m still human. But I finally saw that this trial had not been in vain, and that there was a way forward. I didn’t get absolute answers, but I finally got the sense of direction I needed so badly.
A few hours and some more prayer and reflection later, I felt something else, something on a more carnal level: I was jonesing for a sandwich.
And that was how I started eating again.
“Alhamdulillah” doesn’t really cut it, but it would be a start.