I went to confession Saturday night after vigil for the first time since November 5th. During those three months my spiritual life really suffered, as it's very easy to let inertia take over when I start to mess up in my spiritual life. The enemy is always looking for a way to grab hold and do some damage, and that he did (with my cooperation, of course... I'm not trying to escape responsibility for my own actions). All of the trouble started right at the beginning of the Nativity Fast, when I was still feeling good about church. I had told Fr. Justin on a Wednesday evening that I would help out with the liturgy the next morning, but I overslept and missed it. As a result, I felt rotten for letting Fr. Justin down, and it just got worse and worse as I began to miss regular services. It was very easy for the enemy to take over after that, and when I stopped fighting I instead began punishing myself undeservedly by skipping services and putting off confession. In this way I could do maximum damage to myself for the inexcusable crime of oversleeping and breaking my promise to Fr. Justin.
At some point during my self-imposed excommunication, I began to discover that there is a direct correlation between feelings of anger, jealousy, self pity and self righteousness, and the nosedive my spiritual life was taking. When I got back from Alaska, I was terrified of a certain situation I knew that I had to face (which I won't go into), but I was also excited about going back to church and being in communion again. As it turned out, things weren't as awful as I had feared, and I was even able to deal with complications relating to this certain situation in a more or less positive manner. However, my ability to deal with that situation deteriorated the longer I was out of communion until I found myself in a state of emotional wreckage.
Now I'm back in communion and I'm hoping that things will improve again with my ability to deal with this situation. Once again I've subjected myself to a kind of self-imposed exile - not from communion, but from that certain situation. I'm probably punishing myself now too, because I don't want to do what I'm doing and it's going to hurt. However, I'm hoping that by removing myself from the situation I'm also removing my own potential to cause pain in others. I see a possible time in the future when I might just remove myself completely from society and join a monastery. The more I think about that, the more I wonder if that's what God has planned for me. I've always been extremely shy, and it's difficult for me to form relationships with people and maintain them. I'm also not a very good communicator, I think, because I haven't had a lot of practice, and misunderstandings are frequent with people who are close to me. The simple, ordered life of a monastic would probably be the perfect place for a person with my type of personality. Simplicity in life is something I've always craved, as I've always only just been able to deal with the burdens and complications of living in modern society without completely collapsing.
I believe that God puts us in situations, even terrible, painful, hurtful ones, to lead us eventually to where we are supposed to be. I never would have become an Orthodox Christian if it weren't for my attraction to the person who led me there. There was no other way to drag me into a church than to be led there by my selfish desire for the love of someone else, and God knew this. I never would have even met the person who brought me to Orthodoxy though if I hadn't gone through all of the misery I've experienced with addiction, because my decision to apply for the job where I met her was one of desperation, a desperation which arose from being unmotivated, unemployed and depressed because of my problems with addiction. I could go back even further, linking together all of my bad mistakes and painful experiences (and good ones) that comprised the crucial events which described what I thought had been a terrible life up until the winter of 2008, which ultimately led me to the church.
So now I have my current situation to deal with, another painful one. However, based on the evidence of my past and where it led me, I have to believe that this too is part of God's plan to take me further into the future and closer to His will. Maybe it will lead me to a monastic life. Maybe I'll learn enough from it so that I'll actually be married some day and capable of being a good husband and father and priest for my family. I don't know, but in the meantime I can hold on to my faith and to the belief that everything is going to be alright.