“Just who do you think you’re talking to?”
“Don’t you DARE take that tone with me young lady!”
“You WILL NOT raise your voice to me in my house!”
Any of those sound familiar? Most of those were usually preceded by my full name and “get in here”. My parents were no different than most of my friends’ parents growing up and my experiences of talking to my parents are pretty typical. I still say, “Yes ma’am” when talking to my mother. I try not to swear in her presence. When Dad was still alive, I never would have even considered sassing him. Some things just aren’t done. Mom says we all had “some sense of survival”. All of that respect for authority makes for a very polite child. That’s a good thing right? I certainly want my boys to respect me and being polite is one way to show that respect.
Now take that polite, respectful child and put her in a relationship with God the Father, the Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth. Wow – better be really, really polite and respectful right? The problem is I was so concerned with being proper and respectful that I rarely admitted the things that weighed most heavily on my heart. I could tell God when others had hurt me; when I was tired; when I was sad or lonely. What I couldn’t do was tell God when I was angry with Him. How hurt I was by His seeming apathy towards me. I buried those things deep in my heart and pretended not to notice the pain. Some things you just don’t say to God. I carried one huge ugly thorn in my heart for years.
I was only 18 when it happened. I was trying to break up with my increasingly abusive boyfriend and he did not take it well. He flew into a rage that led to a particularly vicious attack. He stormed out of my house leaving me sobbing in a heap. I was so very alone and so desperately wanted Dad to be alive again to protect me from this guy. I was screaming from the depths of my soul and my screams of pain were swallowed up by a dark, cold, and unfeeling nothingness. God ditched me and I was never the same after that. I never really trusted God to be there for me again, not completely.
As I told my spiritual director, Ron, this story he asked me where I thought God was at that point. “How the hell should I know? A round of golf and a 3-martini lunch or He took a coffee break or a nap. But all I know is He wasn’t with me,” I spat back and I was surprised at the hurt and anger in my own voice.
Then he asked me the craziest question I’d ever heard: “Have you ever told God how much you hate Him for what He did?”
“I can’t do that! That’s just not right,” I answered, quietly shaking my head. “Its not right.”
And I was stuck. I had been trying to open up the lines of communication with God for months and it wasn’t going very well. Now it was becoming clear why it wasn’t going well. I was still relating to God as I would to Dad. I was trying to make Him happy and proud. I was even a little afraid of God so I was respectful and polite but that was preventing me from saying things that would offend. Those words left unsaid were poisoning me. So now what?
Since it was the week before Christmas, Ron told me to take some time and figure out what I was going to give God for Christmas this year. Okay, that’s a tall order but wait there’s more. Then he told me to figure out what I was going to ask from God this Christmas for myself. I really, really, really don’t like asking God for anything for myself. It makes me very uncomfortable and Ron knows that.
My spiritual homework made for a very long week. The day before Christmas, I finally decided give God what little trust I did have and He could do with it what He wanted. I asked God to grant me the courage to say all those awful things I needed to get out of my system and was too afraid to say. I really didn’t expect much of an answer despite the fact that I was both giving and asking wholeheartedly.
My answer came Christmas Eve at Mass. Fr Tom picked up the statue of Baby Jesus from the crèche and asked us why God chose to come into human form as a baby. He went on to ask those of us who are parents to remember the first time we held our newborns. I could remember looking at each of my sons and knowing I would never be the same again. I was part of them and they were part of me. Which was exactly what Fr Tom was saying. He went on to remind us that no matter how much our kids screw up, we still have that bond. That is how God relates to each of us. We are His beloved sons and daughters. And I looked at my boys and realized that no matter how many times they had screamed at me, it didn’t change how much I love them. I have heard “I hate you!” and “You’re mean!” and a host of other things on a regular basis and it doesn’t mean they don’t love me. They just need to let me know that they are angry. And as that realization sunk it, I wasn’t stuck anymore.
A few days later, I finally had “the conversation” with God. I cried and screamed again from that place deep inside as I called up all that old pain. “How could you leave me?” I demanded and this time I could feel Him all around me. I begged Him to let me know that He cared. I suddenly found myself unable to move or cry. I felt the heaviness descend and it took a moment to realize that I was resting in the spirit. I had never experienced this outside of a Healing Mass but the sensation was the same. I was aware but unable to move. I felt as though I had been draped with a warm heavy blanket and that feeling slowly seeped into me. A deep quiet peace took over the place left vacant by the anger.
I can picture God looking at me the way I looked at my babies. I can feel that love in His gaze. I now find myself in a totally new place with God. The lines of communication are wide open and nothing is off the table anymore. I can say anything I need to say and hey cool – no lightning strikes!