Trust

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Yesterday, I had my day planned out. Spend some time at the beach, bake a batch of cookies while I worked on my homework, frame out a blog post, and cook a nice meatloaf dinner. Long about noon, I came home from the beach and took a quick scroll through Twitter. I retweeted a link by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan calling for Pope Francis to recognize women’s ordination. Nothing new there for me. I openly support Catholic women who call for the ordination of women. Anybody who knows me knows that. Within a minute of tweeting that link, a Catholic priest pounced on me. That led to a debate. Five hours of debate in tweets of 140 characters or less. It was not the way I planned to spend my Saturday.

And yet, it was time incredibly well spent. I was told I am a heretic, selfish, stupidly misguided, emotional, full of rage and guilt, ignorant of scripture, lack doctrinal formation, lack objectivity, have an unformed conscience and am in desperate need of a stricter confessor. All of these failings have taken me out of the arms of the Catholic Church and out of the arms of Jesus. So my dear readers, read on at your own mortal peril.

I know my views on women’s ordination are considered heretical by the Catholic Church. I’ve wrestled with that view for years. I don’t take the church’s views lightly, nor do I suggest anyone else should. And ultimately, after study and prayer and discussion, I made the decision to follow my conscience and to trust in the truth of my experience of God’s love. The Catholic Church has always held the primacy of conscience and taught that individuals must follow their conscience even if they are wrong. (Vatican II, On Religious Liberty 1965)

So then who gets to decide what is truth? So who gets to decide what Jesus truly intended? This is why we need a church community: to challenge us and hold us accountable. It is why I have shied away from the spiritual-but-not-religious views that many people take up after becoming disillusioned with religion. Religious tradition serves a purpose and that is to lead us closer to God. My Catholic pastor has been known to say openly that if religious tradition is not leading you closer to God, it isn’t working for you. Find one that will. But don’t try to con God. Be honest with Him. It’s the only way the relationship can grow. I know many faithful Catholic women who have struggled with the church’s teaching on women’s ordination. Some find that they accept the doctrine as truth. Are they wrong?  No. They have followed their conscience, as must we all.

The Catholic Church brought me closer to God and there have been days when I wish it hadn’t. It would be easier to show up Sunday after Sunday, halfheartedly shuffle forward to receive Communion, mumble through an obligatory confession a few times a year and go back to my everyday life with God safely tucked away in the tabernacle where He can’t wreak havoc on my life. But it did bring me closer. I found love, compassion, forgiveness and was challenged to show others the same. Along the way, I found the landmines and roadblocks that keep people from coming back to the church. I found people who, like me, equated the Catholic Church with God. If the Catholic Church rejected them for whatever reason, then in their mind God had likewise rejected them. And that is a dangerous lie. Jesus came for the lost, the broken, the sinners, not just the elect few. No one who cried out to Him went unheard or unanswered.

Yesterday was one of those days when I wished I could keep silent and found that I could not. I had things to do! And yet, I could not let the Twitter tirade go unchallenged. I poured out my convictions 140 characters at a time. The church is greater than the Roman Catholic Church. It is the community of all believers and belongs to all those who seek Jesus with an honest heart. To deny women ordination is to deny that women are also made in the image of God and other denominations have accepted that truth. That my disobedience to Rome is not disobedience to God. That becoming Protestant was not slapping God in the face but running into His arms. If in the end, after having followed my conscience to a religious tradition which brings me closer to God, if then I am wrong, He will not slam a door in my face. He knows my heart, my wounds, my scars and my desires. And most importantly, nothing can ever take me out of His arms. I am His and I trust Him.

Yes, I said it. I trust Him. I trust Him above all else. Especially above the threats of judgment and hell and condemnation. I did not arrive at this place lightly or easily. But I am where I am and my Shepherd knows my path. At the end of a long, heated debate, Fr. Paul told me he wouldn’t want to be me on the Last Day. Because if he is wrong, no biggie. But I am wrong, yikes. But from the way I see it, if I am wrong, I trust in God’s love and His mercy. I make no claims to have the right answers. But if Fr. Paul is wrong, how many people will he have browbeat into staying in a dishonest relationship with their God, encouraging them to maintain a false fidelity to church over an honest struggle for truth out of fear of hellfire and damnation? And which then is the greater sin? I trust that in the all-encompassing light of God’s love, it will cease to matter.

Are you ok?

I spent yesterday afternoon with a houseful of good friends celebrating St. Patrick’s day with good food, good whiskey and lots of laughter. I was chided for having not posted recently. I had promised my friend Frank that I would post 2 weeks ago and well… life got in the way. So in answer to the question that I was asked repeatedly yesterday: Yes. I’m okay. Really truly okay.

I’m not really in a church at the moment and yesterday’s party was full of people I’ve gotten to know through my parish over the years. It was a gentle reminder that I can’t stay without a community for too long. Do I miss it? Not yet. Will I? Yes, eventually. Probably sooner rather than later. But right now, I’m where I’m supposed to be. Where is that exactly? I suppose this is my desert, my time and space to be alone with God.

If you’ve been reading my scribbling long enough, you know I have my share of issues with God as well as my issues with Mother Church. Trying to separate the two finally became impossible to juggle. It filtered through my thick skull that trying to figure out where I stand as far church without understanding where I stand with God is quite simply a waste of time.

Life always comes down to the same question. Where am I with God right now? In a very strange new place. I’m not entirely sure that I like it but I haven’t run screaming either so I suppose there’s something to be said for that. I’ve spent so many years locked into a fight-or-flight stance with God that giving it up, is well…. a little terrifying. I’ve made my disquiet about it very well known, probably a hundred times a day. That level of honesty is something new for me.

It’s not like I’ve never let Him know when I’m afraid. Many a night I stayed up all night when the marriage went to hell, when Eugene was sick, when my eyes went haywire and I was afraid that one morning I’d just wake up blind. He’s heard about all of it. Not that I would dare to think He was going to step in to fix it but He was the only one awake and listening at 3 in the morning.

And it’s not like I’ve never let God know when I’m pissed off. I’ve cussed Him a blue streak. In several languages. But instead of hanging around for an answer, I’d usually end up screaming, “Go away and leave me alone!” I was so furious with Him, I kicked the door shut between us and slammed and threw things and broke things. Like a kid who had a really bad day, I threw a full scale temper tantrum.

And when I got tired of running, tired of fighting and tired of yelling, I sat there in the middle of the broken mess that I’d made of my life and realized that He was standing there at the door.
Waiting.
Patiently.
I don’t know what I expected exactly. Anger? Annoyance? Disappointment?Impatience at the very least. Compassion and gentleness weren’t exactly at the top of the list.

So for the last couple years, I may have opened the door but I’ve been pacing in circles. Watching Him. Waiting for even a flicker of trouble. Little by little the conversation became less one-sided. The anger, the impatience, the disappointment that I expected from Him never materialized.

Now, I’ve stopped pacing. I can say what I think. I can say what I feel. I still flinch. But at least I can say it. I could finally say the one thing I never would. “I’m afraid of You.”

There was no argument to the contrary. No attempt at persuasion. His response was simply, “I know.”

So here we are, in this strange new place where blatant honesty is not only acceptable but expected. It’s a little unnerving. But it’s okay. We’re okay.

See I have a thing about doors. I know where they are. Always. I know if they’re closed or not. I know if they’re locked or not. I know how many steps are between me and the door. Most importantly, when anyone is between me and the door, I how much I trust them.

He’s in the room.
We’re talking.
And I’ve quit counting the steps to the door.

Mud Puddle Sunset: Thoughts on Perspective

After the storm
August 10, 2012

I’ve been told that I have a tendency to see things that others don’t.  It’s a gift I don’t even pretend to understand.  With the turf being redone, the field near my house quickly transitioned from dirt to mud to lake as three inches of rain fell in under an hour.  The skies cleared.  The water began to drain off.  Then as the sun started to set, amazingly clear reflections appeared in puddles all over the field.

Sometimes once you see something, no matter how hard you try, you can’t unsee it.  I know.  I’ve been trying, with no success, to get the image of God and I and our intense tete-a-tete out of my head.  Wasn’t it a blessing?  A breakthrough?  A revelation?  Yes, yes and yes.  But it didn’t just open a door.  It knocked down the whole wall.  I can’t put it back up.  It’s not that I necessarily want to put it back up, but it’s left me feeling pretty exposed even now, three weeks later.  It’s been long enough now for the old insecurities to start creeping back in.  I still find myself flinging stuff at God sitting over there in his chair but now when I do, I can’t help but see myself from his side of the room.  Yes my flaws and imperfections are still there but now I can’t help but see it with a different lens of compassion.  Compassion is something reserved for other people, not for myself.  It’s uncomfortable  in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on.

But I keep looking at this photo of the mud puddles reflecting the sunset so beautifully.  It’s not a flawlessly perfect mirror reflection but it’s strikingly beautiful nonetheless.  One expects to see such reflections in pristine mountain lakes not in a stripped-down muddy football field full of contractor’s stakes and heavy equipment.

So if beauty lies in the unexpected, then it’s not such a far leap to find consolation in the uncomfortable.  It’s just a matter of perspective.