As I went outside with the dog this morning, I heard what sounded like a hammer. Who would be outside hammering at 7:30 on a cold November morning? The tops of the trees were lit up gold in the early morning sunlight and it was that light that drew my eyes upwards. I never would’ve seen him otherwise. There at the very top of the hollow tree in the backyard was a small woodpecker. I didn’t think that little guy could possibly be making the loud noise I’d just heard. But then he started tapping away at one of the small branches. The tree acted like a perfect amplifier and a loud hammering noise came from center of the tree, where a third of the tree had broken away last year leaving a gaping hole. Cold as it was, I stayed out there for a little while watching him, fascinated at the way the noise came not from his location but from the core of the tree. Up until last year, I had assumed that tree was fairly healthy. Then one random calm sunny day, a third of the tree crashed down, missing the house by mere inches.
I’ve met people like that. From the outside everything looks great but on the inside they can be as empty, hollow, and rotted as that old tree. If you don’t look too close, you might not notice it. Until that one random day when a huge chunk of the facade falls away. After that, it becomes obvious why everything they do rings hollow. Hollow people, like hollow trees, can be dangerous. Sometimes the only option that remains is to walk away.
This whole hollow tree metaphor brings me to a bit of a dilemma. Namely, where I stand with my church. See I was born and raised Catholic, spent 12 years in Catholic schools, never missed a Sunday or a holy day and loved it. But the last few years, I’m not so sure. More and more, the fact that the church and I have, and always have had, opposing viewpoints on a lot of issues has become an uncomfortable and inescapable fact of life. One of the most painful issues for me has always been the ordination of women. From the time I was a girl, I struggled with feelings of rejection. As a kid, I equated the church’s rejection with God’s rejection, that somehow, I wasn’t good enough. I am perfectly well aware of the church’s stance on this matter. The ordination of women is verboten. Those Catholic women who have been ordained outside the normal hierarchical lines of the church are branded heretics. Those who support them, yours truly included, are also seen as heretics. I’ve seen dear friends and family members, kind, beautiful souls in committed loving relationships, rejected for being gay. I’ve seen divorced friends sidelined, ignored and neglected by the church when they’re most in need of a safe and loving community. I was lucky to have an excellent support system in my parish, but that, sadly, is a rarity. I’ve seen my own kids used as pawns, with vital information about a child’s performance withheld as emotional blackmail by Catholic schools in the hopes that such actions might cause their tuition money to miraculously appear in my bank account. And while the bishop himself, now an archbishop, acknowledges the pain that it caused, there is no intention of changing the practice.
I can’t seem to put the laws and practices of this church together with the Jesus who chose to hang out with the most broken and rejected people of his time. The more I’ve come to accept that it was never God who rejected me, the harder it becomes to stay in a church who rejects so many. More and more, it all rings hollow to me and I’m starting to wonder, is it time to walk away? To finally accept that this relationship cannot be salvaged? I don’t know yet. Emotionally, I’m running into the same feelings I had just prior to filing for divorce. Spiritually, I feel like I got dropped into a briar patch. It hurts to move and it hurts to stay where I’m at.