Sunday, March 30, 2014

Speak To Me

"People see God every day, they just don't recognize him." ~P. Bailey
Albrecht Dürer - Praying Hands. One of my mother's favorite art works.
I had a funny conversation about religion today at a baby shower. And when it comes down to it, I guess my true answer is that I'm a very spiritual person, but probably not an overly religious one. Some of my friends are atheists, my own husband is most likely considered agnostic, and my kids aren't all that interested in church even though I try to drag them there on a regular basis. But be as that may, I cannot dismiss the power faith has in my life - including my daily life.

I have to admit the loss of my mother caused a pretty seismic shift in my childhood. My mother was the driving force of my own religious upbringing. She came from a very devout Catholic family, sent me to parochial school for my elementary education, and taught at one for about 9 years before she passed away. I'll never forget how excited she was to go see the Pope right before she died. Sure she was seeing him from the nosebleed seats in a sports stadium, but she was as giddy as a teenager getting backstage passes to One Direction. However, the event of her death, and the circumstances surrounding the people she worked and taught with, really soured my whole outlook on faith, religion, Catholicism, and for a little while, God himself. Sad to say, I was a typical angry teenager with the mentality of a toddler. I wanted to know "why?" Why, why, why, why, why? Why my mom? Why did this happen to me? Why not take me instead? Between the "why's" and the "what-ifs" my spirit was sucked down an abyss faster than Alice went down the rabbit hole.

It took me a long, long, time to accept what happened. Even longer to accept that it didn't happen to punish me or because I was bad, or unfaithful. And it was an even more lengthy road back to my spirituality. Sure there were the reminders, and the nudges to go back to my faith. I started attending a Youth Group with my girlfriend because I slept over her house on weekends, and that's where she ended up on Sunday mornings. Coincidentally, (or not), it was the same place my husband ended up on Sundays as well. I became a member of the E & C Club, and would only go to church on Easter or Christmas with another family when I went to their house on holidays. And then there were the little happenstances that kept occurring around me that couldn't be discounted or explained away. Things like certain songs coming on the radio when I was having a hard time missing my mother. Seeing people or having someone call me out of the blue when I was feeling frighteningly alone and desperate. Certain photos or papers of my mother's that would mysteriously fall out of books or drawers when I would least expect it. These little signs were like a tide ebbing away at the dried up remains of my faith. The more I got them, the more I could feel that empty little spot inside where my spirituality used to reside. The more I knew that spot was empty, the more I wanted to feel like it was filled up again.

I am now a great believer in "God winks" (to borrow the term from a book I once read). Mostly, I believe I receive them from my mother. But there have been other occurrences that have happened that don't carry her mark on them. These little signs and messages are treasured and cherished by me every time they occur. They're delivered to me through the radio, strangers, books, and my own kids. They remind me that I can still connect a part of myself with the one remaining essence of people who have passed away. That even though I might not be able to see my loved ones, they can still speak to me and be involved in my life. Because as much as I'd like to say I've matured, and learned to keep my faith overflowing, there are still events that cause those little tremors to return. Things that seem senseless, and cruel, and unfair, and revert me back to that demanding toddler mentality of "why? why? why?" But again, I am sent a sign, a message, an answer. 

On today of all days, I struggled with the 8 year "angel-versary" of the death of a friend's son. I have never been able to reason or wrap my head around this loss. Such wonderful parents having such a small window of time with their little boy. And they are such loving, positive, people despite that. The effect they have on others and for others in the name of their child is a beautiful thing to behold. Their courage and strength are amazing to watch, and because of that, it is so easy to slip back into that questioning mentality. Why? Why them? And in the Gospel reading at church today was a section that jumped out at me. My answer, if you will.

John 9:2-3
And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "it was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."

For me, his works have never been displayed better. Faith, humility, dedication, love, and kindness. Thank you for the note.

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