I’ve alluded, in past blog posts that dealt with religion, to the fact that my faith saved my life. Maybe that sounds like an exaggeration, maybe it *is* an exaggeration. But I would not be *here*, where I am, without the power of prayer in my life. And I can’t ever forget that.
My faith has never been perfect, and in my 20s I was a seriously lapsed Catholic. (I started making noise about going to church in my teens — I didn’t want to, I “didn’t get anything out of it”. But going to church wasn’t up for debate. I lived with my parents; I played by their rules. Simple as that.) I stopped going to church, I didn’t follow the commandments; my life was not God-centered. It was me-centered. (Ironically, I attended a Catholic university, from which I graduated when I was 22.)
(Look, I’m not preaching that you have to be religious to be a good, ethical person. I’m just talking about my own experience here.)
I look back on that time feeling extremely grateful that I emerged relatively unscathed. I didn’t become a homeless drug addict; I didn’t end up in prison. I didn’t get in physically abusive relationships — although the relationships I was in were hardly fantastical.
And it was one of these less-than-ideal relationships that finally lead me back to the church for good.
I had made a couple of stabs at returning before my final straw, so to speak. One time, after being away a good two years, I attended church and the gospel story was that of The Prodigal Son. And I still strayed, again, for an even longer time.
It’s safe to say I was being willfully obtuse.
In 1998, I found myself in a dead-end relationship. I was struggling on several fronts, but my own biggest obstacle was *me*. I wasn’t happy; I wasn’t fulfilled; I didn’t feel loved or valued. I didn’t know where to turn.
So I walked into a church.
I don’t even remember if there was a Mass going on at the time or not. I just know that I knelt down and bowed my head.
“Hi, God,” I remember thinking. “I’m sure you know me. I need your help.”
I prayed for two things that day: courage and patience. I needed the strength and the courage to face the man I had been with for four years and say goodbye. Say, “Look, this isn’t working for me, and I have to go.”
I will reiterate here that The Guy was a perfectly nice person. He didn’t abuse me in any way; he wasn’t a freeloader, he didn’t cheat on me. But we were painfully unhappy, and we didn’t share values or plans for a future together. I thought that we would get there, but, after four years (with “a break” in the middle), we weren’t moving forward at all. I had to go, and I knew it, but I was afraid. He wasn’t great, but he wasn’t awful, and it’s scary to be alone.
I also prayed for patience. The patience to listen. The patience to be open to the next thing. The patience to hear the “small, still voice”. I was directionless in my life, and I needed to be awake and aware to find my path.
Here I am, 13 years later, on the path that God put before me, the one that I found after those few moments of prayer. I became a regular church-goer again, a daily pray-er, a woman open to where God was going to send me. I was willing, I AM willing, to do His will, not to impose my own desires, my own childish wants.
My life is not perfect. I am human and I struggle, at times mightily, to continue to do God’s will.
God gave me the patience to wait until Dan came into my life.
He (or She if you prefer; God is Spirit, and gender-neutral) gave me the courage to be loved the way I deserved to be loved.
He gave me the strength to survive the death of my first son, and the courage to have other babies.
And when I wanted to “try one more time”, I prayed for another son, one to raise, and God said Yes.
Very often, my prayers are for much the same things: courage and patience. I also find great joy and deep peace in my faith. I know that my life is so much better with God at the center of it. My faith sustains me, and I hope that I can be an example to my children — an example to anyone, really — of what faith can do, what it can be.
This, too, is part of why I want my children to continue to receive a Catholic education. So that they have a foundation of stone, not sand. So that even if, like me, they stray and struggle, they will know deep in their hearts, as I always knew deep in mine, that God would always be there.
I know some day, it is possible one of my children will say, “I don’t believe in God.” And I know I will say, “Well, God believes in you.” Not to be flippant, but because I know it’s true, because it is God’s belief in me that has put me here. And I’m good with that, and I… I just wanted to tell you.
I don’t know how to invite you to comment on this one. I think we all have our reasons for being faithful or for struggling. All I ask is that you be respectful if you want to comment, and treat others with respect. Our journeys are all different. God be with you — even if you don’t believe in her, she believes in you.