Faith-Based, Part 2

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.

2 thoughts on “Faith-Based, Part 2

  1. I had 13 years catholic school. I LOVED our all girls high school; it was the best situation for me at that time, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I consider myself a “recovering catholic.” too much guilt and fear, especially of sexuality and homosexuality, for me. But I do believe in God, or Spirit, or the Divine…whatever you want to call it. I consider myself a very spiritual person…I think I feel most connected spiritually through yoga practice…and when I think of my mother, who I imagine to be an angel watching over me and my whole family. I pray to her often. I love your prayer about courage and patience…we all could use more! I believe that everything we do, positive or negative, has an impact on the world. So I do my best to show love and compassion whenever possible. But I know that I am not perfect, and ask for forgiveness and forgive myself when needed. The golden rule pretty much sums it up…do unto others.
    I just want to say that I am so proud of you; and admire you for all your courage and patience! Much love to you and your whole family!

  2. H,

    I, too, LOVED our Catholic high school. It was challenging, it had so many options (photography, theater, a bunch of AP classes), and best of all, it was all girls. It was so formative for me, and I often credit it for being a major factor in how I turned out.

    As far as the guilt and fear: I totally understand. As a matter of fact, now that I am “back”, as it were, in my faith tradition, I really have to work on how to overcome those things with my children. I have to pay attention to what they are learning, and teach them more, better. Sexuality for instance. Sex and sexuality are gifts from God, and we are stewards of those gifts. We have to learn to respect ourselves and share them wisely (hence the church’s emphasis on sex in marriage). Do I expect that my children will be virgins until they get married? The realistic part of me doesn’t expect that. But I think if I give them the tools to understand WHY the church takes the position it does on sex, etc., then I can teach them to make good choices. Even, maybe, to wait until they are married. Who knows?

    Thanks for the comment. I thought I would get a couple more, but I know religion is one of those things you’re not supposed to talk about. Fie on that, I say! 🙂

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