Long ago I had a friend who was very dear to me, still is, who was in a relationship with an atheist. She felt that she could leave her Christianity behind because of her love for this man. It hurts even now to talk about it, because I really had to let that go. What can be said when a person, friend or family has made up their mind? Nothing. All you can do is quietly love them from afar because embracing them full on is also accepting the logic they are using to reject God. It’s difficult.
There are places and people who feel like a warm pocket. Every time I go to them, I have an encounter with someone who recenters my faith, who brings me back to reality, back to God and His Church. I have had to make a distinct choice to spend time with these people, to linger in these places. I think sometimes we think that Christians must just be born faithful, must have some natural tendency towards wanting to be holy. It’s not true. Being a Christian is an every day, moment to moment decision, that takes guts.
Want to stay married and be in a committed and loving relationship? Be around couples who speak highly of each other. Want to have a good report with your children as adults? Hang with moms and dads whose children keep coming home long after college. Want to feel supported and part of something? Pick a parish and stick with it, volunteer your time, make it your responsibility. It takes perseverance and hard choices to get what you want out of life.
I know that some folks don’t want to hear me say this, because it may sting a little: we don’t live in a Christian world, anymore. Even when I was growing up there was some shame when a person did something that was obviously against the teachings of Jesus, now- it’s ALL GOOD. Literally. There are so many confusions, I get confused about it. I have gay friends who are confused, too. Can we just switch genders and change clothes and feel good about making everyone else and their mother feel super uncomfortable, sure- because we should do whatever makes US HAPPY, right!?!?! I know it’s counter-cultural to be a Christian, but I really truly believe in God and the teachings of the one, holy, Catholic Church! I know that must be okay because it makes me happy.
Recently, when I was at a prayer meeting I got a vision that Jesus wanted to take me and some of the strong women I was sitting close to and stick us in a pocket, a place where we could be safe and out of the way, I thought, somewhere where we could be together and not have to worry about the way the world sees us. It was a lovely vision. I feel like the way of life I long for is totally unattainable because of all the worldly influences that inundate us constantly. It’s almost like, even if there were a place to rally the wagons and create a bubble, it’s too late, because of internet access, constant media in our faces, and the comparison mirror staring into us, we cannot -NOT pop that Utopian bubble we’d sometimes like to surround around our growing families. But Gods ways are not our ways, and even though we are unpopular we will stand tall and proud and continue to try and be vigilant and protective as long as we can. We will find these pockets.
Later at mass, a different day, I was praying and found myself caught up in the after receiving the Eucharist bliss. That feeling so warm and so full. God loves us so much he is willing to come to us as food. How amazing. How satisfying. And as I’m praying I kept coming back to the crucifix, that standing announcement that nothing is simple, and every one of us suffers. I kept examining Christ’s face and longing to wipe away his tears, and like Mary must have felt, saddened that he had to receive this torture, but then my eye kept moving towards his strong chest. YES! That’s it, of course- God was letting me imagine pockets because he wants me in a specific pocket: HIS pocket. His Chest Pocket. He is always trying to move me closer to Himself if only I’d let Him direct me. I do want to be next to your Sacred Heart, Lord! I want to be right there where you can reach me.
Reach us, Lord, and use us. Help us to be instruments of your tender love.