Yesterday at mass, they did something a little different. Halfway through the sermon, the priest said there were notecards and pencils under our seats and we were to write our doubts, our “whys” and “what ifs” of our faith, or maybe a time that we felt helpless and alone. These notecards were to be gathered at collection and offered up for prayer on the altar at the time of communion.
My first thought was, “I’m gonna need a bigger notecard over here.”
Probably not coincidentally, I had also just gotten back from a wonderful weekend of retreat in a secluded cabin under the beautiful Montana big sky with my women’s group. I spent a weekend with great company, good food, and spiritual abundance. No cell service, no internet, no TV.
It is easy on top of that mountain to feel alive. It is easy to be faithful, to understand why we are called to do certain things. But that is not the world we live in. I had to come down from the mountain and live amongst the world. (Luke 9:28-36 anyone? Remember that one from last week?)
In short, here’s how I really feel – yes, I have doubts and “whys”. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is Christianity so overwhelmingly unpopular in society? Why is sex abused so often and nonchalantly if it’s the one thing that has the sacred potential to create life? Better yet, why are we driven biologically to abuse said sexual power? If only we were wired to accept and love people the way we are wired for sexuality! How in the world am I to lead a Catholic example when nearly every persuasion from society and culture is coaxing me in the opposite way? How come other people don’t need Jesus? Why me? Why can’t I go back to the way things were before I came into Christianity?
Oh yea. I was miserable then. That’s why.
For me, I had very personal and intimate reasons for coming to my faith that I’m not going to share here. I will say, the model in my life pre-faith was simply not working. I was raised on media, and learned pretty much everything about the world from either Disney Channel, ABCFamily, or MTV*. I didn’t realize until recently how much pain this had caused. Remember, there are two lies we will tell ourselves, “You are not good enough” and “You are alone”. Neither are ever true. Ever. These exact lies are the ones that the consumer world prospers on. If you felt “good enough”, you wouldn’t have a need to buy the diet pills or the skin clearing strips. Fashion would totally cease to exist, we wouldn’t look at other celebrities with lust and envy. Before coming into Christianity, I was stuck in a perpetual “not good enough” trap. Even when I did feel good enough, a voice came back at me telling me not to believe it. How difficult I made my life by trying to fit into this stupid mold society told me to be.
I have found Christianity to be one of the most fulfilling and joyful journeys. I find a completeness and wholeness to the faith of Catholicism, I embrace the sacraments and see beauty in the teachings of the Catechism. It has restored my value and turned everything I knew previously on its side. But I’d be lying if I told you I never struggle – or doubt. My faith is not something I easily and uncritically accept. I assure you there are very few canons, if any, of my faith that I have just done because I am told to – many of them I have been hurt by not following them. Yet, that still doesn’t mean it’s easy. Especially in an increasingly ever-present secular world.
I can’t stay on the mountain because that is not where God lives. God lives amongst us, in fellowship, in friendship, in life and love.
What I discovered after that sermon was that we aren’t always going to get our “whys” answered. People have been searching for ages to discover those answers. But for me, my only choice is to keep going. The world would like us to believe that it is a bad and depraved place. What I get out of Christianity is an alternative – the world is very, very good and the people that inhabit it even more so. And many “whys” have to simply fall to the wayside in this quest for good.
*I am not making Disney, ABCFaily and MTV out to be the cause of all evil in our world. But perhaps if that had been counterbalanced with other things for me, I wouldn’t have struggled so much.