Close to Home:
My father used to hate it when I’d hole up in my room. “What does she do in there all night?” he’d ask my mother. At fifteen-years-old, I was a mystery - unmapped and dangerous territory, where any wrong turn, look, or question, could lead a well-intentioned traveler into a camouflaged trap, lined treacherously with burgeoning hormones.
When he knelt beside my bed to tell me we were moving, I could visibly see the pain, the trepidation, reddening his eyes; I could hear the tension tightening around his voice. “I’m really sorry,” he repeated over and over again. I felt cold, and sick, and angry, so heartbroken and fearful. That summer I had made the varsity team - warm-up pants, polyester vests, and short pleated skirts had already been ordered in my exact size, bearing my name. “After football season,” he promised. But I said nothing, as if an event unacknowledged couldn’t come to fruition, as if withholding my approval could change his mind.
I tore through the days that fall like fire devouring pine trees in a forest, taking advantage of my parent’s sympathy to stay out longer. Joy rides, home games, and “5th quarter” parties were quite literally all I cared about or lived for. Winter set in and still I rejected the inevitable, even as mom sorted, listed, and planned ahead. Then boxes were assembled, a moving truck reserved; reality roared louder than determined ignorance could muffle, extinguishing all hope of a clean escape. It would take years to find the good in that upheaval, of my circumstances, my security, my surroundings. Now I look back, decades later, with vision sharp, mature, and lucid - I see a girl who would find enlightenment through disruption. I see myself - exactly where I should be.
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it,” said Flannery O’Connor. And yet its avoidance, or outright refutation, is a far too common way to pass the time. Occasionally, I do feel a bit like Noah, hammering away at an ark under sunny skies. “Experts” have been studying the weather patterns, presenting fully funded research boasting airtight conclusions. The storm is not coming, we’ve been assured, and it is rude, immoral, and unthinkable to claim otherwise.
I am not so likely to abandon the project altogether, as much as I am apt to fit it in (like a hair or a doctor’s appointment) to my busy schedule. “This ark thing is a part of what I do,” I reassure those rolling their eyes, “but I have other interests also, many valid traits you’d find endearing.” Sometimes, I’ll feel a drop or two and labor away with renewed vigor; then just like that, once again I ‘m dry as a bone. Messages I had silenced find their smooth, hypnotic, voice. “Come play with us!” they yell, and I want to. What I choose (either work or rest) cannot prevent Christ’s love and wrath from overflowing and spilling downward. Attempted dodging of the issue postpones nothing. Reality will roar louder than determined ignorance can muffle, “God is holy! God is just! God is good!”
Truth is scary because, potentially, it could eat you alive, it could continually ask for more until you are empty. Oh man, am I partial to these existing circumstances - so attached to their security, and my surroundings. Remove them from me and surely I would perish; I would crumble into nothing, into dust. But the saints, our examples, claim otherwise from across that wide expanse of fatality and sorrow. They have lived and died and lived again victoriously, “Come find peace with us!” they offer, and I want to.
St. Mary of Paris lost her infant daughter and she suffered grievously, like anybody would. The heavens opened up to receive her beloved child, ripping in two a flimsy semblance of normality:
“And I am convinced,” she said “that anyone who has shared this experience of eternity, if only once; who has understood which way he is going, if only once; who has perceived the One who precedes him, if only once: such a person will find it hard to deviate from this path, to him all comforts will appear ephemeral, all treasures valueless, all companions, superfluous if in their midst he fails to see the one Companion, bearing his cross.”
“We have found the True faith,” I sing each and every Sunday, “worshipping the undivided Trinity, who has saved us.” There is really nothing open in that statement for interpretation. Whatever I choose (either a willing spirit or the preservation of my life as it is right now) will not thwart in any way the plans of God. The tools for salvation, He’s so mercifully made available but how (or if) I use them is my prerogative. “Come play with us?” you say. Dear friends, come pray with me, find shelter in the Ark of Christ’s Church before the waters start to rise, before Truth reveals Himself in all His terrifying, unyielding, and irresistible glory.
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