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Religious Freak? So Not.

November 29, 2011

Written on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24, 2011.  Edited and published today.

I am not a religious freak.

So there.

I guess I used to be. Whaterrr.

Anyway, it’s Thanksgiving and my family started the day at Mass. Like I said, I’m not a religious freak, we merely chose to go to Mass because on this day of giving thanks,  much emphasis is put on the turkey and sometimes we lose sight of just who it is that we are thanking.

Although I secretly really wanted to go to Mass, I didn’t even suggest it because if it wasn’t well received I would have been sad and then it would have become a “religious conflict” or worse, seen as a “ramming of the faith” down the collective throat of my family. God and I had a talk long ago and we both agree that we want my kids to come to Him because they love Him, not because I want them to. So I did not suggest attending Mass but fortunately, one of my kids did and everybody was on board. Not to brag but my kids are kinda awesome like that.

Mass was beautiful and was celebrated by both of the parish priests together, which in and of itself is a rare treat.  We sang hymns of thanks and it was very moving.  Aside from receiving the Eucharist, which gives my heart, soul and mind great joy, the high point for me was the homily, possibly one of the most significant homilies of my life.  I will probably mangle it but I want to try to share it.

First, let me say that the past seven months have held some of the darkest days of my life.  I broke into a thousand little pieces and although with the grace of God and the love of my family I am coming back from the darkness, I am certain that I will never be the same. I am hopeful that I will be a better, stronger version of the old me and hopeful, too, that I will become the person that God intended. I am praying for true healing and recently I am finding that I receive subtle messages from God about how He would like me to glue myself back together. So that’s where my heart and head were when I went to Mass.  That’s the dirt, if you will, upon which seeds of  love would fall.

So, back to the homily, Father reminded us that we could bring all of our family, living and dead, to our Mass and in that moment I prayed for my parents, my siblings, their kids, my grandparents, my in-laws, my god-parents, my god-children, aunts, uncles and cousins. I prayed for all of them; praying for them is easy because  I love them. I was basking in that love when I received my first personal tube of glue.

What Father said next absolutely blew me away. He told us to love them for who and what they are and to forgive all that they are not. Hmmm, focus on the inherent good in people and accept them as they are. That’s very Mother Theresa-y. Isn’t that exactly how I want people to treat me?

I think it was Mr. Rogers who once said “It’s hard not to like someone once you know their story.” I have been trying to meet people where they are, assuming that each person has a story that led them to be the way they are when I encounter them. I see broken people everywhere and I try to see their good.  Over time it has become easier to give the benefit of the doubt to other people, strangers. I have had a hard time giving that same benefit to family.  Fail.

I think that I have a hard time because I have a dirty little secret: I’m human.  Yes, I am morally, ethically, physically, spiritually, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably very, very human. Over my almost fifty years I have discovered that part of being human is having problematic relationships. In fact, I will go so far as to say that the relationships from which humans derive the most pain are often those with the persons to whom they are closest, the ones that also give the most joy. I’ve talked to many girlfriends over the years (research) and found that (hypothesis) this is all too common.

As I approach my dreaded landmark birthday, I have been re-evaluating each and every relationship that I have. I had come to the conclusion that some of them might just need to end after many years of keeping problematic persons in my orbit simply because they have always been there. I feared that this may cause pain to those I might eliminate and, worse, pain to the loved ones that we have in common.  I was fast becoming one of those crazy middle-aged women who long to be surrounded by love and light.  I was preparing to re-landscape my world to make room for all the love and light.

I’ve never been a particularly confrontational person.  In fact, I often become physically ill at just the thought of  standing up to and perhaps hurting another person, especially one I love. I guess I figured that with all that love and light I would magically acquire the ability to finally speak up, tell them off and move on.  I have, over the years, often been told that I gotta grow a pair.

Crap.

This is going to be more than hard for me and contemplating the matter makes my stomach hurt.  I was born to love and be loved and now I have to stop?

How, exactly, does one stop loving? I haven’t a clue. I’ve never done it, never even attempted.

Father’s sermon, however, has shown me that the yucky feeling in my gut is spot on because it would be wrong to stop loving.  We aren’t called to only love the good ones. We are called to also love the difficult ones, those whom we might feel aren’t necessarily deserving. They are, perhaps, the ones who need our love the most. Whether easy to love or difficult, each person deserves to be loved.  God loves them and Jesus died for them so who am I to not love them?  That’s not very “love and light” -y.

This is great news!  It was one of those sermons that contain a truth that I already knew but really, really needed a refresher. Now I know that I can and should keep on loving those who may have hurt me. I’ll go out on a limb and say that I’m even supposed to love those who will hurt me in the future and forgive them.

I almost feel like the sermon was just for me. I’m relieved to learn that not only can I keep on loving them (yay!) but I should and will forgive them for not being who I want them to be.  With the grace of God I will accept them and forgive them their trespasses.

Now where have I heard THAT before?  Oh, yeah…

Our Father, who art in Heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done

On earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses

As we forgive those who trespass against us.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

Amen.

“Love and light” is fine for some middle-agers but I think I’ve found the perfect “mantra” for my fiftieth year: Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.

70 x 7, Baby.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Joanie permalink
    November 30, 2011 3:32 am

    Amy –why do I love you? Let me count the ways. 70 x 7 baby!! Great article for our “Boundaries” world!! I miss you, lets get together before the year is thru. We are NOT getting any younger!

  2. Love from your Dad permalink
    November 30, 2011 10:07 am

    Dear Amy – What a beautiful sentment you have expressed. I would expect no less from you because you have been a very loving child. Mom and I have always thought you have loved almost everyone you ever met and you have certainly reinforced this belief. Stay the way you are. Not everyone you encounter in life will love you back, as you have found out.
    But you can have an influence on most people. Keep the faith !!

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