I got to thinking about my Faith while traveling for my grandmother's funeral. Events where life and death meet have a tendency to cause reflection on life, death, afterlife and where we stand.
I fell away from the Catholic church as an adolescent and stayed away for much of my college life.
Strange as it may sound, I don't remember a time when I didn't believe in God. Or that Satan exists. I have always believed that Heaven and Hell were indeed places where souls reside for eternity. I believe there will be a day when I face God and receive final Judgment.
Back when I was a teenager or young adult, though, I don't know that I would have articulated it in those terms.
More often than not, in my younger years, I subscribed to some moral relativism. Mostly, I believed that all I needed to do was be "a good person" and God would understand and forgive all of my missteps even if I hadn't repented and turned from the bad stuff I was doing.
By most people's standards, my "bad stuff" probably wouldn't be considered all that bad...certainly not Hell-worthy. However, I have learned over the past 11 years that it's probably not in my eternal best interests to live by most people's standards. I want to live by God's standards, as laid out through my faith, communicated through His Son and down through the church over the ages.
So, yeah...I did bad stuff.
I still do bad stuff. The big difference now is that I'm much more aware of how bad the bad stuff is and the consequences on the grand scale.
I started to wonder why it is that I've never questioned God's existence or His Love for me.
Don't get me wrong, it's not like I WANT to doubt. But, I hear of people who feel like God isn't present to them, no matter what they try. Or I read about people who pray and petition the Lord, but feel their prayers are never answered. Or I know of those who are suffering some tragedy or painful event that seems to have no rhyme or reason why it should happen. I don't begrudge anyone their doubts. Many people grow through them. Some people lose their faith. Some people emerge on the other side of doubt with a much stronger faith. There's doesn't seem to be any hard core pattern to who ends up where.
I've had some bad things happen to me in life, but I haven't ever felt like God abandoned me. I haven't always asked for His aid when I should have. And no, every prayer of mine hasn't always been answered with a "yes." I haven't had a time where God had to make Himself known to me.
When my parents divorced would have been a prime time for me to feel abandoned by God. But I didn't. I felt abandoned by my earthly father. I felt confused. I stopped trusting my parents.
But I still trusted God.
It seems to me that my parents' divorce, and the way I grew up, I probably should have been mad at God - Why would He allow my parents to get married and have five children together if they weren't going to make it work? Why would He give me the mother He did? Why did He bless my parents with their fifth child even though the marriage was clearly on the rocks at the time?
But I don't remember feeling indignation toward God. I remember feeling hurt by my mom and dad and putting blame on them. I also remember feeling like it was MY fault things hadn't worked out. I remember thinking I must not have been good enough as a daughter. Or perhaps I wasn't pretty enough. I definitely was not smart enough. Those were all potential reasons why my dad didn't want me anymore. I remember that I was not skinny enough to please my mom and I disappointed her because I couldn't fit the image she'd created for me.
Looking back on my behavior in high school, it's clear I was lost. I was lost because I didn't have a father in the home, so I looked for male affection and affirmation among boys who were nowhere near prepared for that. My mom had stopped taking us to Mass several years running. So, not only was I lost without a strong father figure, I was lost without my Mother Church and her love and wisdom and guidance.
In college, I continued to search for male affection and affirmation in a long-term relationship with someone who was not prepared and completely lacked the desire to love me the way Christ loved His church. So I floated along, trying to make something work that was doomed from the start.
When that relationship ended---I initiated the break-up because I think, even though I would never have been able to put words to it, that I was growing tired of being used and was beginning to understand the relationship wasn't going to end where I had hoped it would---even though I was crushed, I still (miraculously) turned to Jesus in prayer and tried to remember how to pray the rosary (and I failed miserably). Somehow, I still fell back on the faith I had that God WAS there and that there WAS a plan. I just hadn't been following it.
I know that to have faith is an incredible gift. I know I haven't done anything to create within myself the desire to know, love and serve the Lord. Yes, I have tried hard to cultivate this gift over these past 11 years and I have tried to learn how to help my children cultivate the gift that has been given them. But the fact that the faith is there at all, is the doing of Something Bigger and Greater than me.
And, while I know that faith is a huge gift, I also know that with that comes a great responsibility.
And that is where I know I fall far short.
Help me understand, if you can.
How do I help others discover the gift that I believe is there for all? Is that my charge? How is that done when there's such a danger of pushing people away if it's done wrong?
In the end, only God can change a heart. I know that. But, am I called to help that cause in some way?
Is prayer my only recourse?
Where do I start?
(I must admit, I feel rather-- "naked" --admitting that I am not sure in this facet of my life. I want so badly to feel sure of how to move forward.)