18 April 2014

Thankful, as we humbly quake in our boots

Today is Good Friday and my Facebook and the blogs I read are already alight with wonderfully insightful posts, beautifully reflective thoughts, and pause-inducing artwork. I am remiss to say that Lent has not rendered me anything particularly brilliant to say today.

But because I think "Well, I can't come up with anything, so that's that" is a total cop-out, I will post one religious reflection I have, even though it isn't particularly lenten in nature. Then I'll talk briefly about what other Big Important Event occurs today.

So I've mentioned before that I'm participating in a Bible study for the book of James, and this past Tuesday we had another discussion that really struck me. Whenever I make a point to read about a Saint or read an encyclical, I'm always shocked at the luke-warmness of my faith. I'm really good at coming up with excuses (I have a small child, this week is really busy, I don't feel well today, it's past her bedtime) to push off our family Rosary, speed through a prayer, wait another week for confession, never make daily Mass (I live within walking distance of the church). When I really think about it, my logic boils down to I believe in God and don't do really bad things, so that's good enough for right now.

But once we know better, we ought to do better, right? So we're reading James 4:9, which says in sum: Weep and let your joy be turned into mourning. James appears to contradict himself, because in verse 2, he's all: Consider your trails joy! Well, we know the Bible doesn't contradict itself, so there must be a time when it's appropriate to turn our joy into gloom and we just need to figure out when that is. The Bible study author (we watch weekly videos and have a participant guide book that we do homework from) led us on a discussion that took us through a few different points, but I want to focus on the second one she made:

It is appropriate to turn our joy into gloom when we don't take God seriously.

Now it's easy to brush over that with a quick, "Pshaww, of course I take God seriously!" I know I did. I was all: I go to Sunday Mass, I don't use artificial contraception, Matt and I have discussions about raising children who will remain faithful to the church. But as she went into detail, the point starting hit home. I jotted down notes as she spoke, and I apologize that I only got the citation for one point.

"Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, 'The spirit that he has made to dwell in us tends toward jealousy?'" (James 4:5)

Do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, "run from immorality?"

Do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, "repent from your pride?"

Do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, "stop the secret sin before it becomes public?"

Do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, "watch your mouth or you will devour one another?"

If these points are easy for you to gloss over, read them aloud and put extra emphasis on the word "nothing" and the first word inside the quotation marks.

Do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, "repent from your pride?"

Shit. I'm over here all with my nose in the air, "Well I volunteered my time and talents at church last month and I go to Bible study, of course I take God seriously." To quote the instructor again: "We ought to quake in our boots over our fallings short."

Of course there comes a time when small children and being sick is going to trump the Saint of the Day readings, but I can promise you this: I'm yielding that right of way significantly more often than I should. I picture myself standing before God at the entrance to Heaven and He's like, "So...did you know you only said a Rosary on 15% of all the days of your life?" Can I honestly say that 85% of my life was too busy for the Creator who made me? I'm picturing him replaying the last year of my life and pausing every time I put "check Facebook," "make a snarky comment to Matt about the person a few pews ahead of us in Mass," and "watch TV" over saying a prayer, listening to the Priest, or reading an encyclical. What will I say to Him? What can anyone say about that? There is nothing! There is nothing you can say to God when He asks you, "Why did you spend the evening complaining about the lawn care guys working during naptime instead of spending 3 minutes saying a decade of the Rosary with your family?" And there is definitely nothing you can say to God when He asks, "How can you blog about not taking your faith seriously and then turn around and fail to take your faith seriously?"

Dose of humility = received. Commence turning joy into anguish, commence repenting. This girl is quaking in her boots.

* * * * *

Now begins the impossible task of following that up. So forget transitions. Good Friday is all about facing hard realities anyway, so perhaps there is symbolism behind my lack of transition.

Today is the very first anniversary of my miscarriage. It was one year ago tonight that this happened. I remember that day - hunched over with a contraction in the lobby of the apartment building, waiting for the yellow taxi to arrive. I remember loosing the baby while giving a urine sample and sobbing hysterically on my way through the ER back to my bed, attendants coming out from behind desks, concerned. I remember the shocked look on the face of the ultrasound tech when I got up from the bed at all the blood everywhere. On the sheets, on the hospital gown, on the inadequate pad they give you to soak up blood. I remember other things about that day and I still have the hospital bracelet I wore one year ago. The only physical evidence I have that our second child existed. We were unable to recover a body.

We did, at some point, give the baby a name - I think a few weeks after the miscarriage. We've never told anyone the name because I don't want to have to explain our unusual choice to everyone. Matt and I don't even reference the baby by name to one other...it's too weird. We just say, "the baby we lost." The only time I refer to the baby by name is when I pray. I don't think about the baby every day anymore. Sometimes every few days, sometimes every few weeks. I don't tell people that this is my third pregnancy unless the situation is conducive to personal revelations. I haven't cried about it in a long time, I think since my old due date passed in November.

We lost the baby 5 days before Abigail took her first steps, 7 days before our 5th anniversary, and exactly one month before Abigail's 2nd birthday. It felt so weird to have this dark cloud in my heart during all these happy celebrations. And this year, I remember the baby I lost as I'm just about due to give birth again. It's a weird experience. I think I'll do some private journaling about it today. I wouldn't say I'm still torn up about it, but I don't think I'll ever just "be over" knowing a little soul I carried in my body is in Heaven now. I want to plumb through my emotions, to remember, to heal, to make room for grace.

* * * * *

Well, I'm not really sure how to end this. Sunday is my ninth anniversary of becoming Catholic, but I still have no idea how to greet people on Good Friday. Have a solemn Good Friday? Reverent Good Friday to you? I don't know. Today is all about being solemn, repentant, and thankful. We should be shocked like that ultrasound tech at the amount of blood Christ shed today, and so very thankful to God for it being a part of His plan. Thankful, as we humbly quake in our boots.

1 comment:

Amelia Bentrup said...

Great reflection. I struggle with lukewarmness a lot as well. Prayer is very difficult for me. I never really get the "consolation" people talk about from prayer and it's very hard for me to focus.

I like to think that God isn't going to just ask me how many rosaries I prayed, but how many acts of love I performed. How many times I lovingly (instead of begrudgingly) comforted/nursed a baby in the night. How many times I patiently explained something to a child or patiently read stories for the 15 billionth time, or was loving towards my husband or

But of course, prayer is super important too and it's something I am always trying to hard to work on.