Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Loved As If

I've always asked, What if? As a child, I broke a vintage television that was kept in the cellar by wondering what would happen if I removed tubes and replaced them. First, I removed one tube and immediately put it back. Later, I removed two, then three, then more. Finally, the day came when I removed them all at once and when the time came to replace them, couldn't remember where they belonged. I decided that each tube would only fit in one spot. I was wrong. When the man in whose house I lived next turned on the TV, it went, Pfffft!, and never worked again. I broke clocks, more than one computer, many tape players, ditto disk players, ditto many other mechanical devices.

But my curiosity about What if? also encompasses ideas and, since it is the center of my life, my faith. Not long after my confirmation, when I was 16, I wondered what would happen if I took Matthew 6:33 as a fact: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (KJV) I decided to try it. It was the best risk I've ever taken; I'm still living the answer.

As a child, though I longed for my family, I also longed for someone to notice that things weren't right, longed for someone who would help me. I fantasized about what would happen if a family loved me. As an adult, I longed to be part of a family, was intensely grateful for the time I spent as an au pair. I fantasized about being loved as the members of that family were loved but it never happened. I hurt and somehow I knew my pain would only be healed by family; I had no family. I had had a great experience of family as a young child. But death had left me alone. It seemed that I had had my quota and must now bear the cross of having no one. I didn't expect to experience family again this side of Heaven. No one owed me the love I hungered for. I certainly couldn't ask for it. There are some things that lose their value when requested.

Then I returned to the Church and encountered genuine Christian community and, for the first time in my life, Christian friends who were as interested in getting to Heaven as I was. There was little small talk. Everything mattered. Even if it only mattered to one person, we all cared. We prayed for each other. Celebrated birthdays and holidays together. Talked to each other. Laughed at each other. Wit and jokes flew around whenever we were together, even when only two of us gathered. I laughed at them. They laughed at me. I didn't take offense; their jokes were kind, not cruel.

I let down my guard. They continued to love me. Not once was I avoided for loving God or having strong opinions or being different. They invited me to brunch and concerts and dinner and accepted my invitations. As they learned of my childhood, they listened and prayed for me. I was imperfect. They still loved me. They came to collect me after medical procedures, helped me in small ways and big - they were all big to me. There were occasional frictions but falling out with one person didn't bring all my friendships crashing down. We were simply one big family that always had love for one more. I don't think any of them knew what they were doing. But by loving me as if I was a member of their family, they brought a level of healing I never imagined. Though I've moved miles away, the friendships and healing continue. And I've been given the grace to form new friendships which heal me and, I hope, heal my new friends too.

Loved As If  is a What if? story I must share. It's the story of healing when I was certain healing was impossible. It's probably the most important work I've ever done. Loved As If is a triptych: 1) That which wounded me, 2) My search for healing, 3) Unanticipated, unexpected healing. Woven throughout is my experience of God's presence, His care and providence and love that prepared me to be able to accept the healing I longed for. It's the story of what can happen if Christians love each other as if we are one big family.

Over the next few months, I'll be posting excerpts and perhaps a bit about my experiences with editors and publishers. Please comment.

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