Reclaiming my faith hasn't been easy. (Well, neither was early pregnancy, or moving in the midst of the worst nausea I could've imagined.) I joined a Catholic young adult book club and just finished reading the book that we are starting to discuss on Tuesday (I can't seem to pace myself.) Made for More by Curtis Martin. When I first read about this book study, I hadn't yet made the leap back home to the RCC. I actually asked if this book would be a good fit for someone who didn't quite believe at all. By the time I ordered the book, I had technically come back home, and was eager to read about how I was made for more.
As I read the book, I realized that my mind found absolutely no objections to what was being discussed. And yet, to say I believed, in the same way that I believe in a creator God and eternal life, that would not be accurate. I believe in eternal life and a creator God with every fiber of my being, not so much as a matter of faith, but rather as a matter of fact. I'm ok not knowing all the details, but those two things I simply cannot phathom not being true.
But as far as the Christian bend on spiritual reality, it's more a work in progress. I'm making my mind up that I want to believe, I'm purposefully ignoring the thoughts and influences that in the past I've allowed to carry me away from the possibility of believing in Christ. I'm trusting that God will meet me where I am, which, to be honest, isn't very close to where I'd like to be. It's sort of like trying to convince myself that Santa Clause is real. Sort of.
As I was reading, it occurred to me that one of my obstacles is the violence that is at the center of the storyline. I have sworn off tv shows I used to love, such as the NCIS series, after postpartum anxiety got the better of me and my imagination would take off on its own with violent thoughts at random points in the day. I have never gone - nor do I ever intend to go - to the Holocaust Museum, because I don't need the visual evidence to understand the enormity of the evil that took place. It happened to my family, in my country, I grew up hearing first hand accounts of World War II. It's as real as it needs to be for me.
Which interestingly reminds me of how there are actually people who continue to deny that the Holocaust actually took place. Or American slavery. These are the people who need to go to these museums, to watch the documentaries, to be faced with the reality head on. But these are the people that I'm afraid I'm like when it comes to my faith. Is the horror of the Crucifixion so great that my overly sensitive spirit simply cannot take it all in? Is it too much for me to be able to form a life-giving faith around such a violent event?
You see, in the heyday of my faith, I actually did meditate on the Stations of the Cross. I actually did enter into the Way of the Cross. I physically would get weak from the mere thought of what Jesus had to endure. I ached at the sights of the blows, thorns, nails.... It became very real to me, and now I wonder if it was too real for me to handle.
Am I simply in denial? Is the reality of Jesus's suffering too much for me to handle, so I'm just blocking it out? Does the thought of martyrdom as evidence of the convincing faith of the early (and later) Christians force me to realize that I can't sit on the fence, just observing my Catholic Christian faith as if it were an entertaining movie that I didn't actually have to get my hands dirty for?
I may want my religion, my faith, my spirituality to be minimalist, simple, clean, but being a true Catholic Christian does not allow for the easy route. And so I am immediately faced with the choice - am I with Jesus, or not? Am I a follower or just a fan of his work?
You see, cultural or not, I grew up Catholic. I believe in Purgatory. I believe God desires salvation for all of us, and that even after death, we have the opportunity to return to Our Father. So hellfire and damnation doesn't work on me. I am not scared of hell, because I don't believe I'm going there. I don't believe Scriptures prove hell, just post-death torment for those who didn't get right with God in time. But I believe this is not eternal. As I write this, I find it ridiculous. Does it matter if the torment lasts a day or eternity? As weary as I am of pain and suffering in my earthly life, you'd think I'd be highly motivated to avoid even a little bit of "cleansing by fire" (Malachi 3:3).
I am taking God's goodness and mercy for granted, I know. I expect Him to be all-loving and therefore to understand my struggles and shortcomings and forgive me. But I am not ignorant of what Jesus said when tempted by Satan: "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test" (Luke 4:12).
I still have a long way to go.