Easter

I have been procrastinating this post since Easter. I don’t honestly know how to write this without sounding all the kinds of religious crazy. It’s funny how much easier for me to share my spiritual struggle than to share this.

This Easter, God sent me a gift. The city we just moved to has concerts all the time, and it is so hard for me that I never have the time or the money for them. A couple of days before Easter, I got a notification that Hillsong United was giving a free concert for Easter.
Hillsong United is so special to me. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) was the song I walked in to at my wedding and it is my comfort when the ocean feels too far away. Their music centers me and brings me hope, and you know how much I was struggling with hope this Holy Week. I was so touched that I immediately wrote to my husband begging that we go. Despite all the sacrifices it required of him, he agreed. (He ended up making a lot of sacrifices to get me to this concert, but it was so worth it-at least, I think so.)
We almost didn’t go. It was SO difficult trying to maneuver our schedules and plans for Easter and for Easter Mass around the concert, and then we got in a huge fight on the way, and got lost, and then couldn’t find parking. I was so determined though, I was praying my heart out. “God, I believe this was your Easter gift to me, get us there.”
Those of you who did not grow up Catholic probably know already what I found out pretty quickly, this was a service, not just a concert, but even though I was kind of freaking out about that(Catholics technically aren’t supposed to go to other religions services) I decided the concert part was worth it. I hadn’t’ been to praise and worship in far too long.
Let me tell you, we celebrated Easter in a way I have never seen before. The lyrics to the main song we sang were “Here I stand high in surrender, I need you now, take my heart, now and forever my soul cries out. Once I was broken, but you have my whole heart now, sin has no hold on me, and your grace holds me now.” The worship leaders talked over and over again about how through Christ’s Resurrection sin’s hold on our lives is destroyed. If He can be victorious over death, than He can win over anything else. A friend who is studying to be a pastor had told me these same things, and technically, the Church teaches the same thing, but hearing them this way, with the music, something just clicked.
I kept hearing Dave Ramsey talk about ending a family tree that is used to debt, and how “the sins of the father are visited on the son” no longer has to be true because of Jesus, and everything they were saying gave me so much hope, and simultaneously so much fear.

It sounds crazy to say hearing this brought fear, but hope is a dangerous and terrifying thing. If you believe in hope, you could end up humiliated and ashamed. Embarrassed for even thinking you were worth whatever awesome thing you have believed in. Hoping in a good God who wants to save you from anything He can is terrifying, because He won’t always save you. So there will be times where your hope looks absurd and ridiculous, and you just have to trust that there is something else going on. That’s easy to accept when you haven’t been through tragedy, but once you have, its incredibly difficult to accept that a good God who wants us to live abundantly would allow your child to die.

Over and over again throughout the service, the songs, the talks, everything, the theme was believing that God wants us to experience life and joy and love. That He wants us to let Him inn, and He has wonders in store for us. The Our Lady of Lourdes saying that haunts me echoed in the back of my mind trying to create fear and despair, “I cannot promise you happiness in this life, only in the next.” I’ve written before how this phrase has been a stumbling block for me over and over and over.

I struggled so much to maintain the hope that the concert had brought to me. I kept downplaying it because it was weird that we ended up in a service, or it was hard to get there. Even now though, I am replaying over and over in my mind the celebration, the absolute joy of living in a religion that believes in hope. The thing is, Catholics believe this too, but it is so rarely emphasized. So often we hear about offering our sufferings to Christ, and bearing our Crosses, and we have Crucifixes all over our homes, but we almost never mention the Resurrection(yes there are exceptions to this, but in my experience this is a pretty common issue.) We almost never mention the fact that the reason why the Crucifixion is not a sign of complete despair is that we had the Resurrection three days later. We are not a Crucifixion people, we do not believe that suffering is our glory, though many people treat it like it is. We believe that suffering is valuable, but only like pain is-because it does other things.

Since that concert, I have been making every effort to remember Christ’s victory, and that He wants us to have a Resurrection to every Cross. We are not meant to worship suffering for sufferings sake, though we are asked to make the best of it.
The pastors asked us, “What would you do if you believed that God had already won your most important battle?” and I have been letting that question inform my decisions. I entered Academy Nicholls because if I believe that God loves me and that He can conquer anything for me, and I believe He wants me to do film, then He can get me into filmmaking. I took a break on the night I needed to, because God would take care of the last little bit of money stress, and He did. I dedicate myself more intensely to my kids during the day and ask that God take care of my worries while I love on them.
So let me ask you, “What would you do?” And why don’t you go do it now, because He is there, and He is watching you, and supporting you like none other can or will. At least, I hope He is because I’m going to stake my life on it.

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We are a Resurrection People, and Hallelujah is our Song

Yesterday, I had an awful experience at Church. I wrote about it in another post, but there is one problem with the post about one instance. It is not just this one church, or this one type of incident. I have been treated this way over and over and over again at different times throughout my life, and I am not the only one. One day I will tell the story of trying to stay Catholic after a miscarriage in a pro-life environment, it was not easy. I have watched as Catholics fall away because they can’t handle fear over every single action they ever do, or they are sick of the guilt, or they feel like God hates them until they leave. Many Catholics will jump on anything to guilt you, or talk about sin, or God’s anger. It took me a long time to realize how scared we all are. Many Catholics are not being taught a merciful and loving God, they are learning about His anger, and desire for them to follow all the rules perfectly, and how they have to manage to make up for all of their sins.

This is not Jesus. Jesus cared about good works, yes. He cared about doing the right thing and following the law. More than that though, he cared about LOVE. He wanted us to be kind and merciful to each other. He did tell the adulterous woman not to sin anymore, but He also drew a line in the sand so they wouldn’t stone her.  Over and over again, He hears the pain of His people and answers them. Over and over again, He tells us to be like little children and to come to Him, and condemns those who would hurt children.

Yesterday I was also told about a church that held a special kids service with a milder version of everything that happens at the Good Friday service with some visuals and extra stimulation built in to keep them interested. It was held earlier than the actual Good Friday service, so it was not a replacement for it, but an addition. Catholics responding to the post over and over again condemned them for “dumbing” down the liturgy for the children. Over and over again they said that people don’t understand that the Mass as it is offered is good enough.



It is so frustrating for me that churches are condemned anytime they try to do anything to make people feel at home at church. It’s almost like the goal is to be as impersonal and unrelatable as possible and then make you feel bad for not wanting to participate. When did Jesus ever do this? I am not saying that the Catholic Church’s rituals and sacramentals and everything are not valuable, but Jesus did not force people to sit, stand, kneel in a hot room listening to a language they didn’t understand for an hour or more. The most common response to any complaint about Mass is that, “It’s not about how you feel.” 

But…I mean…isn’t it though? If it is meant to be a time when we are united with Christ, shouldn’t how we feel matter too? In sex, do we yell at the woman if she wants to feel good too? (Oh, wait, we totally do. That’s a whole other problem in itself.) We are so busy beating ourselves up for wanting our needs and wants to get met, and proclaiming how they don’t matter, no wonder we all think God doesn’t care about our emotions. But Jesus did. He fed the hungry people. He met their needs when they came to see Him. The first Mass was a goodbye meal with Him and His friends. 

I can hear the argument about how we are re-enacting the Crucifixion, and suffering is ok. We are not re-enacting the Crucifixion, we are REMEMBERING it. He asked us to REMEMBER it. We are making Him present to us, because He asked us to. It is not just the Crucifixion we should be experiencing, but the Resurrection, and Jesus’ intimacy with us, as well. I do believe Jesus is actively and actually present in the Eucharist, but we do not worship the Crucifixion, but we act like we do sometimes.  

My point is that Catholics have been taught that how they feel, and what they want doesn’t matter, but it does. Jesus loves us, and cares for us as people. He wants us to be happy. He allows us to suffer, sometimes, but that is not what He wants, it is just what happens sometimes. The Church is FOR us, not just for Him. He put it in place to care for us, to be among us forever, not to condemn us, not to “grasp” at perfection, but to strive for it instead.

I keep thinking of the quote, “We are a Resurrection people, and Hallelujah is our song.” Stop living like we a Crucifixion people. Yes, it is important, yes, it is part of our faith, but it is NOT the end of the story.

Jesus Did Not Suffer Joyfully

Lately, I have been screaming inside, pretty much all day every day, because I am having a hard time, and I am being honest about it. Over and over again I see the weary faces of everyone around me. I don’t blame them for being sick of hearing it. I’m sick of hearing my own thoughts most days. I feel so guilty for not being happy through my suffering. There are these saints who are so joyful and happy the whole time they are suffering, and it is so hard for me. Their stories make me angry, because I’m tired and overwhelmed, and I don’t have it in me to be the king of comedy some days. Something revolutionary occurred to me today though, Jesus did not suffer joyfully.

When Jesus was being crucified, He was not making jokes. He didn’t smile the whole time. He didn’t beg for more suffering. In fact, He begged God to take it away from Him! Before His crucifixion, He went out to a garden and cried, to the point that He sweated blood because He was so overwhelmed by what He was doing. We know this because He literally begged God to take it away. He did say, “Not My will, but Thine be done,” but FIRST He begged that it be taken away.

So many Catholics talk about looking forward to suffering, and desiring suffering, but even Jesus didn’t WANT to suffer. He accepted it, but He didn’t ask for it like candy. My entire life this has confused me and made me feel so inferior to all of the other Catholics around me. Even Jesus, didn’t ask to suffer.

What about the saints who said things like “for Jesus Christ I would suffer still more?” Again, it’s willingness to suffer for a purpose, not a desire to suffer. We are not meant to want this life to be hard. Just like Jesus, we can beg for it to be taken away, and that doesn’t mean that we don’t accept it if it doesn’t.

Each time He begged for it to be taken away, Jesus went to see His apostles. They were sleeping! He was devastated, and He called them out on it. How many times have you had a friend, husband, boyfriend, whatever, who fell asleep on you when you were having a really hard time? Or even just wasn’t there? Sometimes I wonder, if they had stayed awake and prayed with Him, would He have been spared? Time and again I have been spared suffering because of the prayers of my friends. What if His friends had been there for Him that night? He asked them to watch and pray.

Then, the rest of the story. We all know how the rest goes. No one has ever tried to portray Jesus as laughing or giggling or making jokes while He went through what He went through. It would be insane. It would be insane to laugh and giggle while He suffered the way He did. In fact, in the Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson one of the thieves makes a sarcastic joke about Jesus and laughs, and his eye gets pecked out. That is the only kind of laughter that could be present in that moment.

The Catholics among us will be arguing, but what about the martyrs, we should be laughing and happy when we are suffering. After I gave birth to my first living daughter, I was so happy. I was beaming and thrilled and I had energy, and I was walking around like nothing had happened. It wasn’t that I wasn’t suffering or in pain, I was. I believe it was a mix of two things: 1. My baby was alive, and that was what mattered(which for the saints it would be, they haven’t turned on God, and that’s what really mattered) and 2. I had a multitude of people praying for me. I believe that I had immense amounts of grace to be as joyful and grateful as I was in that situation. I believe that in that situation I was meant to feel that way, but Jesus’ suffering shows us that not all suffering works that way. Not all suffering is the kind where you feel abundant amounts of joy throughout. There are times when a person feels abandoned, hopeless, exhausted, lonely, and we do not have to pretend to be happy at those times in order to be saints.

Jesus wept when Lazarus died, and He knew He could resurrect Him. He comforted the weeping women on His path to death. He drew a line in the sand for the adulterous woman. He cried out from the Cross and asked why God had abandoned Him. Jesus does not ask us to deny our emotions.

If Jesus were here with us today, and suffering in a less obvious way, the reaction to each of these situations would be different. I say this, because they have been in my life. When Emma died, I had Catholics tell me that she was in Heaven as if this was why I could not be sad about it. When other people were suffering, they told me they didn’t have time for me. When people thought I had sinned, even if I hadn’t, they held grudges against me, they sat in judgement against me. When I asked why God had abandoned me, they told me that obviously I wasn’t listening to what He wanted in my life, they told me I must have not said the Rosary that day, they told me all my sins.

This year, I read in the book of Job that God was angry with Job’s friends for doing exactly these things to him. He asked Job for his repentance, but told him he was no worse than the other sinners. He told him that He doesn’t know what God is up to in His suffering, and to release that up to God, but his friends were wrong. He asked Job to pray for them. Job did, and God saved them because of his prayers.

I don’t bring up my own suffering to ingratiate myself, or to make myself seem like I am as good as Jesus. I bring it up, because as much as I may have turned on other people when I should have been there, I have been in Jesus’ shoes too in some ways, and I have had people turn on me. The worst struggle was always feeling like something was wrong with me because I was having a hard time. Jesus had a hard time. Jesus wept.

So, if you are having a hard time, and you are weary, and you are trying to put on a brave face,

Stop.

Stop trying to pretend you are ok.

It is okay to cry. It is okay to be sad.

No, we can’t let it destroy us and take over our lives, but you can let your guard down and let other people see that it’s harder than they know.

What if Jesus hadn’t seemed sad? Would we have cared? Would we have understood what He was going through?

I think no. I think our emotions matter more than we give them credit for, and this culture of denying them, that even a lot of the Church has bought into is so dangerous. It ruins lives, it ruins people, and it creates a deep and complete loneliness that can never be healed because no one can see it.

So heal it in the people next to you, and let them heal yours, only then will we be the kind of people who would rise up against the Crucifixion and save Him.

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