Saturday, November 21, 2015

Snowy November Days and Memories of a Child-like Faith

Not sure where it came from this morning, but my head has been in the past, dredging up memories of my kids as small children playing in the snow decoupaged over memories of my own childhood. I’m sure this song was just stored away up there somewhere. I haven’t heard it in years but I found myself belting it out in the kitchen as I stirred the tomato sauce.  Have a listen:

One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus

No, really. Click on the link and listen to the song. It’s an integral part of this.  I’m a sucker for the old Gospel hymns.
I can see my mom sitting at the piano, my sisters and I gathered round singing.  This one, and, The Old Rugged Cross, and Great is Thy Faithfulness.

Those were the days when faith was simple and true. Black and white. Jesus loves me. Church on Sunday morning and then, on snowy days like this one, bundling up in our 70’s era coats and boots and playing for hours in the snow. My sisters and I, and Jesus.

Where did they go? Those days. My children. My sisters. Jesus.

This must be nostalgia speaking. So forgive me if I trend sappy here. But sometimes I long for  the simple and true. For the cold, wet hands of a child fresh in from the snow. For that solid presence beside me, that person who knows me, hates and loves me simultaneously and knows the same old Gospel hymns as I do. Sometimes I long for Jesus.

We grow up. Our children grow too. Snowy days are different now. So much is lost along the way to this strange place. What remains of that childhood faith?

“Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”  Yeats

Can I trace back to when things started to fall apart for me? When that simple faith of childhood began to crumble away leaving a complicated mess of desire and skepticism.  One might try to blame my liberal arts education. I suspect that a strong sarcastic streak and my own sinful, rebellious nature is more likely the culprit.  I’ve never abandoned Christianity, but I’ve never fully embraced a church since reaching adulthood.

Leaving behind my solid Baptist upbringing and marrying into the Catholic Church at a young age set into play a habit that has been hard to abandon: that of standing just on the periphery of organized religion and making pot-shots at it.  That of course, at the same time as I was dutifully raising my children to be good Catholics.  It didn’t add up to a very satisfying spiritual experience, I’ll admit.  I attempted to get real some years ago, deciding to go all in.  I went through the process of getting confirmed and became a Real Catholic.  I’m sorry to say that it didn’t stick.  I’m sure that reflects a huge lack of commitment on my part. 20+ years of Catholic mass and there are a few things I really love about it....the rare times that they sing the classic hymns I grew up with, the sharing of peace, infant baptism (yeah, I know...but it’s symbolic and beautiful), and this: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the words and I shall be healed.”  Truer words have not been spoken and they resonated with me from day one: me, the little Baptist girl among the Papists.

Nowadays, I go to mass with my kids when they are around, and I go to one of those fluffy, feel-good Christian churches with Rob, if he’s home on a Sunday.  The music there is hard to stomach. I feel like I’m in a propaganda machine, the lights, the big screens projecting the lyrics, all calculated to enhance my emotional response. But the minister seems like an intelligent guy and I respect that.  He urges us to be better people, to love more purely, to put our faith into action: things we all want.  I listen to my grown children and watch them live out their own version of faith, hoping that their sharp intellect and wit is not a harbinger of faithlessness. I pray that I have not ruined God for them.

Yeats may have been prophetic. His verses speak so clearly of the troubled days we live in. I read the words of Pope Francis today, and my heart cries out at the truth He speaks as well: “Christmas is approaching: there will be lights, parties, Christmas trees and nativity scenes … it’s all a charade. The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path.”  When anarchy reigns and peace is nowhere to be found I feel overwhelmed at the scope of misery, fear and pain.  What is to be done? What is one lapsed Catholic, wanna-be Christian to do?

I don’t have the answers. But this is what I strive for: to be a better wife, mother and friend, to heal my own heart, to offer kindness to each person I meet.  I greet each baby born into my hands with these words,  “welcome to the world, little one,” and then, silently, a prayer.

It’s late November and snow is falling in earnest, the first snow of the year. Now it will begin to feel like the Holidays. There is always, with me, a wistfulness around the holiday season, when longing is intensified, memories are awakened and family members, long gone or distant are sorely missed.   Can I take my longing for connection and my helplessness and somehow meld them together into something? Something practical? Something that will bring meaningful good into this broken old world of ours? There’s a lot to do.

Here, on this blustery, Saturday morning, I’m not sure whether I’ll be in church tomorrow morning, but the music that stirs my soul is available right here on Youtube. I’ll be singing the old-time hymns and looking for strength each day, to do the things I have to do.