For as far back as I can remember, we went to church every Sunday morning. I even attended Catholic school for kindergarten, first and second grade- then we moved so I went to public schools after that, but Sunday mornings were always reserved for church. I went to CCD after school as I got older, went through the communion and confirmation rituals, and eventually jumped through all the hoops necessary in becoming a good Catholic. Let’s be clear- this was entirely prompted by my Mom, none of this was my idea, and I’m pretty sure my Dad was on board simply because it made Mom happy. She actually went through the rituals with me, as she was raised Lutheran, but we’ll talk about the embarrassment of having your Mom in your CCD class another day.
As high school approached, sports tournaments began to swallow my weekends. Playing hard and getting recruited became logistically more important than church, so Mom would pray double for me in my absence. For a time after my Dad died my sophomore year, I felt pressure to go to church, but to be honest- God had pissed me off and I didn’t really want to be in His house. Jumping back into my sports routine brought me comfort, so eventually Mom and I agreed to disagree on the church thing, and she eased up on making me go. Now she had to pray triple.
By the time my Mom passed the summer after my sophomore year at UConn, I was all set with the church. I didn’t feel like God had done me any favors, so why on earth would I choose to celebrate Him or give Him thanks? The anger that comes with grief arrived quickly, and the tailspin that followed lasted for many years following the loss of my parents. There were times that I dared God, sometimes even begged Him to let me into those pearly gates- to please let the nightmare end. But every time I was refused, left to pick up the pieces of the mess that I was making of my life.
I used to joke about not making it past college- I lived as though every day was my last for a very long time. What’s interesting, as I reflect upon those days, is that even though I was angry at God, I never stopped believing He existed. At some point, somewhere around ten or twelve years ago, “tomorrow” started to matter. I began releasing as many of the self-defeating behaviors as I could, and slowly, very slowly, I became more comfortable with knowing that I would never comprehend why the ugly things happen in our lives. I also began to realize that harboring anger doesn’t do anybody any good. Having spent as much tenuous time as I had on the “edge”, it became more and more comfortable for me to step away and let the plan happen. His plan- because I still believe He’s running the show.
In speaking with friends and family over the years, I find that our generation has greatly expanded the concept of religious devotion. Whatever one chooses to believe is obviously a very personal matter, and I find we support that in each other. While I still seek comfort in some of the church traditions, I embrace the ideas that have been put forth in those conversations- in fact, they’ve helped me release some of the anxiety I feel for continuing to neglect my weekly duty of attending. (ever the guilty Catholic!) I still pray, but it’s usually at my house, on my terms. God is everywhere, so He’ll hear me when I’m being thankful for my family and my health and my home and my life and my everything. I have to give credit to my Mom, though- as much as I dreaded the task of Sunday worship, she taught me the importance of taking the time to pray, to make it a priority. Just like working out- getting there is annoying, but you’re happy you did it after.
As I go forward, I will continue to relish my Sunday mornings in my kitchen, in my garden, or in the company of my loved ones. I will be sure to step back and take those moments, to catalogue them as often as I can, and in doing so- celebrate Him and give Him thanks. This is the plan that resonates best with me, and brings me comfort when things are out of my hands- please share, what works for you?