Thursday, June 27, 2013

Love, Compassion and Disagreement

For a while now, one of the last things I think about, and pray for, before I go to bed is my siblings.

(Pictured here in 2011 at one of my sister's wedding - she's having her second this week!)

We have varying degrees of disagreement about the way the world should work, morality, public policy, you name it.  While this isn't directly about my beautiful siblings, they stretch me and cause me to think about the larger world in general.  I get the feeling that I'm viewed, for the most part, as inflexible and righteous, perhaps to the point of uncaring.  I view myself as somewhat of a bleeding heart, so there's a disparity there.

This has me thinking about the way the Church is viewed in general, and how I'm viewed, specifically as an orthodox follower of a 2,000+ year old tradition.  I profess the teachings of the Catholic Church.  I believe it is the clearest path to salvation.  I believe God is merciful and loving, and just.  I also can't remember the last time God called me to be comfortable in my life.  This was especially clear to me as I sat in church on Father's Day next to SB's bio dad.  I can't remember being in my comfort zone by God's calling.  I know I've placed myself there many a time, but when I really stop and listen, God is always calling me a little further than I am....a constant stretching of my soul like taffy.

The biggest and most uncomfortable place I could be is one where my views cannot be reconciled with those around me and it causes discomfort for them.  As I try to pull back and look from the other side, my views, housed within the beauty of the Church, might seem cold and uncaring about the happiness or feelings of others.  I care so deeply for my fellow human being that I've spent the last two years raising a child I have no claim to.  I care so much for the feelings of others that I'm probably silent when I should speak.  When I do speak, sometimes the words are fumbled, and all too often, pride comes before love.

It is the deepest of conundrums, how can I share the message of God's abundant and unfailing love for the world when my beliefs could be categorized, by some, as bigotry, intolerant, [insert insult here]? What's even harder to surmount are views that I am to be placated as a child who believes in Santa, that somehow my intelligence is limited by a faith that I am not all there is; that this time is not all there is.  As I argued recently, if my faith has created a delusional state that creates in me a kinder, more compassionate human being willing to sacrifice for the future of others, maybe we should all be a little delusional. 

My siblings to me are a sampling of the larger world....that happens when you're one of nine!  There are so many, it creates a tiny sub-culture, complete with a variety of viewpoints.  I worry that the world isn't hearing enough about love.  I also worry that when the world hears the message of love, they accept the affection and turn a blind eye/deaf ear to the message that God has a plan for each of us, in his love.  It is not enough to know that you are loved; get up, reciprocate!  What a loss that so many times I hear others speaking of all the rules and problems of the Catholic Church that they disagree with and it seems they got all of the rules and none of the why.  Here's why:  God loves you.  So completely, so infinitely that he created you to be with him for all time, all eternity.  We were created to know God, to love him, to serve him and to be happy with him in this life and the next.  And it's not the kind of happiness you get from a new pair of shoes or some other worldly is a deep, abiding joy and solace.

We were born into this world to be refined for the next.  Not for corporal comfort or fame or fortune.  I remind myself of this when I look around my cramped house and catch my complaints as I think of those who don't have a roof or a meal tonight.  There's a reason the crucifix adorns so many altars; it is the epitome of the sacrifice and deep love that is the message of the Church.  We are invited to follow, we are not coerced.  It is an invitation into love.  I worry this invitation hasn't been presented well, and each time I speak to someone about it, I pray that the Holy Spirit guides my words, to walk that fine balance that is the message of love and the absoluteness of truth and right.  Loving doesn't mean giving everything the other wants, and it's hard for anyone to hear that their heart's desire isn't on the list of things that lead you to greater holiness - still working my way through that one on SB.

So this is why I think of my siblings and pray for them each night.  I pray the invitation lands on each of us with a receptive heart.  I pray the world hears this message and I pray for our pope, as he leads so many back to the faith in his gentle, but firm way.  I know we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, but my earthly siblings are some of the most dear to me.  It's true what they say, the best gift you can give your child is another sibling and I'm blessed to have received that gift so many times, even when we disagree, even when it's hard to find a common ground, there is love.  A great sadness weighs on my heart when we are in discord, and when my faith places us there, I feel even more sorrow....because I have no ground to give as I stand on the eye of the needle I need to pass through. 

Thank you God for my family, for my siblings, my parents, my husband, my children.  Thank you for the gift of my siblings to challenge me, laugh with me, comfort me and support me.  Thank you for a family who has a love bigger than disagreements, as I know this is an uncommon phenomenon in the world.  As I look forward to an upcoming reunion this weekend, I am filled with joy and expectation, and I thank God that I have a family that can elicit such emotions just at the thought of seeing them :)

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