Yesterday was a day of contrasts, underscoring the two forefront things on my mind and heart right now.
Those things? Right. My current clinical placement on a locked acute inpatient psychiatric unit, and this whole one step at a time journey of exploring Catholicism.
Yesterday on the bus I dove into reading “Catholicism for Dummies”. The title is humorous, but the content is helpful. I was looking for a book that would provide a broad overview of Catholicism that would help me to discover the areas in which I need to study and delve more deeply. This book fits that need. As I read I traded a few texts with Kirsten, talking a bit about what a struggle it was to find an unbiased mindset from which to read. I had rapidly discovered that my mindset is far less open than I’d thought – that it’s difficult to overcome 29 years of ingrained conservative evangelical theology in the effort to explore this path that Jesus has led me to with a an open mind. We talked about words like “conversion” and I was oddly comforted to know that this part of the journey was not unique to me.
To contrast the exploration of Catholicism in reading, I headed off to the monthly meeting for house church leaders that I’ve attended for more than a year. I don’t seem to fit anywhere in church circles these days thanks to this journey, and last night was definitely a reminder of that. I’m not fully in the house church realm anymore, but I’m not Catholic, or high church or any other descriptor either. It’s a weird place to exist.
As the meeting started and I looked around the room at who was in attendance, I sent a quick text to a dear friend commenting that based on who was in the room and the current state of my life, I was very much hoping that one of the sharing questions thrown out to the group would not be “What are the places where you’re being challenged and God is working in your life?”
Many parts of the evening were actually laughable. The person I was paired with when we split off into small groups to pray is probably the least open person in the room to those two major issues in my life right now, so I chose a highly general level of sharing and let her pray for me anyhow, and then did the same for her. One of the long term bonuses of some of what I’ve been through as a pastor’s kid, and in the years since my time in Malta is that I’ve gotten pretty good at rolling with things like this – the last person in the room that I’d want to pray with is my partner? Sure, why not!
Some good friends were also in attendance, and as the evening wore on, one texted asking if I was up for coffee after the meeting ended. Yes please!
And that was the gift of last night. The gift of sitting in Tim Horton’s with two friends and talking about the challenges of working in a psychiatric unit and the ways that that has triggered my own struggle with anxiety. The gift of processing out loud this journey through psychiatric nursing. The gift of sharing about where my journey with Catholicism is at. The gift of finding ways to laugh. The gift of sitting in a dark car, across the street from my house, and taking time to pray together.
I felt all the contrasts and the tugs of the places in which I’m existing yesterday, but because I talked myself into attending a meeting in which I knew I’d feel those contrasts, I was given the chance to experience humor, and I was reminded that I am loved, held, prayed for, and not alone in this journey. I was encouraged.
After years of isolation and poor relational choices, it continues to be miraculous to me to discover that I am not alone, and that I have wonderful healthy relationships and friends who are more than willing to walk with me and lift me up to Jesus. Because of that isolation, it is still the easiest lie of Satan for me to believe that I am alone in the midst of hard things. And yet I can pause and know that I have a list of no less than a dozen dear friends who I can text or email or call and know that they’ll hold me in prayer – that they’ll walk with me in the hardest of moments. And this, this is a miracle and every time I encounter it, I am amazed and so encouraged. And in the midst of the contrasts I’m currently living, that encouragement is so needed and wonderful, beyond what I can describe.