I was surprised when I logged in to start writing today, to discover that it has been well over a month since I sat to share my thoughts and process this journey of faith in this space. I knew it had been a while – hard to ignore that when you’re consciously avoiding writing about a journey – but I didn’t realize it had been quite that long.
I feel like this has been a month of holding tensions. I was reminded of that as I read some thoughts of the co-existence of joy and grief that my friend Christianne shared this morning. Advent is, I suppose, a good season for that – for holding tensions – but it’s an aching, heavy holding that I do this year, I’m not finding it easy to bear that gracefully.
Mostly I kind of want to whine about this journey. I’m frustrated with the RCIA classes I’m taking, finding them so exceptionally basic that I struggle to motivate myself to attend each week. I dislike the Sunday morning dismissal from mass, missing the part of mass that drove me to be Catholic, the Eucharist, in exchange for the attempt to learn how to practice a form of lectio divina – a prayer method I’ve engaged in for many years. Neither of these two things, RCIA or dismissals, are designed for someone who tends towards deeply introverted and reflective, who needs time and safe space alone and with trusted friends to process before blurting out my thoughts for all to hear. I miss the intimate community of the home church I led for several years, and I miss the powerful encounters with God through worship music and prayer that happened in the more charismatic circles that I was a part of. I miss the chance to participate in communion more than anything. For years now the breaking of bread and sharing of wine has been a place where I have deeply encountered Jesus, and this isn’t a path available to me in this season. (And this is part of the reason I rather hate the practice of dismissal – at least in mass I was in the same room as Jesus for a few brief moments, even if I couldn’t consume Him – how I long for that intimacy and closeness.)
There are the other tensions, too – the ongoing sense that this is a journey that separates me from my family – that destroys unity rather than solidifies it. The sense that my family is slowly, tentatively willing to acknowledge this journey, but would rather not. The feeling that I need to hide some of the deepest parts of myself from those I spend the most time with in my day-to-day world. All of this hurts in ways that I can’t even begin to express.
And the tensions stir feelings that scare me. Fears that perhaps this isn’t really God’s leading. That maybe I’ve lost my mind entirely. That a lifelong commitment to a church (because I see this as permanent, similar to marriage) after a decade of floating through church options far different from the rigid structure of Catholicism.
I struggle with feeling invisible, and maybe a little bit judged. After years of playing leadership roles in churches, and feeling like my gifts and talents were being put to use, I’m sitting in very elementary class settings where I routinely get the sense that my decades of faith are somehow considered second-best, simply because they were not within the guise of Catholicism. I feel like I hide myself in those settings, not wanting to be the lone voice of dissent, and I get angry that feeling – that sense that I can’t quite be who I truly am until I manage to get the approval of the church – the stamp of acceptance.
And in the meantime I carry some joys. I participated in the rite of welcome on the first sunday of Advent, and I’m moving towards this journey. I’ve shared some conversations that I’ve appreciated with the woman assigned to be my sponsor, and I feel the potential glimmer of developing friendships slowly forming. I graduated from nursing school, too, and continue to celebrate some of the joys of life with my family, including time spent with my six month old niece.
And I’m aware that I’ve struggled with my health, and that the physical exhaustion is magnifying the emotional pain.
This is a weird and hard season – one where fear and anxiety often looms large. One where I hate more than ever that the friends who “get” me the most live in other cities, countries, and on other continents.
And yet it is a season where underneath it all I still feel forward momentum. I still feel the sense that this journey is right.
I’m holding tense realities and seeking joy.