Today my friend nearly killed me. My friend said, in the context of our confirmation class, with emotion in his voice, I don’t know if I’m ready to be confirmed. The world stopped on its axis just for a minute.
Another friend said, after, how frustrated she feels sometimes that her spouse says she is changed and different, and that he isn’t interested in this journey, this further up or further in. I said, but you have changed. Because you’re here, right?
We talked today about the seven sacraments. I’m not sure if sacrament is a proper noun or not so I’ll just assume its not for the purposes of this piece. I knew about baptism, I knew about ordination and may have read the rite for the ordination of a deacon sitting in the car waiting for Casey. I knew about unction and I knew about marriage. The only one I know intimately (heh heh) is marriage.
And baptism. Because I am pretty sure, even though it isn’t in the prayer book, that my dog is among the saved. He is, in fact, a martyr, to all of my expectations, all of my dirty looks that stop the begging. He knows, truly, what grace is, because he lives it every day. From a sad home to an adopted family, he knows what it is to be loved for who you are. I’m pretty sure this guarantees him a spot on that celestial river bank with all the folks and their fishing poles.
We talked about how the people are the ministers, how they are the ones who have to live this sacrament every single day. Its like Lent, you have to constantly abstain, give up, push harder, give more; but all the time; like forever, like until one of you dies. This is a daunting prospect, right? Its not just me who sometimes is like, I said FOREVER? Are you sure? And then sort of like tap my toe and put my hands on my hips, demanding proof. Well, the proof is in the drawer immediately to my right, in the form of a marriage certificate that is signed and also torn at the bottom, but not in a way that matters.
I tell my inwardly shamed and Catholic husband often that our whole lives are a sacrament, not just the wedding that I cannot remember due to a nervous breakdown and subsequent medication while having my hair done. How we treat each other, that’s living into the sacrament. How we treat our kids, a physical manifestation of that sacrament. When we come together in privacy, also a sacrament. This he has the hardest time believing, I attribute that, in a very not ecumenical friendly way, to being raised in shame. I say, I am your wife. Your wife. There isn’t shame here, good God! With all the other stuff we have going on I can’t find room for one more piece of baggage.
My friend, the one I mentioned in my first paragraph, we are so different. My friend charted out the ten commandments, and as things occurred to him that were sin, over the last 40 years or so, he ticked them onto the sheet so he would remember. It is important that he experiences confession. I feel like maybe, though I do not know the details, he was sort of brushed aside, after he’d worked up all this courage, done all this work creating this list of all the things he was sorry for. And I am so sorry for that, as if it is somehow my fault.
I finally worked up the guts to say, but what if you aren’t sorry? I’m good at contrary, not so great at contrite, and I know this so that makes it ok, right? Not really. But I’m not. So I guess I will ask for a penitent heart. But in the meantime, before that particular prayer is granted, I’d like to say in my own defense, I feel like I don’t live in a way that allows me to haul stuff around. I feel like when I’m wrong, when I’m terrible, I know it, and I pay the price for it, whether it is the loss of a relationship or just knowing I’m awful.
And then I go on.
Like I said, there is so much else, I don’t have room for any extra stuff. I don’t live that way, in regret, in wishing I had been different. I believe, very strongly, that I was who I was supposed to be. That what happened to me was supposed to happen, good and awful, and that all of my experiences shaped me, tempered me like a sword forged in steel and cooled in water (and then beat with a hammer, ha!). I don’t know what I could confess. I abuse my body in my habits. I sometimes roll my eyes (ok every day, I roll my eyes) in disrespect at my husband, or my kids. I sometimes gossip. I hate paying bills and want to be a millionaire. I know that I am prideful, I know that I pretend perfection when I am far from it.
I feel like I should do something really awful on purpose just so I have to confess, but then I can’t find time, so …
We talked about ordination, and how not everyone has to be ordained. I’m ruminating here. I’m thinking. I’m discerning. I’ll keep you posted.
And we talked about unction, healing. We talked about Last Rites, and how this is hard and also a blessing for my brother. I had to pipe up (which I am always conscious of doing, as if I am asserting some claim, but really, really, I am just telling you something real about being related to a priest) about how I always seem to call with the stupidest question just as he is leaving a hospital or a home.
We talked about how in Last Rites, the person is receiving the only healing that is left, and that is death. To move on from their mortal bodies and deeper into the love of God. We talked about how this person will take communion for the last time, and how that is food, sustenance for the journey they are to take, without us, US, who stay here and cry, who pray that they are moving deeper in.
I’m listening to an old Johnny Cash sing Danny Boy. I’m thinking about the time I sang this song in church, and how my friend will sing it this Saturday. I’m thinking about how it goes, you must go, and I must bide. (And I’m being irritated that this dumb commercial for a dumb show that makes a mockery of the time honored tradition of English royalty keeps interrupting my flow).
I want to give my friends food for our journey.
I want to tell my one friend, don’t give up. Don’t think you have to be perfect, shriven, clean, to accept this confirmation. All that you are doing is becoming officially one of us, not proclaiming that you deserve it somehow. I want my friend to know that that wide grace extends to him. I want him to remember that he was baptized, once upon a time and in a land far, far away, just like me. I wish sometimes that I could be baptized again, now that I feel it would count more. Apparently that is frowned upon. And also not possible.
I want him to keep going, keep pushing. What I found, prior to our classes together, was what he is finding now. That when your heart cracks open you begin to feel, in a way, responsible for everything, culpable somehow. The world can wound you again in a way that it hasn’t since you were a child.
My other friend, who I had the pleasure of putting my hand on today, girl, you are on the right path. You really are. Nothing that is easy happens easy, it never comes without work. I am not the expert on marriage, FAR from it. But try, really try, to carve out time, to remember that you are the hands and feet of Christ, and that He would have loved everyone, regardless of their strange time constraints.
Father Ken talked about Light not long ago. And I thought of Lantern Waste. Of the children, brothers and sisters, who push their way through the fur coats in the wardrobe only to find there is no end point. Instead there is a land covered in a vast and cold winter, in the indifference of a ruler and the fear that ruler imposes. But what the children find, when they stumble out of the dark wardrobe and into a new kingdom (there are many, my learned friend says so and I believe him) is a light, a lantern, a lamp post in the forest; the most unlikely and impossible of places to find illumination.
And of course what transpires is that Aslan, their beloved leader, allows himself to be killed for the good of Narnia. And then there is a war, and then LOVE WINS. Because it always does, I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t know it to be true.
Hang on, friends.
We’re grumbling and we’re discontent and we’re in the wilderness, but if we can just trust God we will see that where we are headed is so much better than the bondage of where we’ve been.
I love you.
“But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh, Adam’s son, how cleverly you defend yourself against all that might do you good.”
“I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mill so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”
On the Great Vigil of Easter we will receive you. And that means we must love you forever.