Sunday, January 27, 2008

Places of Fear

"We have places of fear inside us, but we have other places as well - places with names like trust and hope and faith. We can choose to lead from one of those places, to stand on ground that is not riddled with the fault lines of fear, to move toward others from a place of promise instead of anxiety."
~from Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer
Last night I went for a walk in -4C weather. This morning it's -42C outside with the windchill factored in. Tomorrow we're supposed to wake up to -48C. I'm thankful for a warm house and no need to go out. Appointments for tomorrow can be cancelled and a full blown pajama day will ensue. Our sons are on their way home today from a weekend ski trip and will be travelling in -40C weather and colder. I will be glad when they get home.

Yesterday dearest one and I spent a wonderful day together. We bought a few groceries then I went to my AA meeting while he did a bit of work in his office. Afterwards we went swimming and out for lunch. No rope swinging happened but I did get dunked. We had fun. The rope swinging will happen yet.

We were on our way to the check out counter in the grocery store when we met an old friend we hadn't seen in several years. All was well until he asked where we were going to church these days. I find it weird that people would ask that question within a minute of seeing you, as if it was the best way to get reacquainted. The conversation went downhill from there. He was not happy with our choice to live out our faith within the Catholic Church. Everything from "Catholicism isn't biblical" to "we don't share the same beliefs" followed. He didn't come out and say we were no longer Christians but he came close. There was a time when stuff like that made me angry. When I was sure if only I had all the answers I'd stop the other person mid sentence and could walk away triumphant. It would completely bypass me that a sin against charity is of greater importance than winning a verbal jousting match. Yesterday I walked away feeling like I'd been pummeled. There was so much we could have talked about, stuff that really matters. This past year has been so full of grace and growth and I feel sad that none of that would have been heard until my faulty beliefs had been corrected.

I'm no great apologist for the faith and have no desire to be. I try to hold my faith in an open hand, remembering that God cannot be boxed in.

I can give answers to many common objections about Catholicism. I don't do it to prove anything to anyone or to try and convince people like our friend that he's wrong and the church is right. I do feel an obligation to correct misconceptions, like when our friend said we had to have a Catholic baptism in order to be "saved" in the eyes of the Church. We were baptized in the church of this man's youth and were able to share that that baptism was valid in the eyes of the Church as we had been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the end we parted before the conversation was complete (it didn't matter what we said he was hammering away at the error of our belief) and we were grateful that time restraints meant we had to be on our way.

I got to my AA meeting and had my back to the doorway when a friend came in. He said, "Hi, Hope." I must have seemed a bit startled because he asked why I was so jumpy. So I related what had just happened in the grocery store. He said to me, "You know why people are like that don't you?" "No," I replied. He went on to say that when people are not settled within themselves then they are shaken by another point of view. He said when he was okay within himself then how others live their lives doesn't faze him. But when he wasn't then he tended to pick at others for their choices.

On my walk last night I hashed out the day as I talked to God. I wondered if our friend had been operating out of fear. I'm all too familiar with doing the same. I wished yesterday I had asked him what he was afraid of. Last night I asked God to help me not operate of fear. I easily named aloud several areas of my life where I often let fear lead the way, thinking it's lighting the path. Relationships of my own where fear charges ahead while trust, hope and faith waiver.

Last night I lay in bed and prayed for our friend. I wondered if our friend was praying for us. I felt a lingering sadness about our encounter.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Hope. Weird yet I'm sure not uncommon. I think your friend from AA is right about the insecurity explanation. I can certainly recall having been that kind of judgmental depending on what side of the fence I happened to be sitting on at the time.

Glad you're toasty warm and that you can hunker down for a couple of days. It's beautiful here today after a long stint of -40 temps but apparently, the cold weather you have now is heading our way tomorrow night. Brrrrr!!! Waaaahhhh!!!


Chronic said...

Your AA friend is very wise and as large in the heart as the other man is small.

Poor Mad Peter said...

There is no "pure" religion, anywhere--all of our faith stances let us down, even as we let them down.

I have friends who are Catholic and women (and who have some harsh words for the patriarchy at the same time!), and like you, they can name the injustices and the problematic stuff, but are Catholic because within that path is their spiritual growth and relationship with God.

All faiths are spectra, not monoliths--there is wide variety of belief and practice within each faith and denominational group, and I have seen plenty of inspiring, lifegiving stuff within Catholicism.

A good Jewish friend decided to join Jews for Jesus, which you can imagine raised a lot of ripples in his family and community. But my litmus test for any faith is, "is it lifegiving for this person? Can they walk that path with integrity?" J4J passed the test for him, as I'm sure Catholicism passes the test for you.

Your AA colleague is absolutely right--your former friend is nervous about their own doubts. It is their hardship, and I am delighted to see that you have refused to make it yours.

HeyJules said...

That friend at AA sounds right on the money. Why would someone poke and prod at you about your choice of churches if he himself didn't feel the fear of perhaps HE was in the wrong one?

I've finally come to the conclusion that what church you attend and what beliefs you live by are nobody's business but your own and the Holy Spirit's. If your life is open to God and your heart is free to discern His will then you'll end up where you're supposed to be every single time.

Sarah Louise said...

My newest Bible is green--and I love that it is the color of hope, growth.

came over here from bobbie.