Monday, May 21

Wanting a King

“Laughing in a crown of jewels, numbness from a scepter’s wound. Toss and turn, I spin and learn… catch yourself before you burn. Joker’s dance before the king, jingling beads and silver rings. Close your eyes and bear the sound, jumping up; falling down.”

            A warm acquaintance asked me the other day about my conversion to Orthodoxy. Part of that story includes a two (or five, depending on how you count it) year grieving process over the fact that I will never be a mom. Not biologically. He said to me (in essence), “Not to be too personal, but how does that not still just kill you?” I explained that it was a process that for the most part is complete. I won’t be a mom. Sadness of that still gets in my face sometimes, but it no longer threatens to destroy me.

            He then assumed that I must then love Paul’s advice about staying single. Keeps me nice and Biblical, right? Keeps me focused on Christ. I answered with the very truth… Even though I won’t be a mom, I separated that out from wanting to be a wife. Wanting to be loved. Sometimes, I’d like to take good ‘ol Saint Paul and knock him in his sainted teeth.

            Being a single girl is like being Israel during the time of the Judges. A theocracy. I believe that was the time that a conversation between God and Israel sprang up that went a little something like this: “Dear God, we would like to be ruled by a king. A king!! Wouldn’t that be fun?? A king would give us national pride. He’d be so handsome, riding off into battle with our colors, someone to serve at official functions, you know…” God said, “Au contraire, mon frere!! You have got NO idea the problems that having a king would bring. Stick with Me, kid… You’re doing fine!” Israel then goes into whining, wheedling mode. For years. Finally, God relents and gives them just what they want. A king. 

This leads to Saul. And Absalom. Divided kingdoms. Exile. Jews, Christians, and Muslims in a land with 3,000 years’ history of bloodshed and turmoil. We should shudder when God answers our prayers in the affirmative. Sometimes exactly what we want is too much to be borne.

Whether or not I enjoy him (and mostly I don’t), Paul was right. As a single girl, I live in a theocracy. “Your Maker is your husband; the Lord Almighty is His name.” Though God has never shown up to tell me I’m better off just sticking with Him (unless you count Paul’s unsolicited advice as authoritative), I hear myself, just like Israel: “Oh!! God!!! You know what would be fun??? A husband! He’d be so cute around the house. And tall… He might be even tall enough to change light bulbs. He could hug me up tight when I’m sad, and be a date to parties, you know. Serve at official functions.” 

I know that in other parts of this blog, I extolled marriage as a sacrament, which it is. 

I know that here, I am comparing marriage to the war-torn Middle East, a conflict that has raged for millennia. In case you think that is extreme, I caution you to remember that my parents just got divorced. Their conflict has raged for more than mere millennia in my life; it has raged for the whole time. From my view, comparing the two is apt. 

For the most part, life is a ‘que sera, sera’ affair. I am not a seer; not wise enough to know what will befall me. But I will take a moment to consider my wants. To consider that wanting a king and actually having a king are very different things. Official functions notwithstanding.

“Your actions will follow you full circle round. The higher the leap; I said the harder the ground.”
                                                                                                ~Indigo Girls

Friday, May 11

What I Learned at Catholic School

The first item of international news I remember in my life was when Pope John Paul II became Pope. Growing up as an evangelical Protestant kid, I would play "confession;" I'd make someone stand outside a window curtain while I went in and said, "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned." I suspected that becoming a nun might be a great way to marry a handsome baron, a' la The Sound of Music.

But never in a million years did I dream that I would teach at a Catholic school.

During this year in a Catholic school, I learned so many things. I learned:

* Wearing high heels six days a week makes my feet ugly.

* That when Catholics say they have an "intention," it means they have a prayer request.

* Sometimes they sing "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" by Martin Luther during Mass. That took me aback until I realized... the Reformation? They're over it. 

* That more than any creed or sacrament, the one thing that most Christians still have in common during worship is the Lord's Prayer/Our Father. Which is kind of beautiful, I think. After all these years and differences, we keep coming to the same Daddy for daily bread.

* That crucifix? When Catholics see it, they see love, love, love. No greater love hath a man than this.

* That when you tell a Catholic child that you went to Bible College to do ministry, they look at you aghast and say, "YOU used to be a NUN?!?!" if I could ever be so brave as to take monastic orders. As if my life has been spicy enough to take orders and then cast them aside...

* NO Christian Church or communion understands and does service to others better than Catholics. Period.

* When you sing, you pray twice.

* They are utterly kind and generous, but will defend faith and family tooth and nail, like lions. Thank God.

* There are true and real differences amongst Christians in doctrine, and doctrine forms lifestyle.

* Even though there are true and real differences in doctrine, MANY perceived differences come from a difference in vocabulary. I have been so grateful to build a small amount of "trilingualism" between my Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic experiences.

* That preparing children's souls for eternity is THE goal. (not state tests, not college prep, not scholarship, not sports or arts talent) Souls. Eternity. Nothing less will suit.

Most of all, I learned that whatever the lens you look at Christianity through, the picture is always the same. The hope is to be with, to be like Jesus. Each day, more and more. We call it discipleship, sanctification, theosis. The human soul thirsts and needs. We need to be with Him. We need to be like Him. Even in the ways we fail that, there is wholeness to be gained from the attempt. And at the end of the day, He wraps His arms around us. Calls us blessed. Loved. Home.

With my sweet Catholics, I learned to pray:  "I love You, Jesus, my Love; I repent of ever having offended You. Never let me offend You again. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will."

Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

Never in a million years did I dream that I would teach in a Catholic school.

But I'm so glad I have.

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