Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rewind

Time to get moving again (finally). For those of you coming in during the middle of this movie, let’s take a moment to recap.

Childhood Faith
Baptized into the Catholic church as a newborn. Catholic school. Did the alter-boy thing. But what I remember most is choir. We practiced every morning before school and sang at the 11AM high mass. I’m sure somewhere along the way there was penance, first communion and confirmation (but don’t ask me for any details.)

Going to a Jesuit High School in New York was both a blessing and a curse in terms of my faith walk. We were encouraged to explore, question, doubt and love. But the concept of certainty was hard to get your arms around when your teachers proclaimed “don’t believe all those stories those nuns told you in grade school.” I was disheartening to hear a priest say he could never tell the same lesson on Sunday that he told in our class because “those people don’t want to know the truth”. My knowledge of Christ grew during these four years, and while I can recall a few moments in my teens when I spoke with God, the relationship remained primarily intellectual.

Years of Distance
Like many, my “church experience” grew sporadic as I left for school and later married. My wife and I attended what we affectionately called “The Church of the Holy Convenience”. Holidays. Visiting parents. The occasional one-off Sunday. And that did not change much when we had children. Baptism. CCD Class. Or as they say, the minimum required by law. Always felt great when attending mass. But the feeling was short-lived.

A Reawakening
In my late thirties, however, I found myself wanting to go to church, to hear the Word, to receive the Eucharist. Getting anyone in my family to join me was a chore, so often I would just roll over and catch a few more winks. But sometimes I went. And I remember one particular Sunday, Father Anthony was giving his homily and something amazing happened. I could hear, through him, the word of God. I couldn’t wait to go back, but the following week, and the week after, and the week after, that voice was silent. So I got off my butt to find it.

In December 2001 I entered Crossroads Community Church, which held Sunday service at our local YMCA. When I returned home that morning and my wife asked what it was like, I said “no one wanted to leave. They came early. They stayed late. They wanted to be there.”

And yes, I heard his voice again. Week after week. I could not get enough. Sunday service. Wednesday night service. Bible study. If you’ve ever seen The Matrix, there’s a scene where Neo starts his training and he can’t get enough. “Mikey, I thinks he likes it.” That was me.

A Servant’s Heart
After nearly a year, I joined the tech team at church. And the following year, the drama team. And while attending an arts conference I again heard the word of God, but this time he was talking specifically to me (now how cool is that). That day, a new ministry was launched called Crossroads in the Community. We painted a homeless shelter. Served at a soup kitchen. Built homes with Habitat. Spent evenings with special needs kids. Raked homes for the elderly and disabled. And to quote the Bible, it was good.

I became connected with the church, with God and, in a way, myself. I began to create, write dramas (even a screenplay) and produced a documentary on community service. And I learned disciplines – Bible reading, small groups, spending time each day before Christ – that helped strengthen my relationship with God even more. And yes, I began last May to record my walk right here, and have come to know and love some amazing people. A year ago, I followed my youngest daughter into a lake, and in the presence of our community, baptized her in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Deepening
In March of this year, I spent a great deal of time reading and thinking about Christ’s closing argument—the three days between Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday. My approach to “spending time each day before Christ” changed a bit, too. Instead of saying prayers or having a dialogue, I would sit in silence. Listening. Listening. Quieting my heart.

The scripture certainly touched me, in a way I hadn’t expected. On Good Friday, I wrapped up my blog series by writing:

Dozens of significant, amazing, life-changing events took place in Jerusalem in the days before Good Friday. If you don’t have time to read about them today, here’s the five word summary: You can do more… watch. Then he picked up a cross, giving us all he had… and more.
One day near the end of March, my conversation with God went something like this:

God: Are you ready for the next step.
Me: What do you have in mind?
God: It’s a big step, are you ready?
Me: You haven’t told me what you have in mind
God: I just need to know if you’re ready.
Me: It depends… what do you have in mind?

The Crash
Thud. Whether driven by fear, embarrassment or shame, I ran. Over the next six months, I stopped serving. Stopped creating. Bible reading, prayer time and blogging became sporadic. Summer travels brought me away from church. Away from my community. Away from God. Away from me.

Today
So we pick up today, this movie already in progress. Coming to the realization that I was lost and needed to be found was a first step. But to go forward, I need to go back to that day at the end of March. And address the question that I first recorded here.

What am I so afraid of?

These questions and more will be addressed right here on these pages. For while I had given up on myself, Christ has never given up on me.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's right... He's never given up on you, and He never will.
Keep pressing in...

-Erin

Anonymous said...

sometimes i become afraid as well.
i hope that God will never give up on me.

nAnCy

http://theblogofnancy.blogspot.com/

onionboy said...

It's interesting the journey we are on. Mine has taken me from no religious upbringing to a full blown born-againer to protestant minister of about 20 years and now into the Church of your baptism where my faith, though still a struggle, is more alive than it has been in recent memory. I could live without most of what we know as churchianity, especially the North American brand but I could never now live without our Eucharistic Lord. The sacraments have deepened and enriched my life in-Christ. Sometimes I don't have words for it. I'm no angel or Catholic convert poster boy and I guess that's all the more reason I am grateful he who made something from nothing continues to find me even when I'm not looking for him.

May God continue to grant you his mercy and wisdom. I love what one person said, I've never forgotten it: "- thing is, to get into the family of God you have to be a lost sinner and or a hypocrite." Great, I'm qualified.

Don't worry, I am here as a fellow traveller and am not interested in polemics or apologetics.

Owen

Kansas Bob said...

I loved reading your story Ed.. great that you brought us up to date. Not sure that I knew (maybe I forgot) that you also grew up in NY.. whereabouts?

I have been driven by fear, embarrassment and shame.. I think that it is normal part of spiritual maturity.. getting comfortable in your own spiritual skin is somewhat of an art-form.. but it is an essential part of becoming that unique man that God has called you (and me) to be.

Looking forward to reading more brother.

Blessings, Bob

Ed G. said...

Erin -- one of the factors that helps you become fearless is when you know you are not on the mission alone -- thank you for walking with me!

Nancy--you words never cease to encourage me. thank you.

Owen -- thank you for being part of this messy journey. i feel like i already have a friend.

Bob - thanks for reminding me that I am unique -- that helps -- yes, new york born. 183rd street in the bronx near University Ave/Fordham Rd. Later moved to Yonkers. Now raising the kids in Connecticut.

Kansas Bob said...

Da Bronx.. only got there few times with my older brother.. to the zoo and Yankee Stadium a few times.

I grew up in the sticks on Staten Island.. still identify with being a New Yorker :)