The first time I decided to go to mass as an adult, it wasn’t typical. I didn’t just decide I was going, picked a time, and went. No. I took a huge leap of faith and did something I don’t usually do. A few things actually. I decided to go, that’s one thing. What I really remember is the stairs going towards the door to leave my then apartment with my two boys in tow. You see, at the time, it was new – this faith of mine. At the time, my dear husband was trying to understand how the wife he thought he knew had changed right before his eyes. She became, a believer.
I remember him asking me if I was really just going to walk out. Just like that. I remember that frame of time like a bright, glossy postcard from God and when I flipped the card over, it said “Cristina, yes. Tell him yes. It will be ok. I will see you at mass, you’ve found me and it will be ok”. You see, when I was young I searched for God in every church I could walk to no matter what denomination. I really wanted to find Him. I really wanted to have a Father. One who would never let me down.
My biological father was an abusive alcoholic. We were raised for a good portion of our early, formative years without any “Daddy” to speak of. We would try to set up visitation weekends. He wouldn’t show. I remember calling him on my birthday. I called him to remind him. To force a “Happy Birthday, I am so proud of you” message from him, even if I had prompted it. Even if I knew it’s genesis was a lie. As I stood there, in the cold (I’m a December baby), newly 8 years old, at the corner store payphone waiting to hear what he would say, he told me not to bother him. Not to call him again. He wasn’t as nice as I am relaying to you here, but I don’t like to swear in this place. This relationship, or lack thereof, was really hard for me to get past my whole life. I wanted and yearned for the love only a father could give. My mother tried, but there’s a hole, you know? A hole that’s deep, dark and empty; full of doubts and tears. She was probably broken too. Here she is with three children, and a child herself watching her children go through this rejection. I figured if that man who helped to bring me into this world didn’t want to be my dad, I would find the Dad. So I looked. Maybe I was too young to realize that the searching was a huge part of the finding and that the finding was probably not going to be an ethereal figure. You know the one, with warm eyes, flowing robes, arms scooping me up and holding me tight? That one. That was my mental image of Him. I didn’t understand that the looking and finding would have come through prayer, deep, pure, honest and true prayer. And help from other Brothers and Sisters in Christ that I didn’t even know I had yet. I was baptized. I knew I belonged on some level.
At the time, I wasn’t encouraged in my search and so I stopped looking. I keep recalling these memories because I am still sad for that little girl, for me, then. Sad that I went alone, sad that I wasn’t encouraged, sad that I didn’t understand, sad that I’d stopped, sad that I even had to search at all. I remember taking my clothes out and laying them out the night before: a white lace skirt, and a white top, white pantyhose and white shoes. Every time. Every Sunday. Something told me He would have wanted me in white. Could it have been His calling me to communion? His little child bride? I think so. But then, I didn’t know how to understand His messages. I didn’t know how to feel His presence.
The day I decided to go to mass a couple of years ago, I walked down the stairs and opened the front door as I told my husband that yes, I was leaving. I was walking out. The light when I opened the door was bright. So very bright. I stepped into that light, worried. Scared. I didn’t know what I was doing or what would happen to my marriage if I had closed the door behind me and kept going. Part of me wanted to stay on the threshold with one foot in the house and one in the light. Pleasing both my need for the Father and my husbands’ need for me to be the same. He was scared too. My boys, walking behind me shuttled me out the door (good boys that they are). In all of the arguing I confused the mass time and we had to stay in the car for a while before the next mass started. We shared a NutriGrain bar (I’d also forgotten to eat). There’s that Communion link!! Here’s what I captured. The very first mass we attended. As we were waiting, they knew Mommy wasn’t ok even though she was smiling. They knew this was big. They knew it would be ok though, even if I didn’t. They already knew how to listen to Him.
I’ll “see” you on Monday. I’m taking some time off to enjoy my family before school starts for the boys on Monday. Pray for me won’t you?