I Asked For It


I’d been struggling with the fact that I no longer felt at home in the Catholic Church since June. I finally told my spiritual director three weeks ago. While a bit shocked, Deacon Ron had known something was up all along. After seven years, he knows me well enough to know when I’m holding on to something. He pointed out in July that I was seriously pissed off at God, and I was…well am…, but while I’d admit to that, I wouldn’t entertain a discussion of the reasons why. I tend to do that. Until I can find the words I need to express it clearly enough to understand it myself, I keep it locked down tight.

So for six months I’ve held one of the only people that I really trust at a ‘safe’ distance and prayed for clarity. By now I should know enough to be careful what I pray for. I suppose I suffered a momentary lapse of reason but I begged for clarity. Know what that got me? Questions. Lots of ’em. And dreams. Weird, frightening, cryptic, and ├╝ber vivid dreams that haunted me for days, even weeks later.

Over the last few months, I wrote down the dreams in my journals. They made no sense. None. Then I had one so haunting and disturbing, it makes still makes me shiver even two months later as I sit in the sunlit kitchen. It scared me enough to tell it to a friend of mine. She told me that deep down I knew what it meant and I just wasn’t ready to face it.

In the dream, I was in the shadows across from a church door. A man came to the door and finding it locked, he began to beat on the door until his hands were bloodied and broken. He had his head against the door, crying as he pounded away in vain. I could smell the blood from where I was but could only watch, trapped and terrified in the shadows. I woke up still trying to scream and unable to.

This week I had another one just as vivid but instead of waking up terrified, I was surprisingly calm. Surprising because for the first time, I actually died in my dream. After months of dreams, most which had me in mortal danger, I finally actually died. So much for that myth we were told as kids that if you die in dream, you die in real life.

In this dream, I was in an office surrounded by a dozen men. One had taken charge of the office and he was cold and demeaning towards me. Then another man came. He tall and very authoritative. The others jumped to do what he said. So I went to Authority, telling him how I’d been treated. The anger was plain on his face. He sat me down across from the cold, demeaning one who had been in charge. Authority had chrism oil which he used to anoint my lips and the man’s ears. But the man stood up in a huff and walked away, refusing to acknowledge me. As he left office, the other men followed. Authority told me to go after them. They all out went out along a cliff to the shore, climbing far out on the boulders. The biggest waves I had ever seen were crashing near them. Some tried to surf but most just watched. I had hung back since I wasn’t really welcome anyway. Suddenly a huge wave swept in and I turned to face it just as it reached me. I was swept up and up. The wave curled over me. I knew I would either be smashed on the rocks below me or drown. I tried to hold my breath but I couldn’t. As the wave started to close over me, I just let go, surrendered and prayed ‘God help me’. It wasn’t a desperate kind of thing. It was like I already knew He was there. The wave closed over, I was under the water then all went black. I passed through the black and was back in the office. No one else was there but there was a note there for me. It was from Authority. It read simply: Finally. Always.

I knew what it meant. Finally, you surrendered. Always, I’ll help you.

I woke up and I could still smell the chrism. I had to touch my face to know it wasn’t there.

Not no way.
Not no how.

But I did. In my dream. Maybe that’s the step I needed to be able to do it in my waking hours?

And that locked door? Can I walk out of the shadows and unlock it?

Not yet. There’s still something between me and the door.

Could it be that the clarity I’d been praying for could be found in the cryptic? A week ago I would’ve said, ‘No’ but now I can’t say that. Not after that last dream. I usually joke with Deacon Ron that it would take a three-foot flashing neon sign from God to be clear enough to satisfy me. Apparently, tidal wave trumps neon.

Pre-winter Thaw

I ran across a quote and it really hit me. It didn’t just hit a chord but played a full concerto for me.

You’ve been in darkness, loneliness, and nothingness for so long. And one day, without you really noticing it, you’ll be moving into the sun, and in love with the world, and you’ll be glad you’re still here.

It reminded me of a penance my confessor once gave me. He told me to go outside, tip my face up to the sun and feel, really truly feel, the warmth on my face, and to let the ice inside start to melt, just a bit and to keep doing that until one day I would realize there was no ice left to melt.

It’s fall in New England and although the last day or so have been warm, the cold, dark, damp days are coming. I can’t wait! Yeah, you read that right. I’m living with RA and excited about damp and cold. I obviously have a screw loose. I listen to people speak wistfully of the days growing shorter, the flowers dying off, the leaving falling, and the birds heading south and instead of joining them in their melancholy, I feel this slowly building excitement, like a little kid in the weeks before Christmas. I wait all year for the first snowfall…and every snowfall after that. February’s blizzard left me ecstatic and I’m anxiously awaiting the first flurries of this snow season.

As I walked the dog yesterday in the chilly early morning darkness, I had to ask myself: why? Why is it that I get so excited about watching everything die off and watching the dark and cold settle in, only to feel a pang of sadness when the first crocuses poke up in the spring? Is it just me settling into a reflection of my inner ice queen self? Do I still have thawing to do?

I didn’t have to wait long for my answer. As as in my habit, I went to the beach with my breakfast and found the storm passing offshore had kicked up rain, wind and crashing waves. The few people who had ventured near the seawall stayed in their cars, warm and dry. I parked and in the roar I heard, ‘Come play with me.’ Without even thinking, I left my tea and bagel to get cold, took off my shoes, rolled up my pants and headed to the water. Not to the edge of the water, but right into the cold crashing surf. In the back of my mind, I remembered that I had work at home waiting for me, I had Eugene home sick from school and I had a doctor’s appointment. And. I. Didn’t. Care. As the wind hurled pointed rain and sea spray in my face, I felt so alive and so at one with the wildness God had called me into. Nothing else mattered. I was in love with the world around me, even with the guy in his car who told me I was crazy when I finally got bowled over backwards by a wave and dragged my soggy self back to my car.

Why do I love the cold? Because God uses it to grab my full attention. It wakes me up. It forces me to deal with it head-on. Getting knocked over backwards by a cold wave means I need to change into warm, dry clothes. The shorter, darker days mean I need to turn on a light to see my way. When the snow appears in my driveway, I’ll have some work to do before I can go anywhere. It’s not that I’m still frozen inside, it’s that the fight and work of the coming winter mirrors what I’ve already been through. When the wind bites through my jacket and my bones ache from the cold, I pay attention. I slow down. I see things I would normally miss. I appreciate life more. And on those days, I am so glad I’m still here. It’s quite possible that I thaw best in winter.