Sometimes, I feel totally ridiculous. Like I’m doing everything backwards. For instance, at 31, shouldn’t my spiritual life look a little more like walking in the way, moving forward, certain and maturing more with every step? Wasn’t I supposed to do all this questioning and discovery more than a decade ago? Back then, I just thought I was lucky. I didn’t feel a need to do any major self-discovery. I didn’t need to question my faith. I was happy, going to church, being married, living a simple, but faithful life.
But now, here I am. It often feels like I’m standing in front of an eternal card catalogue, where I’ve so carefully filed every experience and insight about God, the life of faith, the church. I’m standing there, pulling out one card at a time, and I’m flummoxed. Is this true? Why do I think or believe this? Is this mine? Or did I inherit it from my parents, my church, my fear?
Some cards are easily tossed away, thrown down to be trodden on by other questioners. Others aren’t so simple. I fold over the corner of the card, a promise to return to it when something becomes more clear, if it ever does. And still others are placed firmly back in place, with a sigh of jubilant relief. It’s true. Not everything is wrong, not every foundation I’ve built my life upon is sand. Thank you, God.
I often joke that I’m just a little bit Catholic, I’ve got the need for something bigger, something older, something tested. I’ve even walked down that path a ways, feeling it out, seeing if I can find home in Mass or with the Rosary. And as comfortable and familiar as it seems to this soul of mine, I’ve found that it’s not my home. Not home, but a beautiful stop along the way, like when you go on a true vacation and return home promising to bring the beautiful and slower ways home with you. That’s the Catholic way to me. Beautiful with so much to teach me, but not quite my home.
I bought some prayer beads. And a Book of Common Prayer. And all my old ways are slipping through my fingers. Some of those places I’d built it all on were indeed, sand. And the waves of Liturgy, the tide of ritual and echoes of centuries past, they’re washing it all away. I’m craving a faith of invisibility, of slipping in a pew and having my faithfulness noted only by God Himself, the transformation of my heart by the small miracles of His enormous grace.
This Lenten Season has taught me the sure footed place of a smaller faith. I wanted big, I confess. But the truth is, it’s just not in me to be wildly abandoned to anything. At least not something I can’t see, something that is so Mysterious. But I can do small. And small is where I’m finding His voice, small is a Psalm after I’ve dressed kids and shuttled half of them off to school and turned on Diego for the other half. It’s a Psalm in my bed while those same kids holler for more water or whisper conspiratorially together. I pretend not to hear while the Psalmist pours his words into my ears, they’re fresh to me all at once. I’ve read them hundreds of times, but they’re so true now that a bit of life has gone by. I clutch my Anglican prayer beads, whispering,
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth…
Not a single original thought, no spontaneous promises before the throne or desperate pleas for mountains to be moved. My faith isn’t that big. Just a bead, and then another one.
I bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.
There’s so little of me, just the words of a long dead king, the words penned so long ago, a circlet of beads and a cross, only my lips murmuring and willing my heart to listen.
And yet in those moments where I feel myself shrinking into my bed, into my kitchen table… I feel His eyes. I am seen. Somehow, in this new and smaller way, I’m able to let go my worry of saying the right thing, the best thing, anything at all. I’m borrowing the words, they aren’t mine at all. And maybe that’s it, it’s that I am beginning to trust the words of others to speak for me when I can’t seem to speak at all and God loves me for it. He’s turning my inability into my strength. And He’s pulling me nearer with every murmured prayer, with every step in this smaller way.