I find myself in the position of many faithful Christians. My adult children have concluded that organized religion and belief in the Triune God as “The One” is not for them. I thought that I had dealt with this issue and concluded that my children are good people, with good values. They possess virtues that I find desirable and helpful to the world around us. They treat others with respect, and most importantly they are raising children with respect. But there is a piece of me that cannot let go of my dreams for them and me.
I noticed over the Lenten season that my heart grew heavy with my desire to have my children and their children celebrate the Sacrifice of Jesus the Christ and the Joy of the Resurrection. I miss them in Mass; I miss their light with me in Church and I miss them in my community. As we began to plan our family Easter celebration, the ache washed over me to have them join us in our celebration of faith. After discovering my difficulty in understanding that Easter was just another Sunday for them, they rallied and came up with a reasonable compromise for our family time together. While I appreciate their respect, and love them for altering the plans, my heart still hurt.
You see I truly believe that God is good and that God is real. I truly believe Jesus of Nazareth‘s sacrifice revealed God’s love in an unprecedented way. I believe in the resurrection and the eternal life to come. I truly believe that I am called to live my life improving the world for Christ. I do not believe that all people who do not profess belief in Christ will be damned. I believe that God loves all his creation with an unconditional love. In the Gospel of John, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd” (10:16). It is not for me to see the place of my children; I am called to see the light of Christ in them as a creation of God. How God will bring us all together is not for me to know.
So why do I struggle so if I truly believe that my children are able to live out their lives with their own convictions. I struggle because I miss the joy of knowing them through the lens of faith. I struggle because I believe that they miss out on the joy, the fun, and community of Christ. I struggle because I am their mother; I have woven a blanket to protect them. But the truth is that I cannot protect my children with my faith choices. God never intended for me to circumvent their freedom of choice. The freedom to choose our own path is one of the greatest gifts that God gives to all humans. It is not my place to choose for them.
I once had a conversation with a community member after a daily Mass. The conversation revolved around her daughter’s wedding. Her daughter had decided to be married outside of the Church. She was struggling to decide if attending her daughter’s wedding was sinful. I told her that my daughter got married outside of the Church that we had not only attended, but that my husband, her father, had walked her down the aisle and we paid for the wedding. She was aghast that we could commit such a sin. I did not see this as a sin; I saw this as offering my love to my child. You see I too had once walked away and Christ never stopped loving me. I am sad that my children do not know the love of Christ each day and with each breath, but I understand that their path in life is their path. My place in their path is to be steadfast in my love of them and my love of Christ. In retrospect, I found this loving response to be true in my life with my parents and their unconditional acceptance. They offered me love and acceptance as I found my way.
My spiritual director once said the threads that we weave into our children are always present, including faith. Bruce Springsteen stated on Story Tellers that if you are raised Catholic there are pieces that cannot be cut out of you; they will always be there (VH-1 Story Tellers, 2005). I believe that as well, and I see it in my children. I see light and positive decisions. Whenever I feel sad by what we do not share, I try to take a step backward, to be respectful of who my children are and give them space. I am also giving myself space to adjust to my call to be steadfast in my faith. I believe God is love and that love begets more love. God is pleased when we love, when we treat each other with respect. He would not have given us the parable of the Good Samaritan if we were not supposed to love as the Samaritan did. I am unsure that the sadness will ever disappear, but I am sure that loving is the light that guides me to my path in life.
Scripture for Thought:
The Greatest Commandment.
25There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? 26Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” 27 He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”
The Parable of the Good Samaritan.
29 But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. 31A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. 32Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. 33But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. 34He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ 36Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” 37He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”