Franciscan Spirit Blog

My Journey to God

I find there are two types of people who attack me when they discover I’m Catholic. The first are lapsed or disgruntled Catholics who claim to be revolted by the Church but can’t stop talking about it. The second type, the Pharisees, are always trying to get me to say something bad about other (in their eyes, lukewarm) members of the Church. None of these folks can bear the hideous gap between how a follower of God should be and how a person who claims to be a follower of Christ actually is.

But you have to be somewhat nuts to sign up for something that is basically impossible to achieve. As Thomas Merton observed: “We must remember that in order to choose religious life, you must be a misfit…”

God’s son did not confine himself to politics. He didn’t say, “We need more rights.” He didn’t say, “Let’s overthrow the Romans.” He said, “We need to live in total integrity and love. In order to do so, we need a Church, and because we are never going to do so perfectly, the Church will inevitably also be imperfect.”

To avoid the scandal of the cross, which is in some sense to say the scandal of the Church, is impossible. How could a Church made up of us be anything but imperfect? What Church would take us except a Church that tolerated imperfection? Where else would we drag ourselves to pray for the people we resent at any given moment—our mothers, our spouses, our kids, our friends, our politicians, the other people in church—but to church? Where else would we go to be reminded of the perpetual death and perpetual rebirth but to Mass? In order to try resurrecting the Church we keep wrecking, we have to keep going to church—because we need God: to walk with us, to live.

Religion doesn’t mean acting better than other people; it means, if we’re lucky, getting to act a little better than we used to ourselves. As the writer Madeleine L’Engle observed: “We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” 

You can’t do that if you’re driven by anger or fear. You have to have some kind of joy. And this seems to require looking at our darkest wounds: our resentments, our seemingly hard-wired patterns, neuroses, fears. The things we’re ashamed of, the things we’re guilty about, the compulsive patterns we can’t shake free of, no matter how hard we try.

That to me is the real challenge of God, and what sets me on fire about the Gospels. We all want to learn compassion, but as we go about trying to be of service to the world, we are going to uncover some very difficult truths, about ourselves, about others.

And that’s what we have to work through. That’s the hard stuff, the hardest stuff there is. Family stuff. Sex stuff. Our identity as a person who has a certain kind of career, or a certain political leaning. Our reputation in the community, perhaps. We may decide to give up certain things, maybe many things, out of love. Money, maybe; sex for a time, maybe forever. But that’s where the joy comes in. The politicians tell us that our enemies are dangerous, terrorists are dangerous, people who don’t support the United States are dangerous, but the really dangerous idea is the Gospels.

Dangerous because you consent to be not useful, to not be productive, to not be relevant. Dangerous because you never know whether you have staked your life, or whether you’re a sham and a coward. Dangerous because you offer up your entire self and you’re no better or kinder, no less petty or more generous, no more effective, squared away, or “together” than when you began. You’re more crushed, uncertain, and vulnerable. You’re more human.

That’s the good news—but to be human is a perilous undertaking. We are all just here with our broken, shattered hearts, hoping against hope for the Second Coming and trying to not kill ourselves or each other before it arrives. Expending our entire strength to eke out the tiniest act of kindness. Rolling our rock, with Sisyphus, up a mountain whose top we’re never going to reach. Knowing that in the end we die alone and praying to be stand-up enough, just once or twice in our lives, to comfort someone else who is dying, as God comforted the Repentant Thief who was nailed to the cross beside him.

That’s faith. That’s the Resurrection. As Thérèse of Lisieux neared the end of her life, her older sister Céline, frustrated at having so much less charity than she would have liked, exclaimed, “Oh, when I think how much I have to acquire!”

“Rather,” Thérèse replied, “how much you have to lose.”

Sisterhood of Saints | Franciscan Media

17 thoughts on “My Journey to God”

  1. Indeed. A beautiful, honest and and refreshing read. Thank you for sharing your insights and gift of clear expression. 💓 “Brutiful” ☺️

  2. Kathryn Elsayed

    You’re 100% right 👍 I’m wrestling with this right now and I found this grounding and comforting. Thank you.

  3. Janice clougherty

    This really spoke to me today when I’m really hard on myself…to give myself a little break🙏

  4. Thank you, Heather King for the great re-awakening; the invitation to willingly accept “The Perilous Undertaking’ for sending tools
    for the mending of body, mind and spirit; for reminding us not to look for nuggets of niceness; to face, embrace and trace the compulsive patterns and faults keeping us from becoming truly human. And so I begin… again… and again and again. Blessings

  5. +JMJ+AMDG+
    I stumbled upon this blog for the first time today and wow! What a great read and how accurate it reflects my life and journey into the OFS. Thank you to whomever wrote this blog today. May God bless you always and thank you for sharing your God-given writing skills with others.

    1. I agree with your sentiment, fellow Franciscan! Families, whether biological or spiritual are a complicated thing – but worth the time to cherish and hold close to our hearts. Always pray for them and hope they pray for me.

  6. Lord Jesus Christ, may the joy and truth of the Gospel transform our lives that we may witness it to those around us. Grant that we may spread your truth and your light wherever we go. Amen.

    1. One of the best descriptions of true Christianity that I’ve always seen it too constrained by the judgemental natures of others trying to pull the stick out of their fellow person’s eyes instead of the ones in their own.
      Thanks again for sharing

  7. Well…That was everything I think and feel and fear and wonder at… I came back to my Catholic faith about 35 years ago…and though I love it it’s hard graft all right!
    Sometimes bliss breaks through and I can almost touch…what? Christ-ness ?
    I remember coming across this.. someone asks a Strict Observance brother how he manages the ‘life’ answer…we just keep falling down and then keep getting up.
    That’s a wise thing isn’t it?
    Thanks Heather for letting me know that someone else experiences her faith as I do

  8. Important insights for our ongoing spiritual growth and acknowledgement of unconscious biases.
    Thank you for sharing.

  9. Georgette Dublino, osf.

    Awesome, Heather, and refreshing and challenging at the same time.
    God love you,

  10. I have never read this blog or seen this site, but God blessed me to see this today. This is perhaps the best statement I have read about faith outside of the Bible. I am sharing this with loved ones and want to hold onto these words for a lifetime. Yes, it is time to embrace being a misfit and letting go of all the secular holding me back. Time to surrender.

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