I threw a temper tantrum at God today.
I work with very young children a lot, particularly two year olds who are just becoming aware of the words “no” and “mine,” so temper tantrums are no stranger in my world these days. Unfortunately, sometimes when the world just really rubs me the wrong way, I can turn into an angry 4 year old in 2.3 seconds flat. I’m better at controlling that these days, and I will honestly say that I have more patience than most people I’ve gotten to know, so I try to reserve my angry 4 year old self for occasions that truly warrant getting really upset – you know, life and death, someone is about to get hurt if what I’m saying isn’t taken seriously, that kind of thing.
Today, I just got cranky. Mad. Stomp my foot and say “no” to something someone asks me to do. With persistence.
Last week our RCIA director mentioned that we should start thinking through these sacraments that we are about to participate in for the first time. This is going to be an intense Easter for us, no doubt. So yes, absolutely, I should think through it to sort of prepare myself for what’s going to happen. A few days ago I did just that, and at the thought of being able to go to communion, not just at Easter but every week, every day even…. Instead of making me happy, it made me mad.
What is wrong with me? I should be thrilled about finally being able to go to communion! (Are you? Leave a comment and tell me!) The more I thought about it, the more I realized these thought patterns led back to when I seriously struggled with depression. When life is tough and things are bad and getting worse, rather than getting your hopes up for better days ahead, sometimes it seems easier and less heartbreaking to just resolve to believe that things won’t get better. For a while last year, that was how I felt at Mass at communion – left out, unworthy, like I didn’t belong and never would. It was upsetting, but I’ve learned to live with it. It just feels normal now. So if I’m unworthy now, what exactly is going to change to make such a huge difference?* I can choose to believe in God’s amazing grace (I honestly think I don’t know what that word means but it sounds right here) or I can choose to believe it’s just not possible.
What I didn’t realize is that God is already telling me, in his own way, “I can’t wait until you can come to communion. I am just as eager to be there for the Easter vigil as you are.” And he’s been telling me this for a long time. He’s been preparing me for it. You see, he likes to play with what happens in my mind’s eye at communion, and he’s been doing this for quite some time.
There’s a small chapel in the back of the church I go to, and all of this dream-sequence-like vision takes place in that chapel. Communion is the only part of the Mass that I see there. After the words, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,” I’m there. And even though I can’t go in reality, in this world, I can. My Father is always there, but all the other people are different every time. Sometimes I go to communion by myself, but most of the time my guardian angel walks with me when I’m scared, or carries me when I’m sick or upset. But I always go when my Father calls me to, until today. Today I said, in true 4 year old fashion, “No.” (To the horror of the few people in the chapel with me who are always there. I think there are definitely some saints in there, by the way.)
The first thing that shocked me was that he didn’t respond in anger to this. “No? I’ll let you think about that for a minute,” he said. And so I tried to think of a good explanation as to why I shouldn’t get to go to communion, either now or in the future. “Who gets to decide whether you can or can’t come to communion?” he asked me.
“I do,” I contended (literally talking across the chapel, so it’s not like this was a private conversation or anything). “I’m unworthy and I know it. I always will be.”
He was silent and let me think about this, then asked, “Who gets to decide how worthy you are?”
I was still feeling snarky and temper tantrum-y, so I said that I did. I don’t quite know how to explain his voice when he replied, but if you had heard it, you would know that whatever he said was said with the highest of authority.
“-I- get to decide,” was all my Father said, and he made sure I knew that -he meant it-.
It made for an intense drive home, I will say that.
I’m still struggling with this, but my perspective has changed over the last day or two…and I’m very glad I’m struggling with this now as opposed to on Good Friday. May all of us elect and candidates have the courage and faith to believe that God wants us and will make us worthy to come to communion, or even to baptism and confirmation – those can be terrifying, too. I’m not saying I’m having second thoughts, but if anyone is, I would completely understand where that fear might come from.
Oh, how much I need to pray about this.
*(PS, Elizabeth, I didn’t forget what we talked about – just needed to include what happened today to make this make sense 🙂 )