Struggling with one's faith is, I believe, part and parcel of the effects of Original Sin. Up until Eve and Adam decided to believe the big lie (you too shall be like gods!) humans were in complete communion with the Creator. Sin that horrible wound, we have been given the grace of Christ's death on the cross and the Sacramental/Liturgical life of the Church He founded to help us get back as close to that original union as possible. However, the effects of that sin (concupiscence) rears the ugly head of doubt, fear, selfishness, anger and resistance. Thus we struggle - and the struggle is with ourselves.
My struggles are well documented. I have tried to put those struggles into the context of the struggles I witness around me. I have never seen myself as particularly worse or better than anyone else. I have made mistakes, I have done things right. I have hurt people. I have helped people. I have apologized and I have forgiven.
Never have I looked in the mirror and thought, "Now there's a great (insert noun here)!". There are people who think this means I have low self esteem. Maybe. I think I am just being honest about myself - I am not great, I am just me.
I share this with you because of an experience I had last night with two people who periodically insert themselves into my sphere of action. Neither would I consider a friend - I consider them acquaintances - but I would not have thought of them as enemies either and I honestly believe we share that belief about, and toward, each other.
With all this in mind, what I am sharing with you is not a bid for sympathy; rather, it is my attempt to honestly review what happened and perhaps get some feedback from like minded and similarly afflicted people, as well as those who share my Faith Tradition, on what I observed.
As the group was dispersing, both of these persons overheard several people compliment me on my look. I was told that my new hair cut looks great, my hard work in the gym was showing and my clothing ensemble was elegant. These were unsolicited compliments and I was pleased to receive them. I hope I was gracious in my acceptance.
When almost everyone had gone, one of the people made it a point to lean over me as I counted up the money, and say in a very loud whisper, "You have make up on your jewelry. It looks really awful".
Oh. OK. Thanks. I smiled and finished counting the collection.
The other one, the man, stopped talking to whoever it was he was in an animated conversation with, and said (very loudly), "My God, who are you trying to be tonight? Jackie Kennedy?". Then he said (again, very loudly), "Remember when this group was small? Gee, Leslie...as soon as you stopped trying to control everything it really grew".
I looked at him and said, "I'm sorry but I don't understand what you mean. I did not attend this group for over 8 months when I was working out of town last year. Do you mean people started coming because I was not attending?".
He waved his hand at me and said, "Oh for heaven's sake, I was teasing. You get so riled up! Don't you know when someone is just teasing you?".
I am willing to admit that I have a difficult time taking pokes and needles from people who never seem to have a kind word to say to me or about me. I think it is wrong and it hurts my feelings. However, I don't get that a lot because (frankly) the majority of the people in my life today are very loving and kind. Oh, they will tell me the truth and they won't tolerate bad behavior but they are neither mean, profane or hurtful about it. The majority of them have the love of Christ and His Church in their hearts and they look for ways to help and build people up rather than tear them down.
So when things like last night happen I often think that perhaps God is allowing these people a quick foray into my action zone as a way to help me stay humble, to remind me that the Road to Heaven is not supposed to be one lined with cotton candy and unicorns.
My response to the situation was to stand up for myself with grace and elegance and love.
What I wanted to do was punch them both in the head.
Good thing I don't always have to act on my feelings today, right?
Thank you for being my friend.