I had high hopes for this Lent. Turns out the virus did me one better on the coffee addiction. I think it might actually be a coffee shop addiction. And all of those are closed. Though I do definitely enjoy a cup in the morning and usually a little something to go with it, blaming you for that, the cup is not as full as I believed [pun intended]. Thus, I guess there is a bit of transformation and unveiling in this regard. My bigger hope was my relationship with the Blessed Mother through the Rosary. I wanted her gentleness and motherliness. Her fiat and love. I was hoping my heart would be softened in the way of loving indifferently and abundantly. I look back on Lent to see any change, and I am left frightfully and achingly empty.
However, it occurred to me this morning I may be looking for the wrong things. Shocker, huh? I am doing a study on God, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit through Blessed Is She, a wonderful organization providing all sorts of resources and community for Catholic women, really all women of the faith or not. One of the reflection questions after God, the Father, asked, “Reflecting on your own father and your relationship with him, are there ways you want to view God the Father differently?”
When I wrote about being your little girl again, how this was what I was really asking you that day on the phone, I thought this was the Eureka! moment. When God laid this realization before me, it was as if the clouds had parted and His voice clearly spoke “you are My little girl with whom I am well-pleased, let yourself be so.” I was baptized with His desire for me in my most helpless and dependent state. My pride often has me believe the point of these moments is solely for the head knowledge, the revelation alone. Wormwood sees his opportune moment and seizes on the same sentiment. Between both, I become convinced I should give myself a pat on the back for seeing clearly, finally, after most likely missing many other opportunities.
“Thatta girl. Look at you understanding God and what He is speaking to you. Well done. You are surely on the path to holiness. Good stuff. Check that off, now what can we know next?”
Pride and Wormwood working in tandem, or maybe they are one in the same, would have me looking for the next epiphany just for the status of being wise to the ways of God. Father Jacques Philippe speaks to this deception of the devil. He deceives and destroys by tempting us with things not of God or with the things of God in a twisted and tainted way. These are often much more subtle to detect.
Shedding the layers of lies from my thoughts, I can once again be reminded of the treasure of a moment. How every moment is truly a second’s encounter with God and eternity [The Alchemist]. This is how I know.
After visiting your grave that day and writing my letter about letting myself be your little girl, I experienced something my mind was not ready for and was, honestly, blind to. It was exactly a week after. I got out of the shower and was consumed with the sensation of getting out of the bathtub as a child. It wasn’t confined to just a vision or memory; every agent of my senses was attuned to it. I was there, in every way. I am at a loss for how to describe it adequately because I really don’t recall anything quite the same happening before. It was beyond a Deja vu. It was like I stepped out of the shower as 25-year-old Lauren and into little girl Lauren. From a wardrobe into a wintry forest. A world within a world. And it happened as soon as I wrapped the towel around my shoulders.
You know how it is when you are little. When you don’t really want to expose your naked body to the cold air between the heated bath water and the cozy towel. The thing that gets you to best the seemingly vast tundra is the one holding the towel. You were holding the towel, dad, waiting for me to convince myself the couple seconds of bareness was worth the warmth and enclosure awaiting my little person. But it wasn’t the towel enticing this, truly. It was you. The draw of your gentle eyes fixed on my naked self, spilling over with love from your swollen heart. A look that makes the whole world stand still and without words, sings, as a lullaby, that I am the most precious thing in it. It was never the towel. It was always you. The bath water becomes icy and any concern of the discomfort filling the space and harsh air between us, vanishes. Even the towel no longer exists. All I see is your safe arms, tender smile, and meek eyes. I’m yours.
Turns out the treasure of moments is very tangibly eternity, a touched, smelled, tasted, heard, seen and felt, second’s encounter with God. Turns out the head knowledge of a revelation is merely the doorway. The first step, not the missing puzzle piece or trophy at the finish line. Rather an unexpected beginning. An embarking into breathless expectation. When I look back in disappointment on my growth as a tender and motherly woman, I see a naked child. I see a little girl, bare and exposed, wanting to be wrapped in her father’s arms. It turns out letting myself be your little girl, and thus, His little girl, is the unexpected doorway to a loving woman, a humble mother.
There in lies the answer to the question, then, the way I want to view my Father differently. Holding the towel, singing a lullaby with His eyes. Waiting for me to be wrapped in His arms.
Reflecting on our relationship, dad, to be honest, I struggle to see this father. Not only because your disease robbed you of the ability to hold out your arms but because my memory of you before the disease is dim. My memories of being a little girl are almost nonexistent. Maybe in giving up letting myself be taken care of when you got sick, I wiped clean or suppressed, out of bitterness, any hint of what this was like. To be grown up and strong to help mom take care of you, I couldn’t let myself linger in this childness. So I regrettably supposed.
My vision is so narrowed by pride; though I know there is so much love and care to be found, I see almost perfectly all I was asked to give up. I remember dodging you, avoiding home, avoiding the next ask. Fearing what I would be called upon to give up this time, how I would have to take the high road yet again. All I see is me quietly harboring complaints and anger when called upon to accompany mom for your doctor’s visits or missing soccer events to stay home. I scan for the usual father daughter moments and am left without. It occurs to me, again, I am looking for the wrong things.
Changing lenses, I see Premier League games early Saturday mornings with your Arsenal jersey on, yelling at the TV about their poor form (conditions haven’t improved much, sorry Arsenal fans). I see you bundled up at that freezing Halloween game my sophomore year when we played at Iowa State, your frail body enduring the bitter cold to watch me compete in the game I love. I see your post on Facebook of some award I had earned at TCU and how proud you were of me. I see me learning how to use your feeding tube and getting to feed you, to literally give you the nutrients your body needs but mostly the nourishment both of our souls needed, time together. These are our father daughter moments, and though they may not be considered normal, they are all the more precious.
In my reflections on our relationship, I flicker between what is real and what is not. As Peeta tries to discern what memories have been tampered with by the Capitol, warped by fear and tracker jacker venom, he determines the ones that aren’t real have this shininess about them. Like they have been glossed over. I see memories glossed over with pride, and I am left avoiding, dodging Love, for fear of what I will be asked to give. Thinking being loved means only being asked. When I am able to see those not glossed, I find that look in your eyes, and in an instant, I am the little girl in the bathtub again.
Thus, my relationship with the Father God looks a lot like this. How often do I avoid Him because my understanding of His love is injected with fear of what He will ask of me. Thinking being loved by Him means only giving up things. Of course, it may, sometimes, but only to give me more of Himself. It is when I actually look at Him, catch the desire in His eyes and His open arms, that any fear or concern of discomfort dissipates. His love is always trying to wrap me up as His little girl.
It seems, indeed, the true treasure of this Lent and any coming Lent, just as the treasure found in a moment, is the unexpected beginnings. The Resurrection is an utterly grand and awe-inspiring moment, like no moment before it or after it. The immense Light it inspires ought to be enough to sustain us and unveil to us all the epiphanies and realizations we ever need to know. But even still, on this day after, I am wondering what now? What does the Resurrection mean today and tomorrow and the next day? It means the gradual unfolding of unexpected beginnings and breathless expectation, if we let it. The moment of the Resurrection allows all other moments to be filled with eternity and a very real, second’s encounter with God, the Father. It means the becoming of a loving woman and tender mother starts with being loved as a little girl.
I love you dad,