Friday, September 28, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 45)

1. CPAs at the Emmys. I haven’t geeked out this much over my profession choice since I visited the Newseum as a journalism major.

2. Yes, I’ve been very bad about blogging the past couple of weeks. The next couple of weeks probably won’t be much better. Maybe I’ll get some writing done during fall break.

3. I got two very unexpected interviews this week for internships. I’m not that optimistic about actually getting one, but it was pretty affirming just being selected for interviews.

4. On Tuesday night, probably from sheer stress, Vesuvius just erupted on my nose. I’ve always had clear skin. This was the first pimple I’ve ever had on my nose, and it was massive, and it was sitting there all smug for both interviews. Plus, I keep forgetting about it and scratching it, so it’s going to be there for a while.

5. I had over an hour long phone conversation with my dad this week. We’ve never talked on the phone that long with each other. It was really fun, and it helped me de-stress before one of my interviews. 

6. Two tests next week, then two the next week.  Survival mode.

7. But not so much survival mode that I can't stop and read J. K. Rowling's new book.

Check out others' Quick Takes here!

Friday, September 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 44)

1. I’m a bad convert, pretending I’ve actually studied much of my faith while I actually have two glaring omissions. I really need to read Augustine and Aquinas, especially Aquinas because every time I read a quote of his, I love it. It would be nice to read him in context.

2. Some crazy fundies were at my alma mater’s campus this past week. Last time they were there, it was Holy Week, and it saddened me to see little kids there during the most holy time of year, learning to spout hate from their parents. It was the usual repent-or-be-damned thing. The students would try to calmly debate, and really, it was all rather civil. I’m kind of sad I missed out this year. All we got here were the Gideons.

3. I got to encounter these Gideons while leaving from the morning prayer group that started this week. It’s sad that good feelings from a morning Rosary get squelched  by trying to dodge a bunch of old men in suits pushing New Testaments on you like it’s crack and giving you I-know-you’re-a-Satanist-whore stares when you turn them down. On a positive note, I’m really looking forward to this prayer group. It’s a good way to start off the week.

4. We also started weekly Adoration this week, which I’m excited about. It’s nice to have that alone time with Jesus, which isn’t really alone since other people are there, but you don’t have to acknowledge anyone else, which is extra nice. In fact, even a cricket joined us. It was at the front of the altar for at least 35 minutes, not moving, so some thought it was dead. But once the monstrance was moved, it hop, hop, hopped on out, perfectly fine. So I’m now convinced that at least some crickets are Catholic. 

5. I experienced an odd sensation when I first got to Adoration. It was like the air was too thick for me to breathe normally. I actually had to open my mouth and take a few deep breaths. It was like the opposite of a panic attack (a peace attack?). A panic attack feels like the atmosphere is normal, but your lungs are constricted and won’t take in air. This felt as if my body was fine, but something in the air was different. Just another sign of how physically I’ve been experiencing God lately. 

6. On Sunday, my priorities were as follows: Mass, update resume, fiction writing, nap, editing, watching DS9, groceries, checking to see if I had homework, working on blog, calling parents, figuring out what homework I could put off until Monday, and lastly and most leastly, actually doing homework. It’s going to be a long semester.

7. How I felt looking for an internship during the department’s networking night this week:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dark, Deep Faith

While writing about slow conversion, I realized another aspect of the Road to Damascus story of conversion that bothers me. It doesn’t allow for doubt. You didn’t believe, and then you did. Or didn’t believe enough, and then you did. Suddenly, it’s all so clear. 

If there is one thing about my faith I know, it’s that I don’t know what I’m doing. That’s why I try to process it in blog form.

Being a disciple is a lifelong process. One thing I love about the disciples in the Bible is that they don’t get it. They love Jesus, they risk their lives and livelihoods to follow Him, but they’re always asking questions about here and now, and Jesus is always taking a deep breath and saying, “No, you’re not getting it. Let me try again.” They hear about eating flesh and blood and they bail. They deny they know Him. They refuse to believe in the Resurrection unless there is physical proof. They were the closest to Jesus on earth, and they doubted. We should get to doubt too.

Now, there is the kind of doubt that rots out the soul, the kind that shatters belief. But there is also the kind of doubt that nourishes belief, the kind that welcomes critical thinking and questions and being unsatisfied with easy answers. I can believe in God and follow Christ and still have doubts. If we had to be perfect and absolute to be Christians, there wouldn’t be two billion of us. 

I realize a theme in my faith is that I don’t like being comfortable. My faith feels real when I’m doubting or grasping. So I’m suspicious when faith is presented all sunshine and rainbows. Maybe for some people, faith is easy answers and feeling great. I shouldn’t judge them for that, just as I don’t want to be judged for having a deeper, darker faith. 

I want to always have the kind of doubts that make me ask, “Really?” “Why?” “For what purpose?” “Does it matter?” I want to be unsatisfied, because being unsatisfied is what will keep me moving, keep me seeking, and keep me on that road. Even when I doubtfully drag my feet.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Conversion without Lightning Bolts

I’ve never liked the story of Saul’s conversion. Or really, how the story is used. It set a standard of conversion stories that never clicked with my experiences. I grew up in the church, surrounded by adults who grew up in the church. Few people I knew experienced a radical moment of conversion. The Road to Damascus sounds as distant as the Parting of the Red Sea.

But through peers at school and a few youth conferences, I got the impression that the Road to Damascus was the standard of conversion stories. Conversion is presented a clear step-by-step process:
1. You were bad.
2. A Christian friend invites you to church/youth group.
3. You realize how bad you are.You want to change.
4. You cry a lot, say a short prayer, and get baptized right away.
5. Life is freakin’ great.

Here are the problems I have with these steps:
1. It’s always something really bad: stealing, sex, drugs, drinking, radical atheism. No one in these stories is a good non-Christian. And if they were raised in the church but doing bad things, well, then they weren’t “real” Christians. Where is the room for the conversion story of someone who was doing fine before belief and still found God?

2. It’s always one friend, one event. This part is the most plausible to me, but it’s not my story. My conversion was prompted solely by me (via the Holy Spirit). I’ve never had someone try to convert me to Catholicism. And at the same time, I’ve had invitations from the likes of Athanasius, Francis de Sales, and Catherine of Genoa, as well as my church families old and new and my friends encouraging me. This difference is hard for me to describe. The most basic way to say it is that it’s the difference in hearing, “Come in here,” and “Go forth out there.” I was invited to seek, not conform. And in my seeking, I found the biggest institution and chose to conform.

3. This is the guilt-inducing step. I’m supposed to realize that I’m doing stuff wrong and want to change that. I’m always doing stuff wrong. I always want to change and improve. That doesn't end with conversion. The worst part of Reconciliation is realizing how clean you can be and how fast you know you’ll mess up again. I don’t like the use of guilt to convert someone. A person shouldn’t convert because of an emotional low. A conversion should be about belief and a yearning for God.Sometimes the yearning comes out of a low place, but a guilt trip isn't the same as humility and it isn't a prerequisite for accepting Christ.

4. The Road to Damascus conversion is all very sudden, very fast, and very emotional. Conversion is a serious decision, and I think in most cases should be handled with patient reverence. Joining the Catholic Church is the biggest commitment I’ve ever made in my life; it’s not something I wanted to rush into. Even though I spent a year thinking about it and went through months of RCIA, I still feel like it happened very quickly, like some whirlwind romance. Again, instant conversion seems more like an emotional trigger response than sincere to me. How can you go from not believing, to suddenly believing, repenting, committing to major life changes, and accepting tenets of faith all in one alter call? This might be a step, but it’s not a full process. 

5. Life always sounds so great in these stories. No more stealing, sex, drugs, drinking, or doubt. Instantly repaired relationships. Dissolved depression. Speaking gigs. Anytime a conversion story ends with a hunky-dory ending, I don’t buy it. Don’t get me wrong: loving Jesus feels awesome. But conversion doesn’t cure problems. Sometimes it creates them because you realize stuff you really like doing is the stuff you need to stop doing. C.S. Lewis didn’t convert to feel better; he converted because of overwhelming belief. 

"You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England" -C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy 

I personally spent most of last fall praying to God to not make me do this. Just teach me whatever lesson I’m supposed to get from this, but don’t make me actually become Catholic. Because being Catholic is hard, and Catholicism is foreign, and I wasn’t keen in actually making such a big commitment. And while I am happy now, and I do experience more joy than ever, promising that conversion makes life good is just false advertising and a corny ending to a story.

And so I look at the Road to Damascus culture within Christianity that demands that “true” conversion is an instant moment of repeating and prayer. You can turn your life around in a weekend. And it feels false to me. My conversion has been teeny, tiny steps over years. I can’t find one moment where my faith changed. Was it when I was confirmed into the Catholic Church? Or when I began to believe in transubstantiation four years ago? Or when I started crossing myself when I prayed when I was 15? Or when I wanted to study Latin in high school? Or when I developed a strong interest in medieval religious art in middle school? 

If it really goes back that far, I've been Catholic half my life. Did I even convert, or was I Catholic all along? Sometimes, I think I was predestined to become Catholic, which puts me back in Calvinist thinking, which makes it all very circular. 

But I remember that it doesn't matter. I don't need exact dates and clear moments. The progression of my faith is one of increments. Some days I’m super into theology. Some days I’m more into Star Trek marathons. Some days I feel like fundamentally, logically defending canon. And some days I feel particularly touchy-feely, tremble-when-I-receive-the-Eucharist mystic. Some days the idea of the Immaculate Conception would seem like weirdest thing the Church has ever come up with. And then out of the blue one day, I realized I’m at peace with it.

My confirmation is always going to be a defining point in my life. Things will be described in pre- and post- confirmation terms. But I don’t think my conversion began there. Nor did it end there. Faith is a road. We travel at different speeds and take different routes, but in this lifetime, we don’t reach the destination. We just keep traveling. And just because I didn’t get struck blind doesn’t mean I’m not heading to Damascus.

Friday, September 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 43)

Things I learned this week:

1. I have a hard time saying no. Ergo, my campus activity is up, and my writing is down.

2. I love my night class. I like ending the day with a smile. It makes a difference in my week.

3. Looking at my updated resume, I still don’t like it. Never did (back as a sophomore in high school on Word Perfect), still don’t. I’m not sure if I’m dissatisfied with my accomplishments, or just need to find a better font.

4. My fiction writing goes well if I sneak off to the library and stay away from technology for a few hours.

5. My fiction writing doesn’t go well if I sit near the religion section and browse titles.

6. I’m thinking my Quick Takes for the whole semester might just be “Things I Learned This Week.” Because learning is fun. I’m in full-blown student mode.

7. The word blog comes from “web log.” I did not know this. But I do not feel stupid, just young, because I was still in elementary school when people used phrases such as “electronic mail” and “World Wide Web.”