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Good Letters

My daughter asked me to bring some food to the swim meet when I came.

I said, “Maybe.”

She rolled her eyes, and grumbled as if I never do anything for her, though I’d just supplied the ride she needed to participate in her event. She was still mad that I had looked through her gym bag earlier.

“I don’t go through your things,” she said, which was kind of funny, because I was in her bag to retrieve my hair iron and dryer she’d borrowed without asking.

“All you need to do is ask to use my things, and then return them when you’re done,” I said.

Driving out of the parking lot, I had a surge of remorse, because I’d said to myself, “I’m not making that little snot so much as a sandwich,” which is exactly what I lit into my husband for a few days earlier—withholding affection and relationship building until the kids deserve it, which is never. They’re never going to fulfill our constantly evolving expectations, never going to be docile little angels who do our will—so love now.

Make my daughter the sandwich. Do the mothering thing. Love when I don’t feel inclined to love, when the things I am inclined to do in those moments of animal desire and rebellion are part of a dark package of self-loathing. I am inclined to go back to bed every single day, all day. I am inclined to eat at the downbeat of every hour. I’m inclined to run away.

What I often choose instead might appear less destructive, but is still a long slow death—putting up walls between myself and others, avoiding intimacy and generosity, creating schisms out of cracks.

If only I could be as patient and aware of my own daughter as I was with the little girl at the grocery store who reached out from her mother’s shopping cart and grabbed my arm as I passed. I paused, let myself be touched, touched her head in return, and extended welcome to her mother.

It was so easy to summon the open warm person I wanted to be in that brief encounter, yet so difficult to give a smile, touch, and welcome to the stubborn, hungry, ungracious offspring of my own womb. I am the person they need, and I’m so far from the realization of the person they need.

“We are sowing the seed of love, and we are not living in the harvest time,” says Dorothy Day.


I think that faith depends on our willingness to go it alone. We want to wait on community, on spouse, on the right programs to be in place, but we need the courage to go into the silence like Jesus, whose disciples fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane, leaving him to sweat blood alone.  Can we count on anyone being there in any visceral way in our time of need?

My own relationship with God took on its most profound shape when I started going to Adoration as a cure for loneliness.

If you are a good God, if you are what you say you are, make yourself real to me. Be real and comfort me, because I’ve got nothing.

This was during a low point in marriage, when it seemed my husband was never going to share my vision for anything that mattered to me. There was no pathway to communion left for us but this Sacrament of Bread—like the Israelites before us, covenanted together in a desert of our own making with nothing to eat but this wafer from the sky with its hint of sweetness that was sometimes comforting, sometimes cloying and tiresome precisely because it was a hint without satisfaction.

How many souls yielded to the dust while the Israelites waited?

“We are sowing the seed of love, and we are not living in the harvest time.”


I guess it’s a battle I don’t want to have anymore: for each day to prove itself worth living, for the people around me to prove themselves desirable and worthy companions. I don’t want every attempt at engagement to be stillborn. I want to take a step and be encouraged to take another.

I am tempted to believe that if I could get the Church—as an idea, a mode of thinking, a belief system—off my back then I’d be able to live a free, sophisticated, and fulfilling life unaffected by my own moral culpability or the culpability of others towards me.

But it is still my only true and unassailable joy to walk through the doors of my church, to kneel before the presence of Jesus in Sacrament and to eat it. It is the only trustworthy thing that I do, the only event that doesn’t drag me along into a future promise, or back to past pain. It is the now. The present. The I Am. The “being with” that I desire.

And Jesus is the only person who seems content to sit with me without asking for stuff. At least during the time in his presence when I stop thinking of him as a transactional Jesus:

You died for me so I gotta…

Do this for me, God, and I will…

I did this, and it didn’t make me happy, Lord…

There are so many ways we are taught to destroy our own faith, and transactional Jesus is one of the most deadly—destroyer of presence, destroyer of Communion. Just as my attempt to judge my own family is a destroyer of love.

And surely, as soon as I leave the sanctuary, there are demands on me that only make sense in light of the cross. There are transactions where I act because of Jesus, or I don’t act because I am in rebellion against what feels like some offense to my free will.

These human encounters depend on the grace that I can only hope flows from the presence I believe in.

“We are sowing the seed of love, and we are not living in the harvest time.”

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