Although my parents promptly baptized me just one week after my birth, we weren’t a family that regularly practiced their faith. The memories of my family praying together or attending Mass are few. One of my most vivid Christmas memories comes from sitting at the bottom of our basement stairs waiting for my dad to come home from Christmas Eve Mass.
Our family tradition was to open one gift on Christmas Eve. That year, my mother had purchased the number one item on my wishlist — a Barbie beautician doll. A nearly life-sized head with a full set of hair you could style along with blue eyeshadow and pink rouge you could apply. It came in a telltale hexagon box, which my mother did very little to mask in her wrapping. The waiting felt endless, the start to my long-held notion that church went on forever.
My most unforgettable childhood church memory involved my brother, the name of a dearly departed woman, and losing TV privileges for a week. During the Prayer of the Faithful an intention was offered for one, “Merry Perry.” It was one of those moments when you know it is best not to make eye contact with your sibling. You know that moment between an uncontrollable giggle fit and retaining your composure is in a delicate balance, yet, you cannot help yourself.
That moment you glance at your sibling, then spend the next ten minutes fighting to squelch the giggles. You bite your tongue, try praying, pinch the back of your arm, all to no avail. The laughter bursts forth, the tears stream down your face, and the next thing you know, watching television is gone for the week!
No Experience Necessary
My experiences of praying at home as a child were limited. As a small child, I remember kneeling on a little convertible stool with the “Now I Lay Me Down” prayer stencilled on it. You know the one where we tell kids there is a possibility they will die in their sleep, and then wonder why they won’t go to sleep.
We only prayed as a family during thunderstorms. My father worked evenings, and my mother was petrified of storms. She would unplug everything in the house and then line the three children on the couch to pray the Rosary. Then my house was struck by lightning, true story. We never prayed together after that day.
Jesus to me was the baby in the manger and the man on the cross. There was no talk of Jesus as brother, friend, teacher, shepherd, or even savior. We were not Bible reading Catholic Christians, so his words were not known to me either. Infrequent church attendance, poor attention in catechism classes, and a lack of home education of the faith left me ignorant to Jesus and who he wanted to be in my life.
Saint Augustine said, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” Unaware that this longing had a name, I tried most of my life to fill it with shiny, tasty, or babbly. Most of my life was spent buying what I could not afford, eating more than my fill, and sharing more than I should. After years of this behavior, I was still left empty and searching. The invitation “to come and see” did not come directly from Jesus, like the disciples in the Bible, but from one of his faithful followers.
An Invitation Extended Through Another
In December 2004, I was running a preschool from my home. For Christmas, I received The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, along with an invitation to attend a faith sharing. Enthralled by her enthusiasm and feeling a bit obliged because of her kind gift, I agreed to go. In my head, I was going for one week. What’s that old Yiddish proverb — We plan; God laughs?
Week one came. I went. She had yummy snacks. I came back the second week for more guac and cookies. The book brought us each week, further and further into communion with Christ through his word. Jesus ceased to be this two-dimensional figure connected to a couple of holidays. Jesus became brother, friend, teacher, shepherd, and most of all, Savior.
The Beauty of Adoption
Through our Baptism, “we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission.” At that moment, we become adopted daughters of God, the Father.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.As proof that you are children,* God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians:4:4-6)
This concept of being adopted by God only truly penetrated my being once I became an adoptive mom in 2009. At the time of my daughter Faith’s adoption, we had two biological sons. I worried if I would be capable of loving my daughter in the same unconditional way, I loved my boys. I had conceived them, and they had grown within me. I knew them from the moment of their conception. How could I possibly love this little girl I was going to meet at nearly four years old?
I brought this concern to prayer and experienced an overwhelming sense of peace, an internal, “don’t worry you can do this,” message from God. Once united with my daughter I never once felt anything but a complete bond with her.
As I contemplate the idea of being an adopted child of God, in light of my own experiences with adoption, it moves me. I realize the beauty and fullness of God’s love for me via my adoption. If I, a faulted and weak human being could love my daughter so fully, how much more does then our Heavenly Father love us. Well, it did not take us long to drop the word “adopted” from how we identified our daughter. When I introduce her, I simply say, this is my daughter, Faith. In our Baptism, we become the beloved, cherished, and unequivocal daughter of God, the Father Almighty.
Have you experienced his invitation to “come and see?” How will you RSVP?