Monday, March 7, 2011
His name is Old Thomas. As you can see, he is well loved by a rambunctious little boy. Old Thomas goes on many adventures in and out of the house, is brought to every meal, and most importantly is tucked in right next to my little son each night. Before Christmas, Old Thomas was just Thomas. Then under our tree, Santa left a new Thomas. So just Thomas became Old Thomas. To nobody’s surprise, the shiny, clean, new Thomas wasn’t the same. When Old Thomas is misplaced, New Thomas doesn’t get the job done. Apparently, Old Thomas’s shoes are just too big to fill. Old Thomas holds a special place in my little son’s heart.
I think we all carry around a bit of Old Thomas. There is a part of us that is well worn, chipped, and even broken. But for some reason, we want to hold onto that part. We want to live in our broken selves because that is where we feel comfortable. That is our familiar world and sometimes the familiar is easier than the unknown. Sometimes the familiar is more appealing than the shiny, new and remade life.
I do carry around my fair share of Old Thomas. I have been worn, scarred and even broken. Perhaps the biggest piece of my Old Thomas is a hurt I carry from many years ago. It was inflicted by those I loved and respected when I was on my way out of the Baptist Church. It wasn’t easy to hear that I no longer fit in. It hurt when those whom I trusted were happy to let me go- even walk me to the door. When I was going through this event, I was too proud to acknowledge that they hurt me. I didn’t realize that I was scarred and that those scars kept me from being involved in a new faith community. It wasn’t until I tried to be involved that I realized just how ugly and deep those scars ran. In that moment, I had a choice. I could keep my scars, stay uninvolved, and live in my comfortable yet broken world. Or, I could bring those scars to the one who could heal them. And once whole, I could live the life He created for me- a life with Him and with a faith community. So, I decided to give up my Old Thomas and let the Lord make it new again. His first order of business was for me to face my fears head on. I had to go talk to a real, living, breathing, flesh and blood Priest. And not just go to confession, but really talk to him. I needed to tell him who I was, where I came from, how I was hurt all those years ago. I had to be vulnerable to the person who epitomized the ministers that inflicted those lasting scars. I had to look the bear straight in the eye and trust he wasn’t going to rip me to shreds, or worse yet, show me the door. So I did it. I went and talked to him. I thought I was going to have a panic attack right before our meeting, but I walked into his office anyway. And after I told him why I was there and what I needed to say, he asked, “What are you most afraid of?”
“I’m afraid that people will think I’m crazy.” I couldn’t look at him when I said it for fear that he would see the fresh tears in my eyes. In that statement, I was trying to say that I wouldn’t fit in- that I would be asked to leave again. And he caught onto what I meant. Then he said the words my heart needed to hear, “I don’t think you are crazy.” He asked about my family and friends and how they reacted to my Catholic conversion. He seemed to understand how alone I really was and why I chose to live that way. And in that understanding, a healing began. I was vulnerable to the person whom I feared the most and instead of calling me crazy, he called me normal. And that is exactly what my heart needed to hear in order for the scar to begin to heal.
I wish I could say that I have completely traded in my Old Thomas, but I can’t. Letting go of this fear seems to be a process. The fear still grabs me. It still stops my heart and gives rise to panic. But the difference between now and then is that I don’t let the fear stop me. I don’t let it make my decisions. It’s there, but it’s not in charge. One thing that helps me set the fear aside is knowing that this fear is not of God. The only thing God wants us to fear is being separated from Him.
Since the day I looked the bear in the eye and survived, I have become involved. I am very much part of a faith community. I’ve set aside my broken world and I live in the world Jesus asks me to live in. I pray, sing, dance, cry, laugh, serve and worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ and I love every moment of it. They help me grow. They help me love. They lead me to His heart. And, yes, the Priest is right there in the mix. He’s right there telling me I’m not crazy. Now, my Old Thomas isn’t quite so worn anymore. Little by little, the Lord works his miraculous healing and my Thomas gets a little shinier and a little newer each day.