I’ve been away for awhile, unable to write much. Without getting too morose, my Dad is disappearing into the fog of Alzheimer’s and my kids are growing up fast. We dropped Sophie off in Washington, DC last weekend to start her summer internship. My other daughter is gingerly navigating the no man’s land of high school social bullshit.
Much of the time, I’m ill equipped to raise girls. How much do I protect them? How much do I let them go? How much of my male perspective helps/hinders them?
My youngest (I call her Goot) went away on a confirmation retreat a couple of months ago. We were asked to write letters of support. Since I’m in a deep personal struggle with my own faith, it was a hard letter to compose.
I’ve only shared this with a few people and, frankly, I’m not sure why I’m sharing it now with the public at large. I guess I just think it’s important to let people (especially young women) know that they are loved.
Anyway, here it is.
Just think of all the Mass credits you’ll have after this weekend. Of course, I’m kidding. As you know by now, I do that quite a bit. I also hope you know that when I joke about Mass credits and tell stories of my days as an altar boy, I am not in any way diminishing the importance of faith. In fact, I strongly believe that being able to poke fun is one of the most important aspects of living a life of faith. People take religion much too serious.
So here you are spending a weekend “confirming” your commitment to the Church. That’s great. But I warn you that you will very likely have a lifetime of commitments, break-ups and re-commitments with your faith. This is because no religion is a “one size fits all” experience. There are things about the Church that will bring you great comfort. There are things about the Church that will drive you nuts and you just won’t be able to swallow. No matter where you are on your faith journey, however, I hope you will always carry a fervent belief in these:
God: Geniuses, dunces, artists, freaks, zealots, people much smarter than me and people much dumber than me have debated the existence of God since the dawn of time. And no one is getting any closer to definitive “proof.” But, for me, the proof is everywhere. Your best friend’s smile, the delicate fingernails of a newborn baby, a burden eased by a helping hand, the tiny flower that grows in a crack in the sidewalk, the smell of honeysuckle after a spring rain, the stars. Don’t lose yourself in the pursuit of God only through books or Sunday Mass. The evidence you long for is all around you.
Jesus: Is Jesus the literal Son of God? Is Jesus God incarnate? I don’t know. Frankly that’s not a question that I spend much time on. But I believe the teachings of Jesus have endured thousands of years because they are so transformative and redemptive. He turned traditional concepts of God and religion upside down. My favorite part of the Bible is a passage in the Gospel of John where Jesus encounters a blind man. Rabbis ask Jesus “Who sinned that this man should be born blind, the man or the man’s parents?” Jesus replied: “It was neither this man nor this man’s parents who sinned. This man is blind so that the glory of God might be revealed through him.” That single passage tells you everything you need to know about Jesus. He was a radical, an outcast, a reject- and in all of those things- the perfect embodiment of a loving and forgiving God.
Yourself: The human mind is a frequent harvester of doubt and insecurity. Get used to it. There are days you’ll feel out of touch, worthless, weird, sad, guilty, screwed up. But at your very core I need you to always believe in the fundamental goodness-no, greatness-of who you are. I am an expert evaluator of the human condition and I know. You are special. You’re not perfect and you never will be. But you are a miracle, nonetheless. And it is my undeserving honor and greatest pride to call you my daughter.
I love you.