Church brings me a sense of peace that’s hard to put in words. Every Sunday, after a week of struggle, I’m humbled, reminded that it’s ok that I’ve messed up. I’m reminded that I’m forgiven for the mistakes I’ve made. I’m reminded that there’s a purpose bigger than me. For me, church is what keeps me grounded, sane, and peaceful. Put a price tag on that.
I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic school, had all my sacraments, said my rosary, and followed the rules. Then I left the church for about 10 years after I graduated high school. I was young and rebellious, not buying the things I’d been taught over my (short) lifetime. Not to mention, I thought I knew it all. But, then, I became a mother.
When I became pregnant with my 4 year old, things changed. I felt this slap in face that made me question every decision I’d ever made. My diet changed, my wine consumption stopped, and I began going to church. Basically, I started caring for myself. Physically, spiritually, emotionally. I had this beautiful soul in my belly, and I felt this insane responsibility to be the best version of myself for her. That’s how I ended up back in church. I felt instantly welcomed at my local Catholic church, and I was hooked on the weekly message. I was fed by the Gospel and couldn’t wait to share it with my baby.
Obviously Jesus is my homeboy. But, it’s fair to mention that I’m a social worker. I meet people daily who hold different belief systems from my own. It’s my main goal when working with people of different spiritual backgrounds to learn about and respect their beliefs, and to treat them the way their belief system expects them to be treated. I’ve had to talk to doctors about why Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t receive a blood transfusion, and the importance of respecting that. I’ve worked with non-denominational families who speak tongues over their dying loved ones. I’ve supported Jewish, Baptist, and Muslim families, and I had to keep myself in check each time, remembering that while my beliefs are deep in my core, I can’t project these beliefs onto my clients. Cultural competence is incredibly important to me.
With all that being said, the past few weeks I’ve sat in mass on Sundays in complete awe of the Advent season. Advent means the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. It’s a Latin word meaning “coming.” Advent is the first season of the Christian church year, leading up to Christmas and the four preceding Sundays. Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas and the return of Jesus at the second coming. Catholics celebrate by putting a wreath on the altar adorned with 3 purple candles and one pink. The candles are lit each week leading up to Jesus’ birthday. We are reminded each week to be still and to remember that Jesus’ birthday is coming. We are reminded that during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to slow down and remember why we’re all there: the coming of a king. When I leave mass on Sundays I feel renewed and excited; but for a completely different reason than presents or Christmas parties. It’s a peaceful excitement that I can’t even describe. Just like everyone else, I get caught up in the stress and craziness of Christmas, so that peace is a priceless reminder for me. I often wonder as I walk out of church, “What do people of other faiths do? How are they preparing for Christmas?” This year, that got me to thinking.
Waiting for Jesus’ birth during Advent made me think about the importance of being still and waiting for other big events in my life, and how important it is to remain vigilant. So often we are found wanting the next big thing, not realizing that if we don’t slow down and wait, we might miss the very thing we’re hoping for. We hope to be a good enough mother, and we think it will come in that promotion where we’ll have more money or the ability to take our kids to Disney. But little do we know, our kids themselves give us signs every day that we are good moms in the way they hug us and kiss us. Our kids may show it in the reaction on their faces when we pick them up from school. If we’re moving too fast, we could miss those moments. It’s funny because these are the very moments we are hoping for. See how much we can miss if we don’t slow down and wait?
While we are on the tail end of Advent, I encourage women of all faiths to stop and wait. If you’re hoping for that big promotion or job offer, I encourage you to stop, relax, and trust. It’s coming. If you’re waiting for that answer regarding your marriage that seems to be crumbling, stop and be silent. You might see all the signs you’re looking for that you couldn’t see when you were panicked. Some women are on their hands and knees begging for a baby. Stop. Listen. Your answered prayer may come in the form of a child who needs you in a different way. Everyone’s faith journey is different. However, we can all benefit from slowing down and taking our time while we wait for the goodness. In fact, most of the goodness is housed in those moments of slowness where we wish for life’s greatest blessings, which is something we can only see in hindsight. To me, that’s the beauty of Advent. In the midst of chaos, we’re reminded to slow down and wait for something big that could change our lives forever. I think that’s something we can all learn from.