Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hot showers, roller coasters, and streaking toddlers...

Sunday morning in a house of eleven is comparable to Penn Station during rush hour. There is no rest for the weary in my home on Sunday. I occasionally will look out the window and watch the neighbors sitting peacefully on the porch, sipping hot coffee, reading the morning paper and discussing the day's plans quietly; then a stark naked three-year old will run by dripping from the tub water and my quiet escape collapses around me.

Lest I appear ungrateful, there is nothing that puffs up this father's pride as much as a pew-full of well dressed children smelling fresh after their mandatory pre-mass scrubbing (those with pre-adolescent boys know the necessity of making showers mandatory - if left to their own devices they would bathe monthly, if at all). We do make a handsome picture when it all goes well...then I look up with pride at my oldest son, serving on the altar, complete with alb, hands held in pious prayer, and - what! - black Chuck Taylor's. Apparently he never got the mass / dress shoes memo. We'll try again next week.

I am usually the last one to get ready on Sunday mornings. By then the hot water tank is lying on the basement floor wheezing, and when I turn the hot water on it mumbles something sarcastic under it's breath, makes an obscene gesture, and dies. Another tepid shower.

There is nothing pleasant about a lukewarm shower. I finish as quickly as i can. I miss the warm water that loosens my creaky joints, eases my low back pain, and relaxes the stiff neck I sustained slipping on wet linoleum after a wet, naked three-year old ran into the kitchen. Hot water feels comforting; it makes me linger. I enjoy the warmth and feel better when I'm finished. A lukewarm shower is all business, an unpleasant task to be completed quickly. There is no comfort, no cause to linger; it makes the act of shower utilitarian, a task to be completed.

As I consider my Sunday morning escapades and the differences between hot and lukewarm showers, it reminds me a bit of my faith over the years...there have been times of warmth, comfort, even heat; invariably there have also been moments where my faith was tepid, utilitarian, even lukewarm. I have heard others describe their faith metaphorically like a roller coaster; great heights followed by deep plummets. I can read the signs when my roller coaster is on the way down -- I become too busy to pray, too wrapped up in tasks and the cares of the family, my career, my concerns. Faith calls us to linger, to receive graces like a hot shower over our aching, tired bodies; a lukewarm soul does not linger with the Lord. There is too much to do.

One of Satan's greatest accomplishments in a soul is to bring indifference to our faith lives. We are surrounded by indifferent souls who do not know the warmth of faith, and do not seem to care. They are near to us, they sit near us in church, they work with us, they join us at the dinner table. They do not linger in the love of Christ; their faith is utilitarian, a task to be completed quickly. Faith has little meaning to them. They go from task to task directionless. Our only recourse is to be loving, persistent, and inviting, "that they may see the good that we do and give glory to God."

As I grow older the ups and downs seem to be evening out -- they are not quite so dramatic. gone are the depths of darkness, but the great heights don't seem to come quite as often, either. In their place is a peaceful, quiet, trusting faith, and perhaps that is best. But I may be just rounding the corner of some big hill, so I guess I will just wait and see. In the meantime, if I look a little frazzled on a Sunday morning, you know why. Cut me some slack! And I'll try to get those Chuck Taylor's off the boy.


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