Monday, March 12, 2012

How It Happened

I was standing in the gymnasium when I saw him for the first time.  His hair was the color of a slightly oxidized penny and he had a voice and a laugh as big as the whole room.  A mutual friend brought him over to introduce me and, suddenly, I was this full-sized leprechaun's new best friend even though I couldn't remember what his name was.

We sat together in the folding chairs under the yellowish glare of the mercury lights that illuminated the basketball court.  We traded snarky comments about the joy of denim chasuables on which each teen that came before us and each teen that would come after us could leave their mark.  Some had just left a signature.  Some had left primitive rainbows.  Some had left smarmy "I will always love all of you!"s with hearts.

For some, this would be the zenith of a sharp arc of religious fervor that began two weeks ago when they signed up for this retreat and would end in a month when the priest gave a rare homily on chastity or obedience.  Or perhaps they'd last a month, until they were too tired to get up for mass one Sunday morning after a good party the night before. Or perhaps their faith would be eroded away by creeping relativism.  Left to their own devices to determine right from wrong, they would melt away; one to agnosticism, one to the local mega-church and another to paganism - places where they felt like they could control God and His plans for their lives.

Still others would work to burnish their newly minted faith awakening by trying to continue the feelings of warmth and joy they were experiencing today.  These would last a few more years, until they found that being a Catholic isn't always fun and sometimes it's downright uncomfortable.

But for others, it would mark a change in their whole lives; others like my new best friend and me.
As the strains of "Somewhere Out There" died away, we rolled our eyes loudly, and the crowd gathered in a huge circle for a group hug.  We drifted apart, and I forgot all about him.

In a couple of years, though, it would be this new best friend who would track me down by calling all of my classmates until he found me.  It would be he who would rescue my faith from springing up and withering away, by transplanting it into the dark, rich loam of truth and love.  It would be he who divided every care with me and doubled every one of my joys.

There are those that speak of how God sees time.  They speak of the eternal now.  As I age, I begin to see what that means.  Suddenly, twenty-six years seems like the blink of an eye.

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