Friday, September 21, 2018

At Home in God

Dear Friends,

Sonja, the wife of Ove in the book called “A Man Named Ove,” was a wise woman. After she died, and Ove was so empty that he contemplated suicide, Sonja’s words kept him going, even as other events evolved to make life livable for him again.

Late in the book, Ove recalled hearing Sonja say, “Loving someone is like moving into a house. At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you, as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake had been made, you weren’t actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years, the walls became weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love that house not so much because of its perfection, but rather for its imperfections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies. How to avoid getting the key caught in the lock when it’s cold outside. Which of the floorboards flex slightly when one steps on them or exactly how to open the wardrobe doors without them creaking. These are the little secrets that make it your home.”

These are the little secrets that make it your home. That’s what Sonja told Ove. That’s what Jesus says to his followers. “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love them and we shall come to them and make our home with them” (John 14.23). Jesus doesn’t say so directly, but the home will grow in its imperfections. The floors will creak, the flaws in ourselves and the people who live in it with us will become more apparent and perhaps bigger, but the home is ours.

The name of the house where we live with God is called the Church, where we are welcome because it’s home. We know its nooks and crannies. It is where we celebrate the supper of the Lord and a hundred other meals during the course of a year. We baptize and bless, we are reconciled, we welcome newcomers, we marry and send our loved ones off to eternal life with God. The Church has splinters, because some of our leaders and some of our members are flawed. We get most distressed when some of our leaders reveal themselves as flawed. But it is home.

Last week, on successive mornings, two women talked with me about our Church. The first one, well into her 80s, was brimming with anger over the sexual abuse by clergy and the bishops who shielded them. She said: “I’m madder than hell, but you know, Sister, it hasn’t shaken my faith. This is my home in God.” The other, a younger woman, and I were waiting to tee off at a benefit golf tournament. Once she knew I was a Sister, she took off on the Church. “I don’t go anymore. How dare the clergy tell me how to live my life when they prey on the people in their care.”

The questions won’t go away: Do I stay or do I go? How big is my understanding of Church? Do I judge and condemn the whole because some parts are corrupt? What part am I called to as a believer to help the People of God reshape our home for a future closer to the heart of God?

~Sister Joan Sobala