In my last post, I promised to share my personal “Boomerang Catholic” journey first away from, then back towards God. Don’t expect any Cecil B. DeMille special effects; this is a low-tech blog. A simple story of a platinum gold ring will have to suffice.
During my late 20s, dissatisfaction with my life led me to drift from the church and I stopped attending Mass. Don’t misunderstand: I still believed in God, very strongly in fact: I was having an internal one-sided argument with Him for two years. I left the Father’s hand and flung myself away, just like a boomerang, drifting further and further as the months passed. (I was an expert at wallowing in deep self-pity in those days; back then, this blog would have come with a complementary pair of water wings.)
But what I’d come to learn about God is: He doesn’t fight fair. He doesn’t argue, turn away, or deny you His love. He simply extends his hand and waits for you to make the decision to turn that arc and come winging back again. Frustrated and a bit sheepish, I realized I wasn’t going to win the argument with God, especially since I was the only one fighting! At the beginning of December, 1991, I chose Christmas Day as my return to the church, deciding to mark the Lord’s birth as the end to this one-sided impasse.
But, since this is me and nothing ever goes quite as smoothly as planned….a week before this Prodigal Daughter stepped back into church, our house was robbed. Remember the old game show “Supermarket Sweep”, where shoppers hurled items into their carts to win prizes? Well, a few miscreants ferried our electronics, money, and jewelry out our back door, and Mom, my son Jeremy and I served as the unwilling contestants denied nice parting gifts. As we walked from room to room surveying the losses, the theft of one item especially tore at my heart: my mother’s wedding ring. Earlier that day, she had removed it before washing dishes, resting it atop the white jewelry box on her bureau, and both were now AWOL. My father had died years before and could not replace the precious ring, and Mom was heartbroken. I was incensed; I lashed out at God, “I was coming back to you, and you made THIS happen?! To my mother?!” Then my negotiating skills bubbled up; I bargained with Him, “Okay, God, that’s it. If you really want me back, you’re going to have to give my mom back her wedding ring!” [Had I been Saul, this would have been the time when the lightning bolt knocked me off the horse (Acts 9:1-20)].
We filed a police report and expected this would be the end of the story. Not quite: two days later, an officer called, reporting he had found an abandoned car whose back seat was loaded with items including a white jewelry box. I winced, looked upwards, and thought, “Wow, God, you must really want me back!” and drove to the police station. It was indeed my mother’s jewelry box, and many of the items that were stolen were inside…. but not her wedding ring. Once again, I looked upwards and thought, “Nope, God, not good enough. I said ‘her wedding ring’. I want that wedding ring back before I’ll come back to church.” (Had I been Wile E. Coyote, this is where I would have been rendered a smoking ember holding up a sign saying “Ooops!”)
Mom and I returned home with the jewelry and resolved to make the best of the upcoming Christmas holidays. Deciding to clean away any vestiges of the robbery, I dusted the police fingerprint powder from my windowsill while Mom pushed the vacuum across her bedroom rug. I heard its motor stop suddenly, then a loud scream. Running up the stairs, I found my mother trembling and holding up a familiar platinum gold band. “My ring, my ring!” she kept repeating through her joyful tears. The vacuum had untangled the ruffle of fringe on her rug; when the thief had grabbed the jewelry box in haste, he apparently knocked the ring onto the floor and lost it in the rug’s fringe.
I froze; my heart skipped a beat. My Good Shepherd came through: this lost, stubborn lamb who had wandered so far away from him had been coaxed back on her own terms. I thanked Him, “Wow. You must really want me back. Guess I’ll keep my part of the bargain and come back to You.” The boomerang arc of my life had finally returned to its Maker’s hand, and the riches I’ve since found far outweigh the cost of that platinum ring. I’ve remained close to Him ever since.
What’s YOUR faith story??