Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hypothetically Yours

Imagine a son approaching his father and saying, "There are problems between us. And most of those problems are my fault. Please forgive me. And perhaps the biggest problem between us is that we believe differently. But I love my faith. Can we begin to have an amicable conversation about those differences?"

And then the father says, "There are problems between us. But I haven't changed - you have. So please don't ever talk to me about your beliefs again." Then imagine that same father putting his arm around his son and saying, "I love you more than you can possibly imagine. Nothing can change that."

If such a scenario was an actual scenario, wouldn't there be something wildly dysfunctional, riotously incongruent, about it? Can a relationship exist between two people when one person denies the very heartbeat of the other? Or is that all just bullshit?

Pray that that hypothetical son would authentically love that hypothetical father. Pray that he would want to.

Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.


~m2~ said...

Scott, this is all an hypothetical response, if you will.

There are times when we come across a stubbornness that has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with how we react to it. It would seem to me that the father in this story has deep-seeded issues with his son's conversion because of what he *thinks* he knows about his son's new religion. That stubbornness has morphed into an obduracy and only God can penetrate the father's heart.

What was comforting to me, however, when I read this was the assurance of the father's love for the son, regardless of their differences. Yes, I believe an authentic love can arise from this situation, but the first step is acceptance --- acceptance brings change. Usually the acceptance has to come on our part, and the change occurs within us, not them.

Prayer can be miraculous.

Scott Lyons said...

Penni, thank you for your response and your encouragement. I suppose the frustrating thing for said son is that while the word love is spoken and felt, this past year has been only a quiet co-existence - hardly a relationship. Thus the son's confrontation of the father (since he knows that his conversion to Catholicism is the sabot in the machinery, if you will).

But prayer is effective, and I suppose that being able to speak about weather or food is a starting place, if nothing else.

Oh, and btw, as you pray, understand that this is not my father I'm talking about. But you can pray generally for everyone in both me and my wife's family, regardless. To some degree they all also display some resistance to my faith, and I only want that each of them would discover the joy and riches I have discovered in my relationship with Christ and His Church. I know that may never happen, of course.

(They, if they were to read this, know who they are - and though they may be upset by my posting of it here, I hope they understand that writing is how I deal with life. Also, I am safely guarding their anonymity. They know the problem exists and should not be surprised if I continue to speak to them about it, however tangentially, whether they wish to be part of the conversation is moot. My faith is my heartbeat. To have a relationship with me will entail this rather encompassing part of who I am.)

Dan said...

Hi Scott,

Tons of thoughts here, and thoughts that come from a different place than where you find yourself. I'm the bizarro Scott, remember? Having been in a family where all converted/returned to Catholicism, and being the only protestant left in the crew, there were a few years of awkwardness.

I think I took it easier than most evangelical family members would have, because of my brief beginning in Catholicism. But what was so remarkable to me was the zeal and passion that my family felt on the heels of their conversion! I was happy for them, because I loved them, but there were some serious walls that went up when they tried to talk to me about how wonderful Catholicism was. The tension and walls were so great, that I needed to make some clear boundaries, and asked respectfully that my family stop attempting to prosletyze me, even obliquely through sharing their zeal.

A relationship is not based on a respect or understanding of another's belief system. Isn't it common enough that you both serve the same Lord? From an outsider looking in, I would suggest that your request to begin to have an amicable conversation about the differences between the two of you be taken off the table--by you. I think it's hard for new converts to anything to understand how sometimes their zeal can become a huge obstacle towards relationship--and I say this with only love in my thinking.

I don't feel that their is anything incongruous with what you are relaying, because it is exactly how I felt. At the time of my family's conversion, they were the ones who had left me, and it caused relational problems between us. I asked them to never talk about their beliefs with me, until I asked them about it, and out of their love for me, they have honored that. And THAT love, that they showed for me, was the greatest weapon that broke down the walls that had been built up between us. I felt that I could love them for whom they've always been to me: my family. Bringing up their Catholicism continually to me made them something different than my family, it made them bizarre and strange to me, and I didn't desire their company as much.

The hypothetical son must choose agape, and damn the torpedoes on whether or not the hypothetical father will ever love his heartbeat. It probably will never happen. He must choose the path of love and give his desire for his father's understanding over to Christ.

I think the hypothetical son should take the father at his word and believe that he is loved, and work from a place of commonality, the ties that are already genuinely shared.

I think bringing up the beliefs anymore would just cause the rift to widen, and that's too high a price to pay.

To this day, even though my brother is a priest, and my mother a lay nun, I feel very uncomfortable when things turn "Catholic" at family gatherings. I usually will excuse myself, calmly, without a scene, and go play with the kids. We've come to an understanding--it's what we have to do to love each other as a family. I tolerate moments of Catholicism that make me feel uncomfortable, such as installing a picture of the Bleeding Heart in my brother's home. They wanted me to be there, because I'm part of the family. I went, out of love for them, but I found it very bizarre and uncomfortable, and they respect that I feel uncomfortable with it. We've found a healthy and benevolent compact that works quite well.

Is there a way to find an amicable truce?

~m2~ said...

Points well-taken :)

When I converted, I was treated as though I walked into the room wearing a tunic and sandals, holding the bible under one arm, my staff in the other. Honestly, people would flee.

Then I would open my mouth and not all sorts of wisdom would flow out, just normal, everyday talk, peppered with (hopefully) some sound words and conversation. Slowly, my family started coming around and not that they ask me about my faith, but have asked me questions they never would have before. It's easier to live it than to speak it at times.

Another thought I had when I wrote my response early this morning was my mother is a bit of a recluse. For years, we have done nothing but hem and haw about how she should get out of the house, she does nothing other than work and go home. We had a huge wake-up call when she almost died at the end of December and have come to realize (now) that her COPD (chronic lung disease) renders her exhausted most of the time and not *up* for any more than she *had* to do. Now we are all okay with how she is and treasure the time we do have with her and make more of an effort ourselves to spend time with her...

Acceptance + change = happened inside of me.

Scott Lyons said...

I appreciate your perspectives. Thanks, Dan and Penni.

I suppose the reason I wanted to bring my Catholicism to the table was because the relationship has suffered so traumatically because of it - and not because it's discussed - it's an elephant in the room that everyone is terrified of. So the relationship went from an average, though not ideal, "father-son" relationship to hardly any conversation at all. I had hoped that discussing the cause would alleviate that problem.

And I suppose I was offended, Dan, because this is the first time I've tried talking to this hypothetical father about Catholicism since my conversion - an entire year later. I'd hoped that enough space was between the conversion conversation and now that we could go at it differently and, at the very least, agree to disagree. The respectful truce is what I was hoping for. But apparently they're not ready for that yet. Maybe they never will be.

I will be patient and I will try to love them better. And pray. It's all I can do. It's just so damn awkward.

I appreciate the advice.

Dan said...

Interesting--I see a little more clearly. I was placing this in the same light as my interaction with my family, assuming that this had been talked about countless times.

It's easy to drop words about loving and whatnot, from outside. I've said time and time again that sometimes the right "Christian" thing to say is exactly the wrong thing to say. Hope my comments didn't offend.

Sorry you're going through this. Hopefully he'll wake up to what he's missing out, if this continues.

Scott Lyons said...

Dan, your comments didn't offend at all. You gave me good advice even though our situations are different. And I did take the matter off the table with a brief e-mail.

As I did, I immediately felt as if I could begin to heal. However long it takes.

It's good for me to hear the other side of it, and I will be content to let my zeal inform my heart and my hands rather than my lips. I may even, now, just perhaps, be able to shed my desperation for their acceptance and simply enjoy the relationships I possess.