2021 Lenten Meditation – Lucy H

When I was very young, 4-5 years old, my vision of God was not dissimilar to my vision of Santa Claus. In fact, in my little kid’s mind, God was somewhat less powerful than Santa. After all, prayers were everyday requests, that sometimes did or did not materialize. Santa usually came through with a lot of the items on my list, even though he did so only once a year. I knew Santa was making a list, checking it twice, and he was definitely going to find out who was naughty or nice. I assumed God had these same powers, and that made Him scary. I was not sure whether He would mete out punishments, but feared he could and would. Although I did not know these words yet, ominscience and omnipotence in my God did not seem to be a great benefit to me.

Since I was neither omniscient nor omnipotent, I could not truly know all of God’s power, but as my understanding of God grew, I realized that with faith, I could know God’s love. I saw God’s power in the beauty of the world around me (I grew up in a particularly beautiful part of the world – looking at Mt. Monadnock in Southern NH every day). The UCC church I attended in Keene, NH was a beautiful, simple, colonial church with a very tall steeple, and its huge organ and choir could fill it with awe inspiring music. Few events shook my faith during my childhood.

As I moved into adulthood, a confluence of health issues really shook my faith, and these coincided with layoffs in the school district where I taught. I was the most recently hired of 7 secondary school English teachers to be laid off, and no one in New England was hiring. Being laid off gave me time to see, though, that teaching was probably not the best fit for me. In fact, English was probably not the best subject for me. In researching my illnesses, I discovered a few new passions: interest in medical research and in advancing equality in medicine. One of my illnesses affects approximately 10% of all American women, yet in the mid 1980s the treatments available, and even the understanding of the condition, had been unchanged for decades.

I threw myself into training for a new career in biostatistics. I admit I was quite hampered by 1) having been an English major; 2) not having been in school for 10 years; and 3) still not being in great health. I belief now that God led me to my new career, but at the time I felt abandonned by God. It actually was I who abandonned God, but I did not see God’s hand in getting me out of a job I really did not like, in gradually helping me recover, or in allowing me to find passion for a career rather than duty to one I had to struggle to enjoy.

Despite being in my thirties, I even fell back into asking God for things I wanted, and being disappointed when I did not get exactly what I asked for. I did, though, get a job I really wanted. I had loved my teacher training in Brown’s MAT program, and I finished my biostatistics degree just as the Brown medical school was opening a statistics center at Brown. (I am embarrassed to say I didn’t see God’s hand in that at the time.) I started to work, and work, and work at my career. I made little time for socializing and almost none for God.

At the suggestion of the Maranjians, friends from before any of us lived in Rhode Island, I decided to try Central. I knew something was missing from my life, and Church had once been very important to me, so I thought I would give it a try. It had been so long since I attended church, that I was filled with doubt. Soon, though, I realized that I could rely on the community of Central, the congregation, to help me learn to practice my religion. I read prayers written by others, and comfortably drifted into adding my own prayers. I listened to the beautiful music of the organ and choir – thank you Patrick! – and was brought back to years when my faith soared as I sang in the choir in Keene as a teenager. I asked others about their faith practices, and I tried out the practices that resonnated with me. I joined the Tech Committee, and found a place where a nerd felt right at home in the Church. I realized I could give of my time, and get back connection to something much greater. I still did not feel a strong personal connection to God, but I felt God’s presence. Thanks to Central’s baptism ceremony which always includes a pray to God as “mother of us all” I began to feel God’s nurturing and far less scary forces.

Still, my faith depended a great deal on the community of Central rather than a one-to-one connection to God or to Jesus. A lot of my faith journey was clarified for me this past year. I was terrified of COVID, and occasionally felt very much alone.

On the first day I was to work from home due to COVID, my 15 year old cat, Dewey, seemed to be struggling to breathe. I took him to the vet, assuming he needed more medication, only to learn that nothing would ease his suffering. As my vet prepared meds to put him to sleep, I thanked God for Dewey. Dewey had been feral, and for almost 10 years, he allowed me to pet him, even pick him up, but this caused such fear in him that he would freeze in a tight ball until the horror of being held was over. After about 10 years of comforting him, Dewey’s trust grew and he became a lap cat. After saying goodbye to Dewey, I asked God for something very specific: a large, orange lap cat.

About 2 months later, I found a description of a cat named Moose. The blurb said he was sweet, and no one should miss out on the opportunity of taking this loving cat home. Without really even meeting him, I did just that. He, being a lot more feral and just plain scared than the blurb had suggested, decided he would live under my bed.  —  And only under my bed, at least when I was awake. I briefly pondered giving him back. He was not the lap cat of my prayers. But, I had promised to care for him. I lay on the floor and fed him from my hand. I coaxed him out to eat, and smiled when he would also let me touch his head. As his fear waned, he stretched himself to his full size, and I realized he was indeed large.

Eventually, I needed only to make sounds that mean FOOD to a cat to get him to come out. He started staying out longer and longer. I realized he was now less afraid of me than he was of my other cat, Paddy. Then one day, Moose came downstairs and leapt into my lap. Now he rarely leaves it when I am sitting. Many of you have witnessed how much Moose loves Zoom calls which keep me sitting for a long time.

God had given me the cat of my prayers. I had to pay a lot of attention to Moose – and Paddy – giving me less time to worry about COVID. My heart grew, as did my gratitude. I felt a lot less alone. It finally dawned on me that God knew what I needed more than I did. Omniscience no longer seemed scary, but supportive. I don’t even care if you think of me as a crazy cat lady, because I know this lesson was about faith, not about cats.

God has always given me what I prayed for. Often, I did not recognize it because I was looking for the thing of my prayers in the exact form I envisioned, while God was leading me gently to expand my world, glorying in my connection with others in our congregation, but forging a bond directly with God.

Posted in 2021 Lenten Reflections, Lenten Reflections.