In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
It’s the movement of your hands. It’s the closing of a prayer. It’s the sign of the biggest and most abstruse mystery. But I have always doubted the timelessness of it all. In my mind, which is a vast chamber of pop culture references, the sign of the cross felt like an elite handshake similar to hang wagging under your chin to get into the He-Man Womun Haters Club. Sadly, the meaningless motions made it feel like, well, just a motion. But then, I experienced it first hand. Felt it a more personal manner. A manner in which exorbitant understanding overcame my petty ignorance, and pompous knowledge seemed to dissolve at the pure mention of my experience: I felt each part of the awe inspiring Trinity. These three moments all happened in one day, which is amazing in itself, but it took my almost 6 months to realize what they all meant. In my mind, I viewed it as just felicity; however, it proved to be much more.
In the name of the Father.
For the summer mission trip, my church went to an Indian reservation outside of Albuquerque called Laguna, home to the second oldest church in New Mexico dating back to 1699. We spent all week working with a group of kids on the reservation from the ages 5-11.
Although I loved singing about Mount Everest and debating whether mac n cheese cake is better than hot dog cake, skepticism dominated my disparaging mind. Each encounter with these bundles of joy pushed through logical reasoning, then analyzed, then scrutinized and somehow came out as a watered down memory saturated with self-doubt. Therefore, I continuously painted on my happy face and completed task at the moment with a jaded sense of apathy. On our last day with the kids, the Natives planned to lead us in a short hike, while we pray a single mystery of the Rosary (a task that seems simple but becomes arduous when realizing it will be with 60 young children) . So in my mind, I thought the morning was sand, plus Hail Mary’s, plus piggy back rides up a hill, plus a possible sun burn. Let me just say, I was fractiously correct. Only 10 minutes into the trail, I felt my skin fester under the large New Mexican sun as sand seeped into my shoes with each step. However, amidst the self-loathing, I heard my name spoken so sweetly it could have been sung. My eyes followed the words and wondered down to the girl standing at my side reaching up for my hand. Then, I grabbed her itty bitty hand, almost as if it was second nature, and felt her fingers wrap around mine. Then I thought and began my scrutinizing. Why did she reach for my hand? Why my hand? She wasn’t in need of some one to keep her from falling or to guide her, she definitely knew this path better than I. All she wanted was the promise of my presence. In a world dominated by the artificial augmentation of reality, holding someone’s hand binds a fickle contract to appear with you at parties and Instagram photos. Instead of chaining of a soul, her subtle grasp whispered “stay near me.” Suddenly, my presence became enough. Scratch that, it was more than enough. It was, as stated as simple as possible, valued. And that gentle touch touched me and filled my mind as we climbed the rest of the trail.
At this time, we were beginning to be able to see the city of Laguna from the top of the mesa. When reached the tall wooden cross, we picked the perfect rock to perch on. The girl released my hand for the first time since she grabbed it and sunk into my lap. We sat there, leaning against each other; I felt her tiny fingers run up and down my shin as we gazed over the land she called home. Her family has ties to a land, no more that a couple square miles, that date back hundreds of years. It is almost as if the land is a wise and beautifully withered elder that is as old as time. And then I thought, just as I am certain that the Laguna people cherish land, I know my little girl will grow up, but I am not certain what will become of her life. With the growing temptation of drugs on the reservation, it’s probable that she could end up down the path of sustaining sorrow by drowning out the pernicious loneliness. Or, maybe she could become a seminal phenomenon that exhorts her passions. I don’t know who she will become and what she will do. Normally, not knowing flips the switch and turns me into the type A version of the Hulk; however, for some reason in that moment, I felt peace about what is to come for her, even joy about the possibilities that she could become. Maybe it was the dehydration. Or maybe it was the view. All I know is that when I looked from the land then down at her, I didn’t care. I saw her innate light, and I would love her regardless of the mistakes and successes. She was the idyllic girl that held my hand and touched my heart, and no one – not even her – could take that away.
Looking back, this was the moment I knew I was called to adopt in the future. Because if I could learn to love a child in just a mere 5 days, imagine what a lifetime could galvanize. But, you must remember that “we love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) On top of that rock, it clicked. The way I felt about her and everything I convinced myself I would do for her is what my Father feels for me. Similar to my hand shake version of the cross, the Father seemed like an omnipotent Dumbledore, regal yet approachable, but somehow still inane. I knew that He loved me despite sins, but I think everyone has the days when you look in the mirror and think “who could ever love that face?” or “who could ever forget/forgive me?” Sometimes, we allow ourselves to be strayed off the right path because we fall into the circle of despair, then as if our parents or friends critiques aren’t damaging enough – we rip ourselves apart because how could we have been so stupid to have strayed off the right path? It is a continuous cycle of self-loathing that leads to worldly desires which then leads to even more self-loathing. However, in the beauty of the Trinity, we get the Father. The one who is able to dismiss what you have done for the person you are. The one who reaches down with his enrapturing touch to grab your small hands because being with you is enough for Him. And, if we recognize it, being with Him is valued to us. That day upon the mesa, I gave unconditional love because I realized that the Father loved me first. Thus, I remember this when I pray in the name of the Father.
See ya later