When I was a kid, I was afraid of everything; particularly by those things that only tend to bug you when you notice them in the middle of the night. I was plagued by noises that the house never makes in the daytime, shadows that have no discernible origin, an assortment of bad dreams, the occasional thunderstorm and a strange figure of a bulldog with wings I could make out in the swirled pattern of my parents’ bathroom tile. I’m telling you…that thing was frightening and I was convinced it could pop out of the tile at any moment and kill me if someone didn’t do something about it. And by “somebody” I mean my mother.
My faith in my mother was absolute. As the one person who had been with me every day of my life, I trusted her like no one else. If I asked her to listen for marauders while I made a late night trip to the restroom, I trusted she would do it because her word was her bond and she would do anything to make me feel safe and protected. Besides, what parent could go back to sleep if there was a chance, no matter how remote, that their kid could meet an untimely demise ten feet from your bedroom door?
I can’t tell you how many times my mother came into my room to show me that a shadow I was scared of was actually made by the bedroom door, to tell me how important the rain was for the farmers’ crops and to assure me that “Cujo” could not come out of the bathroom tile and actually do me any harm. (To be honest, she never actually “saw” the bulldog herself, but she did point out another pattern in the tile that resembled a Coke bottle with a straw in it, so I knew she didn’t doubt what I was seeing.)
In time, I was less likely to lean on my mother to conquer all of my fears and learned to have more faith in myself. However, there were those times in which I would revert back to my old ways…much to my mother’s chagrin. I remember having a terrible nightmare when I was 13-years-old and being unable to shake it. I tossed. I turned. I counted sheep, but nothing worked. Finally I crept into my parents’ bedroom and shook my mom awake.
“Can I stay in here with you?” I asked.
She looked at me like I had lost my mind. “Aren’t you a little too old for this?” she replied.
Technically, yes…but she was my port in the storm and when I needed her, I counted on her to be there, just like the apostles turned to Jesus when their own fears caused their faith to be shaky. Our parents, whether literal, metaphorical or spiritual, have the power to calm life’s winds and rains in a way that seems almost super human at times…but they do it because they love us and want us to feel safe. And even though I had come a long way since I was a child, I still had miles to go before I would be able to face life without her. Still, when that time came, I had the faith to know that she would always be with me and would continue to look after me and keep me safe, along with my dad and of course, my Father in Heaven.
Today’s Mass readings:
HEB 11:1-2, 8-19; LUKE 1:69-70, 71-72, 73-75; MK 4:35-41