I’ve been away at college for an entire semester now, as you can probably tell from my absence here on the blog. In the past four months of my life, you could say my faith has been on a bit of a roller-coaster ride. It’s been thrown around, clung to, and tossed aside multiple times. Being on my own with my faith has made me question how much I rely on it, and on others.
It’s strange. Before I arrived at college, I was so connected to God and to my conversations with Him. I would spend hours out of my day just pondering my Catholic faith. I didn’t have friends nearby, and I didn’t have many responsibilities to tend to. I was alone with my faith more than I could have ever asked for. It was honestly my favorite thing about myself. I went to mass every week of the first month or so of college. It was interesting. I love the church, but the community is different from what I was expecting. I am used to the strong, tight-knit church community of my small town home. I knew I was walking into a much larger and more diverse atmosphere, but I didn’t expect to feel lonely in the pews. I haven’t been feeling at home in the church. I didn’t expect to right away, but that lonely feeling in church has only ever happened to me once before. I didn’t see it coming, and I think it is going to be difficult to overcome. I hadn’t been to church in awhile, but I made the effort to get there this past Sunday.
My wonderful family decided it would be lovely to take this winter break and spend it in Florida. So, this holiday season, I’m staying on the beautiful Sanibel Island. If you are a follower of this blog, you know I am an Indiana resident. I have spent all my Christmases in the freezing cold with the white snow bordering everything. This Christmas, I woke up to palm trees and sandy shoes. It felt all wrong. Nice, but wrong. I got up, dressed in shorts and a tank top, and got in the car for mass with my papaw. First of all, I have been going to midnight mass for the past few years so morning mass was a little strange in itself. At the church, I watched people in sandals and sun hats walk in the front doors, still not feeling my normal Christmas self. But then I walked inside, out of the warm sun and into the cool home I should have known would be waiting for me. And it was as if my whole heart was just put to rest. I felt like I was home again. Maybe it was just because I hadn’t been in so long, but I swear Jesus knew where I needed to be brought back to life in my faith. God has always spoken to me through the uncanny timing of my life, and He did it again. Sanibel Island is more than a vacation destination for my family, it is our second home. We have been coming to this place since I was a little girl. I know the island and the beaches like I know my hometown. I needed my faith refreshed in a place that I knew, but a place that wasn’t my comforting small-town pews.
Sitting in the pews, it was like all my reliance and love for my faith came out of the corners of my mind and back into the front row of my heart. I felt like myself again. I felt safe singing in the pews even with my awful awful voice. I felt like God was encouraging me again. That He knew what I was thinking and what I had been through in the months I had been away from Him. I felt like He was there to save me from myself. It felt like Christmas.
Christmas has always been a time for homecomings, and this was no exception.