I missed the quiet years for a minute today when I stumbled upon an abrasive tweet about the pope, written by an evangelical Christian.
The quiet years are the six I spent not texting, the two or three sans social media, the life before my smartphone (which I only have owned since December).
I missed the not knowing what people are saying, the freedom from unsolicited opinions that I implicitly solicit every time I press “follow.” This is because what people say sometimes reminds me of any and all of the times the misinformed mistreated me for being Catholic.
Of being in fourth grade and being told by a pastor’s wife that my church is of the devil.
Of being in fifth grade and being told by my teacher that it is harder for me to get to heaven, because I’m Catholic.
Of being in sixth grade and watching a Protestant pastor tell the student body at my Christian school that the Catholic Church is a cult.
Of being in seventh grade and having to tell my history teacher I don’t worship Mary.
Of being in tenth grade and handing my Church’s creed to my principal and demanding that he show me where it says I worship saints. Of suggesting, when he couldn’t find it, that he replace the history curriculum with one that doesn’t misinform his students. (And he did.)
Oh, the adrenaline. How I would shake.
It’s true, even now, even if the message arrives via tweet, that I don’t really want to be bothered. That eight years (5th grade through 12th) is a lot of years to debate. That I am nine years out of high school and still kind of tired. But hear this:
I would not trade it.
My parents invited me to transfer to public school, but I said no.
I liked my school. The experience.
Much of it made me who I am. It pushed and stretched me. I learned to let go, to forgive, and to coexist. Yes, I was at first the fifth grader whose ex-Catholic teacher told our class how bad it is to be Catholic. But I was also the fifth grader who sat on the couch with my Catholic mom and my Jewish dad and listened to Scott Hahn tapes. I was the fifth grader who sat in the pew and watched a priest baptize my dad, who watched her dad make his first communion.
When I read that tweet today, I shook. Just when I thought we could get along… “Another step back.” But I only missed the quiet years for a minute. I only missed them for a minute because I realized:
One person’s step back doesn’t haven’t to be mine.
That a person is misinformed or misunderstands doesn’t change the truth about my Church. The misinformed can mistreat me, and it doesn’t change the truth about me. Nobody but Christ can discern my faith as real or fake. I can choose dialogue over debate, love over hate, and to unplug for awhile if what surrounds me is abrasive.
I can invite anybody open to it, to let go, to forgive, to coexist.
To – like Pope Francis and his evangelical associates – sip drinks and pray and read the Bible together.
To disagree and love and like each other anyway.
To step forward, into something better and closer to whole.