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Lara Patangan discovered, as she grew up, that faith is too important to keep tucked away as if it's a breakable heirloom.

When I was a little girl, I had a china doll. She was as white as the Cool Whip I would spoon out of the plastic container for a quick treat but she wasn’t nearly as pleasant. Her eyes were painted bright blue and her lips were a glossy cherry red that seemed more appropriate for a geisha girl than a porcelain doll. At some point, her delicate hand broke but her maiming did nothing to diminish the deep blue stare of her eyes or the haughty shine of her thin lips.

I never understood what I was supposed to do with that doll. She was too fragile to play with and her homely blue and white dress and matching bonnet only added to my apathetic feelings towards her. I also had Mae West and Groucho Marx dolls even though I didn’t know who either of them was at the time. I remember being scolded when the cigar that apparently was a prop of Groucho Marx disappeared.


porcelain doll


These dolls were something I was expected to value. As such, I displayed them on shelves or kept them tidy in their special box.

Growing up, my faith felt the same way. It was chosen for me—this fragile and sacred mystery with its own set of props and expectations. At different times in my life, I alternated between displaying it and keeping it compartmentalized in its own tidy box. As the years passed, I understood more what it meant to love God, to receive forgiveness, and to love and serve my neighbor.

The more I practiced my faith, the more I realized it no longer could fit in the box or otherwise be neatly tucked away. Put to practical use, it was like the maimed hand on my china doll—messy, imperfect, and just a little bit broken. But instead of that making my faith seem less valuable, it became more valuable. It was no longer something I cherished out of expectation, but rather out of experience.


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Ultimately, we choose what we value. No one else can do that for us. #catholicmom

It was the experience of knowing and loving God that made me treasure my faith. It was the experience of feeling his infinite mercy and sharing that compassion with my neighbor that made me want to treat it with care. Maybe in the beginning we practice Christianity out of expectation. It’s what we are taught and how we are raised. But for it to become something we genuinely value; it has to become real to us.

I have long since donated all of those dolls. While I never enjoyed them, I do appreciate the lesson they taught me. Ultimately, we choose what we value. No one else can do that for us. Because I have a personal relationship with God, He’s alive to me; an uncontainable being pouring out unconditional love all over the broken messy parts of humanity—all over the broken, messy parts of me. If you know what I am talking about, then you know that His love is simply too beautiful to merely keep on display. And, unlike the precious china doll, it’s too strong to ever break.


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Copyright 2022 Lara Patangan
Images: Canva Pro