Trying to muster up courage to do a hard thing herself, Laura Roland offered a gesture of friendship and a silent prayer to a woman facing a struggle.
January 1, 2022 is looming large on the calendar on my wall.
The date is circled in bright blue – not red because that’s too aggressive – as a reminder that I’ve set a date with myself to do the thing. In preparation for this date with destiny, I did something today, 7 weeks out, that was difficult. It took everything I had to muster the courage and energy to follow-through with my intake appointment with a women’s wellness center. I’ve struggled all my life with wellness, putting it on the calendar and then buying a new calendar to avoid seeing the un-erasable circled date I scribbled on there months ago when I was braver. I just can’t seem to step through the front door of this new start I crave.
But my body is not healthy, and I know I needed to take this first step. “Off you go sister. Just do it already” was the soundtrack I allowed myself to play on repeat on the way there. Lost in my own headspace, trying to stave off an anxiety attack, I tried to distract myself by walking around the block before entering the office.
Coming around the block, I noticed a Catholic church. And then I saw her - a woman who was standing at the foot of the stairs, looking at the church as if trying to muster the courage and energy to enter the doors. I don't know what her battle was but the look on her face mimicked the look on mine: fear, anxiety, regret.
Did I mention shame?
I wanted to go over to her and tell her it would be okay, that she would be welcomed, that there is no judgment in that place and that God is waiting with arms wide open. After all, that’s been my experience in my relationship with God my whole life. But clearly there was something holding her back, and then I wondered.
With the very busy and joyful season of Advent only a few short weeks away, would she really find a warm welcome or would she find judgment and looks of impatience because she doesn't know or remember the rules, because she is sitting in someone else's declared space, because she can't receive Communion and people are wondering why, because ... because ... because.
Our beautiful Church in all her wisdom gave us liturgical seasons throughout the year for a reason. Advent is a season of journey – to one another, to Jesus, home. We all are on a journey to somewhere; some of you who are well on your way, have obviously figured out how to successfully navigate your journey with its twists and turns, potholes and aggressive drivers who seemingly just want you out of their way. Others like her, like me, are working so hard just to screw our courage to the sticking place and open the door to begin, that any little bump in the road on this particular journey is too much to bear.
I thought to my myself, maybe she needs someone who has had a good experience with God to accompany her just as I need someone who has had a good experience with wellness to accompany me. We shouldn’t have to bear these hard things alone.
Because I had my own date with my own hard thing, I gave her a knowing smile and quick wave, offering a silent prayer, asking Momma Mary to watch over her ... and turned the corner.
Did I joyfully open that wellness center door, embracing a new found sense of purpose and clarity after my epiphany? Nope. I did what I always do. I walked into the office looking for any reason, ANY REASON – from the room temperature to the way the woman at the front desk spoke to me – to leave with a harrumph on my lips, and an "I told you so" narrative screaming at me – never to return. I wonder if the woman on the steps of the church was in the same frame of mind as I, looking for any reason to not return, because it is too painful or too hard.
The good Lord gave me a good experience today; it's well past time to get healthy and I don't have time to waste. I think I’ve found someone I can trust to walk with me on this path that I so desperately want to avoid but need to take to get to where I need to be – healthy.
I pray the good Lord gave the woman waiting to enter the church a good experience once inside that door. That she, too, found, someone she could trust to walk with on her journey. Something told me she, too, had no time to waste.
Copyright 2021 Laura K. Roland
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About the Author
Laura K. Roland is a cradle Catholic. She and her husband of 31+ years have 3 children and have recently added a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law to their ever-growing family. A former Catholic educator, she co-founded the women’s ministry Encounter Grace in 2018 and is a speaker, writer, mentor, and host of the new podcast, Short Story Longer.