Some Sundays ago at Mass, we celebrated the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul---Peter the axle of the early church, Paul the far rim of the wheel.
Our pastor is a fellow who has the heart of a lion and the hide of a lamb. He also has a wicked sense of humor. He can do a fiery homily about the need for evangelizing and building up of the faith and make the congregation laugh like a good after-dinner speaker can. He has the gift.
During the prayers I wondered what I can to build up the faith. It's not a natural urge or talent. I came to the church in middle age (early middle age, thank you) and it's still like speaking a second language to me much of the time. I have the instincts of a totemic barbarian, I think, inclined to burn effigies or run to the pagan temple and burn oxen, asking my gods to smite my enemies for me. That's behind me now, but the old trodden paths are still in my mind. I wish my conversion could have wiped it all out, paved those paths and bent them toward new and better destinations, but while that may be the case for other converts, including St. Paul, it was not for me. The kind of ground that the seed fell on in my case is yet uncertain.
The thought came to me during prayers, though: Tell them what God has done for you.
But I'm still a loser and possibly the biggest sinner I know, I said; I get depressed and full of self-pity and I still sin like a well-oiled sinning machine, and I put off writing this blog entry for weeks.
Today is the day, though.
All right. Brief version.
God created me although He didn't have to, although in my dark moments I think He used resources better spent on other things.
God tried to put me on right paths many times, but I chose to escape from reality by every means available to me. It made me a book lover and a writer, for better or worse, but it led to other paths that were unquestionably worse.
God did not strike me sober, but He led me to sobriety and it was made clear that I would have to embrace it if I wanted it. Most of my life I have waffled my way into things, and by falling this way and that I have made terrible decisions. But sometimes two opposing directions are obvious. I have made two stark choices in my life, and both times I'm glad to say I made the right choice. One was asking to marry the lovely Mrs. Key. The other was taking God up on His offer.
I have flailed and failed at faith over the years, but it sustains me, and I pray every day. On two occasions of great stress I have been praying and suddenly felt uplifted in a way I have never known and don't understand. Both times it was like I'd gone dying of thirst to a water fountain and someone turned on a fire hose. I had to turn away because it was too much for me. Too exceptional for me. More recently I was in mental and spiritual agony when a friend of mine died suddenly, so I went into a chapel to pray. The agony left me suddenly, in a speed I didn't think was possible---I'd always heard it took twenty minutes at least for the body to recover from a state of agitation, but this was instantaneous. The pain and grief that remained was hard, but manageable. I'm not sure these things can be explained, but they could certainly be explained away.
Anyway, these are some of the things God has done for me, and I wanted to focus on things that did not lend themselves easily to responses of "And why you and not Joe X?" Because I don't know why. But I do know that even though I remain a miserable sinner, God has been kind to me, and there's no reason to think He would not be kind to you, too, if you're willing to make the right choice and seek the right paths.