The Prodigal Sock

Rainbow socks

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This weekend’s Gospel reading was one of my all-time favorites.  It was the story of the prodigal son… the one who thought he could do it all on his own… the one who said, “Hey pops, I’m thinking about doing my own thing for a while… so can you just fork over the money you were going to leave me when you’re dead and gone now so I don’t have to come back to collect it when you finally kick the bucket?”  I mean that takes some serious balls to ask for your inheritance before your parent even thinks about croaking.  And you know… I always looked at this story from the point of view of the prodigal son… because I obviously ask my parents all the time for my inheritance up front… you know, with how awful the economy is and all (okay… that was a lie… I’m not that terrible).  I get it. I am a good prodigal daughter.  I screw up all the time. I poorly judge situations ALL the time. Almost constantly.  To the point where I wonder if God is ever sittin up there, long flowy white sleeves rippling around in the heavenly breeze, smacking his forehead and wondering what gene he forgot to install in me before I was born to prevent such stupid mistakes.

But have you ever considered the opposing viewpoint?  That of the father?  The one whose lousy no-good son had the gall to ask for his inheritance upfront… you know… because the economy was so crappy and all.  The one who waited up every night hoping for his son to return.  I mean it’s beautiful, really. Any normal person would probably hold a grudge and say “good riddance.”  But this father never lost hope.  He RAN to his son… with open arms. I bet he did it in slow motion, too, with some grand music playing in the background while the sun was setting over that grassy meadow.

But still. I don’t get it. Why didn’t he just stand there and wait for his son to approach him?  Why didn’t he get that heart-sicky feeling we usually get when we see someone who has wronged us?

Then I had this thought.  How many times have you ever lost a sock to the dryer?  It’s a sad moment when you are done folding your clothes (while they’re still hot… it’s the only way to do it), and you matched up all your socks and balled them up and threw them in your laundry basket… only to find one with a missing mate.  The sock that went rogue… forged its own path… decided feet were not for him any longer… decided that a life in the warm belly of the dryer would be infinitely better than just hangin out in the sock drawer all day until you need a place to stick your nasty sweaty phalanges.

But then, one laundry day in the future, after weeks, months, YEARS of that poor orange polka-dotted sock laying alone and helpless in its pathetic little corner of your sock drawer, you see it. It’s orange. Spotted. It’s lookin kinda sock-y.  It’s laying there, magically, at the bottom of your pile of clean laundry.  The prodigal sock. And if you’re anything like me… you probably let out a noise of some kind at this point (I’m a squeaker, myself).  A Cheshire-cat grin illuminates your dull and aged face as you hold up the long-lost sock and victoriously cry out, “AT LAST! I found you!”  You march up to that sock drawer, pull out that sad lonely other-half, and watch the drama unfold with a tearful reunion.  The socks are cheering. The undies are jeering (but who can blame them, really, they got the short end of the stick anyway when it comes to clothing items).  Finally. Everyone has a friend.  Everyone gets stinky feet time. Everything is right with the world again.

That’s probably what God feels every time he finds one of us lost rogue socks at the bottom of the pile of flowy white robes in his dryer.  Sheer joy.  For I was once lost… but now, am found.

BINGO!

Sometime around finals week last year, I became addicted to Bingo Luau, a game at pogo.com.  I also got addicted to a couple other ones… but Bingo Luau was the one I always gravitated toward when I didn’t want to think about anything of substance after a long day of classes.  I also appreciated that it relied so much on luck rather than skill… because lets face it… I got no skills what-so-ever.  At least with a good game of chance I wouldn’t feel like a complete idiot, right?

Anyway. So I get myself good and addicted to Bingo Luau, and then I quit when summer rolled around, and tonight, I picked it up again.  And I remembered… gosh, I really hate bingo.  Seriously. I hate that I have just as much of a chance at winning as anyone else does. I hate how I can have a card full of numbers and the caller doesn’t seem to want to call any of the right numbers.  I hate even more how I can be so close to a bingo, I can be ONE number away, and someone else will win it anyway.  It’s a mini heartbreak every time.  I remember one time, in real life, I played bingo with my grandma. I could have won $500. I was one space away. And some old hag had the audacity to yell “Bingo!” before I got a chance. And what does some old lady need $500 for, anyway? I’m the starving college student, here.

Bingo is frustrating because you have to play the card you are dealt.  You have the option of switching cards, sure, but there’s no surefire way to pick a card that will have all the winning numbers on it, unless of course, you possess some kind of psychic ability, which the average Joe doesn’t.  Chances are that I have a higher probability of losing than I do of winning… unless of course, I’m the only one playing.

So if the odds of losing a game of Bingo are so much higher than the odds of winning… then why do I keep going back to play it?

For starters, in the case of the school year, I’m tired of thinking and need to mindlessly click numbers rather than ponder Heidegger’s metaphysics and how my daesin is always in flux.

There is also some kind of excitement with the game in itself… that maybe THIS time is going to be the time I will be a winner.  And as numbers get dotted off one at a time, this tension grows and grows until either I win or someone else does.

There is also the general satisfaction of winning.  Losing really sucks… but winning feels great.  I love being the person to press Bingo first and look in that little chat box and see everyone write something akin to “AGHHH!!!!! SO CLOSE!!!!!” I love the “It’s my lucky day!”-feeling… that for that particular moment in time, the internet universe gave me… ME!… that winning card.

And the way pogo.com works… whether you win or lose, you still earn points. I’m not sure what to use these points for aside from making a nifty little avatar for myself… but the more I play, the more points I earn.  This way, even if I lose, I can’t get too disheartened, because I know that it was still worth my time to play.

So anyway.  To kind of shift gears slightly, I’ve felt a lot of heartbreak lately in regards to being disappointed at the hand I’ve been dealt.  It all kind of happened at once, and my most recent heartbreak was that I did not receive the job that I had interviewed for and wanted oh-so-badly.  Out of over 200 applicants for this position, I was one of four chosen for an interview.  My interview went REALLY well.  I floated out of my interview like I had just been kissed for the first time by the love of my life.  I thought I had it in the bag.  Today, I woke up to a phone call with undesired news… that I did really great and that they had a really difficult time making this decision, but they wound up picking someone who they felt was just a little better suited for the job.  Someone else beat me to the Bingo.

And it’s so frustrating, you know? It hurts real bad. I was so close.  But the card I was dealt was simply not a winner this time.  In the end, I realize the overall experience was something to be proud of. I was one of four, of 200, picked for an interview. I had prepared for that interview days before I had it.  I was confident in myself, and maintained a decent balance between staying hopeful of the potential outcome, but grounded myself by keeping another job opportunity open that I do want, but is only my second choice as it’s part time.

In the last Sunday’s second reading, the author of the letter to the Hebrews (Paul? Maybe? Probably some kid named Frances) writes about discipline, and seeing our trials and hardships as being “disciplined” by the Lord.  The author writes, ““My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.  Endure your trials as ‘discipline’; God treats you as sons.  For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline?  At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” Like a rock in a stream, I am being smoothed over as I endure the crashing water and tumultuous conditions of life.  It hurts, and it sucks, but I am being made better for it.  My rough edges are being smoothed and I am growing into the young woman I was created to be.  God doesn’t give me these challenges because he’s a mean fat kid on an anthill on a sunny day with a magnifying glass. He doesn’t *want* me to suffer.  He wants me to be *better.* Sara 2.0.  Because Sara 1.0 is really not the right version for whatever is in store for me.  And when Sara 2.0 is ready, God is going to give me something really great.  It’s easier to say that than to believe it… but somewhere deep down inside, I believe it.

So this time, I didn’t win.  But there’s always next time.  And when my “Bingo!” comes… I will be all the more ready for it.

I See London… I See France…

There’s nothing like putting on clean undies.  The optimal situation is clean undies and clean clothes on top of the clean undies… but realistically speaking… sometimes it’s day two on the blue jeans.  So maybe not all of my clothes are squeaky clean, however, the undies always are.  Have you ever noticed how grimy you feel wearing the same undies for more than 24 hours at a time?  It feels like week old Chinese food dunked in sewer water.  It’s awful.  The worst part about dirty undies is that it makes the rest of you feel dirty, even if you aren’t all that unclean.  Undies are the foundation for our clothing choices.  Undies are the first thing we put on in the morning.  Undies are of absolute importance, unless you prefer to go without them, which, for all intents and purposes, is not where this conversation is heading.

On a seemingly un-related note, I hate going to confession.  I can count on one hand the amount of times I have ever been.  The first time I felt horrible after and like the priest could care less about my silly little problems, even though it took me over a month and a half to muster up the courage to go in the first place.  The second time was amazing… the priest was very open and listened intently and was very understanding and even offered me solutions which extended beyond a couple “Hail Marys.”  The third time, it wasn’t awful, but I didn’t walk out on Cloud Nine either.  For the most part, my experiences with confession haven’t exactly been stellar ones.

However, today I had an epiphany in the bathroom. I hopped out of an exceptionally delicious shower and was feeling great all over in my clean undies and clean clothes when I realized… a ha!  So this is what reconciliation is supposed to be like!  I have always struggled with the concept of confession to a priest for a long time.  No matter how many times anyone has ever tried to explain it to me, I’ve never understood the need to have a priest intercede for me and the Big Mac Upstairs… I always figured I could just go straight to Jesus myself.  After all, Jesus said Himself… I’m the Son, God is my Father, the only path through to the Father is through the Son.  Get it?  I got it.  But sometimes I don’t go straight to God.  Sometimes I skirt around the issue.  Sometimes I don’t actually confess what needs confessing.  And sometimes I just need something more… I need something physical… I need a hot shower of absolution with the soap of contrition.  And I need my clean undies. I need to *know* that my soul has been purified.  Otherwise, for all I know… I’m still sitting in year-old sin.  And who wants that?  If day-old undies make me feel gross, it’s no wonder I feel so passionless, so apathetic, so not myself sometimes.  I’ve got a kink in my soul.  I’ve got some dirty undies on my soul that need changing.

When I wear clean undies, I feel clean all over.  I feel like I’m ready to start my day.  I feel like I don’t smell all that bad.  The best way to start building anything is with a firm foundation, and the best way to assemble a great looking outfit for the day is with clean undies.  The same goes for your soul.  If there is something troubling you, that something is going to gnaw on you and affect everything you do, from how you treat others to how much time you give for yourself.  Going to confession is your chance to take a shower and put on some clean undies.  You know you’ll feel a lot better when you do it, and you know that you can do it as often as you want or need to.

So my challenge to you for the week is this:  go to confession.  If that’s too big of a step for you, take some time at the end of the day or at the end of the week and reflect how your day or week has been.  Really be critical of yourself.  Take your actions to heart.  Learn from your experiences.  Try a better way.  It can’t hurt.

Do be do be do…

Greetings, friends out there in the great wide somewhere!  My name is Sara, I am 21-years-old, a senior theology major at a legit Catholic institution of higher learning, and devout Catholic…  and I have a confession to make.

I am a back row Catholic.

There was a time in my life where I sat in the front row.  That time was my freshman year of college, when I was just starting to make my faith my own, and my friends at the time all wanted to sit in the front row to experience Jesus in “IMAX” (up close and personal!).  However, year after year, question after question, I found myself sitting further and further away from the altar until I finally discovered my little nook in the back under a giant cement column in the dark.  I sit there mainly because I like having a giant cement column to lean my head against when I get too bored to pay attention in Mass, or when I want to hide from people, or when I just want to be one of those people who has their unofficial “spot” reserved week after week.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am sincere when I label myself a devout Catholic.  I believe in all of the basic teachings and I have a ton of questions and feelings of confusion and frustration towards my Church, but I don’t run away.  I like to tackle my questions head on.  As a theology major, I love to learn about God and spirituality, and how to apply these other-worldly concepts of God into a very worldly-world.  I love to look for God in the seemingly un-Godliest of places.  I observe, I digest, and I spew forth my abundance of wisdom unto the masses (aka–you, the reader).

This is my journey to seek God in the big and the little things.  Please feel free to comment on any post and offer your thoughts, opinions, philisophical ponderings, and whatever questions you have about the Catholic faith, or my faith, or religion in general.  I’m no expert, but I’d love to try… from one back row Catholic to the next.

Until then… stay safe, be well, and make good choices, friends.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” –Mother Theresa

Love,

Sara