Southern Views

She was a youthful woman, 31 years of age, though she looked much younger.  Highly educated, good job though she was struggling mightily with her life.  I noticed the tattoos that she had, which were quite beautiful.  She had them on her arms and around her neck area, each a work of art in their own right.  I have never had any trouble with tattoos, though I myself have never gotten one.  Who knows it is not too late, hope springs eternal.  I wonder what kind of a tattoo a 60-year-old should get.

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She talked about her journey, her beliefs, and what she was striving to be and also to do.  So earnest, so determined, so conflicted.  She was raised Catholic and was perhaps thinking about coming back to the church.  As she spoke I could tell that she had some bad experience with her parents’ religion.  I guess you could say that she was ‘spiritual but not religious’, looking, but coming across as not having delved too deeply into any one path.  As we talked and her intelligence was made apparent, I encouraged her to study about her childhood faith and to try to get a more mature understanding of what it could mean to her now as an adult.  Also, once she studied about it and by doing so was hopefully able to work through her childhood traumas, she would be capable in finding peace with Catholicism and move on with her life….even if she chose to look elsewhere for a spiritual home.  I explained that many people spend a great deal of energy fighting the ghost from their past, and waste a lot to time speaking angrily about what they have supposedly let go of.  When in fact they are still intimately connected through their rage and deep resentment, for these emotions take up a great deal of time and energy. There is a fine line between love and hate and they resemble each other in many ways because of the intensity of emotions present.

She was brave soul, for she was truly trying to get herself back on the path, needing a relationship with God that was deeply felt by her.  As we were getting to the end of our conversation I made a simple statement, which brought forth a reaction that I did not expect.  I simply told her that she needed to be gentler with herself.  When I said that she suddenly took a couple of very deep breathes, closed her eyes and cried.  The simple statement seemed to allow her to relax and breathe from a very deep place.  Then she smiled and we went our separate ways.  Before I left I gave her one of my prayer ropes for her to have as a reminder that I would pray for her, and hopefully she would also return the favor.

As she left I began to ponder the mystery that we each represent and how over simplistic answers more often than not do more harm than good.  All she needed was for someone to listen and to perhaps give just a little input for her to consider if she felt any of it was helpful.   God was calling and in her own way she was responding.  She is poor in spirit, and as the scripture say, she will see God.  I believe all of our searching and asking of questions are a response to the call of grace, the invitation to begin the journey of an ever deepening relationship with God.

I don’t limit God’s action in the world, nor do I doubt that grace is at work in human hearts.  That is why it is necessary to be alert so as not to be one of those who can harm by demanding that they fit into some kind of preconceived idea of what it is like to seek God.  Some have not started the journey because of past wounds, others are at the beginning, some further along and then many coming to the end of their pilgrimage towards God.  All places are a good place to be, some seeds take root faster than others.  However in the end, I have no idea where anyone is on their journey, for we each have a unique relationship with God.  To lose sight of that is to try to force not only others into a very tight box, but also God, which does not work.  People have an intuitive grasp of ultimate reality, they just need to trust it more and perhaps listen to others less.  We can all teach, but at the same time learn of limitations that are simply part and parcel of life.  There are many pieces in a puzzle and I think we each of just a few pieces and we all need each other to help fill in the blanks.

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Mark Dohle

Mark Dohle

I am 62 years old and have lived in the Atlanta area since 1971.  I am Catholic and my faith is important to me, yet as I age the mystery continues to deepen, so I read broadly and try to keep things somewhat open ended. I work with the aged and the dying. I was in the Navy for four years and I guess I am life of center when it comes to politics, but not too far left. Actually, I am kind of a political moron.

I am the third of  11 children; ten still alive, one died in in 1958, three days after birth.