Everyone has a 9/11 story; mine isn’t all that unique and I am not telling that story here. I’m telling the aftermath.
It’s been 20 years and 1 day.
In the aftermath of 9/11, I reexamined my life as a bitter, work-monger attorney. It began on September 12, 2001, and ended, I THOUGHT, in early 2009. By that time, I had returned to faith and left law altogether to work at a church, a faith community I needed at that time. I thought that was the last big professional and personal change my life would ever see.
But God laughs at the naïveté, the arrogance that this was the “end,” the Catholic Nirvana reached at age 40 something. How silly.
Because I promised I would never return to law. I now have my own little law firm and I’ve never been more content in my professional life.
Because I had left “for good” my most life giving activity, swimming. And now I’m back and need it consistently. God gives you these affinities and desires for good.
Because I swore I’d never leave my church parish, and I did, and it was good.
Because I thought I’d never question my decision to be Catholic. And yet along the way, I’ve strenuously questioned my Catholic faith, and can only say, that today, I am Catholic, despite the ugly and the evil and the incorrect I see in that institution. Tomorrow could be different.
Not everyone understands these changes (especially taking a divergent path in how or where I worship), or failures to change (especially staying in a denomination whose people can’t seem to stop being a poor witness), and that’s okay. But, the truth is, my faith has grown the most outside of what I thought would be my church situation and my belief system forever. I’ve learned the holiness of doubt, the imperative of continued growth, and the inconvenient necessity of questioning my beliefs–religious and otherwise. I’ve seen that real friendships are two-way streets, and while I continue to grow in maintaining relationships that try me (and I, them), I also see the holy value of ending friendships that weren’t healthy or had no reciprocity.
Most of all, I cherish a circle of friends who encourage me in my growth.
I have a long time friend who is not a person of faith; that friendship has continued to grow and is important in my formation as a person of faith. It’s a hard dynamic to explain, but it’s holy.
I have decade-old church friend who has likewise made a change in her faith community, and we’ve helped each other through that transition, realizing the beauty and growth we experienced before, but embracing and seeing the growth passage ahead of us as we are called elsewhere.
I’ve developed a friendship with a lovely soul who has helped me see how our diverse experiences mean we are stronger when we’re are different and yet together in the journey.
The hardest lesson for me was learning that I cannot be everything to everyone, and that sometimes, we have gifts we are not called to use in a season, maybe a really long season.
A Jesuit Brother who serves as my spiritual advisor gave me his old Breviary. It is old and weird in some ways, and also a beautiful way to pray. But I also pray by raising my fist to the sky and ask (demand?), “Why?!” And I also see the holiness, the actual prayer, of serving in a way that doesn’t highlight my love of public speaking or my centering of self. It doesn’t matter how I serve, and I’m not telling you, and it’s not earth-shattering service. It’s service for others. It’s service for my own growth. It’s service that I’m called to do even when I really don’t want to do it. And sometimes, I really don’t want to do it. And then I don’t. And then I start over. Hopefully.
Father Mychal Judge, the Franciscan considered Victim 001 at 9/11, gave us this on September 10, 2001, in his last known homily:
Good days and bad days.
Up days and down days.
Sad days and happy days
But never a boring day on this job.
You do what God has called you to do.
You show up.
You put one foot in front of the other.
You have no idea when you get on that rig.
No matter how big the call.
No matter how small the call.