Catholic Free Press
After many years of prayer, my oldest daughter converted to Catholicism this Easter vigil mass, but not because of me. More like, in spite of me. Until recently I have had great difficulty letting go of my children, and in the past, as I watched her make choices that I knew would hurt her, I was unable to have simple conversations with her, unable to just talk.
Instead all I could do was lecture, teach, warn, utter loud and strident cries and threaten to pull my hair out. I came to refer that anguish as the painting-the-porch-while-the-house-is-burning syndrome. How can a mother stand there and paint the porch all pretty while engulfing dangers blaze on the other side of the door?
That feeling was not limited to her. I felt that way about evangelization in general. The house is burning folks, stop decorating and start fighting!
The relationship was strained because I never knew what to say to my daughter. Over time, she grew distant. And so God put other people in her life, people who understood the bigger picture, people who could see that what I thought was a house burning down was really a structure instituted by Christ which the very gates of hell could never prevail against, people who knew that sometimes God calls us to paint porches because He has called others to put out fires. What was I doing? Well, having promptly thrown away the paint brush God placed in my hands, I was trying to turn the porch into my podium.
But God is a loving and merciful Father, and through Christ we are offered second chances, and third, and three-hundredth, and so on. As I watched my precious eldest daughter bow her head to let the baptismal waters flow over it, I saw her sponsor standing diligently behind her, a friend who saw the fires in her life as something that would eventually temper her, purify her, and strengthen her. Smiling through unsparing tears and holding a chest that was about to burst as understanding dawned, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper: “Here Mom, here is your brush and some fresh paint. Now go make the porch beautiful, and while you are at it, put up a swing, for your daughter is home now and come morning, she’ll need a place where she can sit in the sunshine and talk. See? I make all things new, now and forever.”
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