Where do you want to go now?
I ask her. We just finished our Friday morning swim class. It was only 10 in the morning. We still had a whole day ahead of us.
My two-year-old toddler is in deep thoughts for a moment. I watch her in anticipation wondering what she would say. And the word I hear, makes me the happiest and the proudest mom in the whole world.
And so, to the church we go, just five-minute-drive away.
When I was pregnant, I used to come to my local parish a lot. Just as most Catholic Churches, my parish in Virginia has a beautiful court yard. It has small garden paths leading to several statues of Mother Mary, St. Joseph, Baby Jesus, and Archangels. This, right here in the picture, is my favorite place. I often come here when I have no special agendas, when I simply have to just get out of the house, or when my heart yearns for the meaningful connection. This is a very special place for me, especially, because the name for my daughter came from this place. I remember that hot summer evening when I sat here alone purging my deep sadness. I was only one month away to giving birth. Yet, my frequent depressive episode was always nearer. I was always giving birth to something dark, something heavy, and something unbearably painful. And it was here that I was able to unleash the demon that lived inside me knowing that my mental battle will be a success on this holy ground. That day, with only a month to go until the arrival of my daughter, still awaiting the perfect name for her, I sat here crying to relieve my heavy sadness. A faint song started playing in my head. It was a very distant song that I haven’t replayed in a long, long time. A song that I liked when I was in high school. I was back in the small cafe in my hometown, sitting with my high school best friends listening to this song from the nineties.
Whenever I looked up at this statue of St. Joseph holding the baby Jesus, I was reminded that God, also, was holding me in His strong arms that would never let go. Many studies suggest that father-child relationship has a strong influence on the child’s faith development. Children grew up in the absence of father are more inclined to search for God to fill in the void. This was exactly what happened to my faith development. I prayed on the moon when I was young in my insecurity. I spent all of my teenage years and most of my twenties in the search of God. He was found in various places and in various religions. Until all my relentless searches led me to Jesus, my soul knew no rest. No matter what I tried, in the end was the hollowness in my heart that awaited at the dead-end of that path.
In the void of my physical father -due to his alcoholism and emotional issues- I was led to find my spiritual father. The earthly connection that threatened my sense of safety made me search for meaningful connections. What I desired was a connection where I was understood fully and cared for wholly, not just my body but my mind and soul as well. My high school years offered me with such developmental ideals. I found emotional security within the deep friendship, my desire for knowledge was encouraged by the caring teachers, and my soul felt at home at least while at school. Since I did not have a faith system to subscribe to, this was my church- my school system. But that was back in the nineties in South Korea. A lot has changed now, especially in the school systems.
That perhaps was why I was thinking about my high school years that summer evening when I finally had a name for my daughter. It is only natural to be reminiscent of my first church- which was my school- on the ground of my local parish that I cherish. I was missing that deep and meaningful connection I had in my high school years. And even now, several years later, I still frequently visit this statue for the same reasons. I still long for a deep and meaningful connection. Yes, I have a loving family of my own, dear friends from the past and present. And yes, I have God in my heart now. Yes, I know Jesus by His name and He knows my name as well. But some days, my yearning for the nameless One- or the one with so many names- is so intense. On those days, I have to physically see, hear, and feel the One and Only that possesses the power to put off the fire deep inside my soul.
When I quietly sit still here in His presence, I soon clearly realize that the burning fire of amazing love inside me is not my own. It is God’s love for me, His intense will for the salvation of my soul, and His never-ending desire for me to know Him deeply. How unbelievable is it that God so desires to be loved back by me? Even though He has no need for such. Every time I come here, I come believing that I was the one calling on God. The truth is, it is God calling me to this place, to shower me with His love, and I am merely responding to His desire for me. All along, throughout my searching years, I thought I was looking for God. But no, it was God who was on the search for me. He was calling me even before I knew His name. In His love I was created, and for this great Love of His I exist.
And Just as He has knocked on my heart for so many years, I know now that He is calling my daughter with that same intense love of His. Where do you want to go now? I had asked her. Church! She had simply responded. But I now know that it was God’s call for her. He was drawing her near to Him. I took her to Jesus and desperately prayed that only His great love govern her soul. I prayed that she may find a place of peace and quiet where she can see, hear, and feel God intimately, just as this place is for me.