Sin and Sauerkraut

Sin and Sauerkraut

It was either Lent or Advent. One of the two. I know this because we were getting ready for a school-wide penance service.

All of Ms. Q’s 6th grade religion class was seated in a circle on the floor. Ms. Q. was at 12:00, holding a bowl of the most disgusting concoction I’ve ever seen: canned liver-flavored dog food mixed with sauerkraut.

“If ANYONE moves a muscle, if ONE DROP of this gets on the floor or if ANYONE puts this on anyone else, you WILL get detention. Immediately.”

Boy if that doesn’t strike terror into the mind of an 11-year-old. Let’s hope I really was the teacher’s pet in this case.

“Now hold out your hands.”

Oh, gross. Must we?

For the first time in, like, ever, you could hear an ant crawling.

With the fear of God in our hearts, each of us accepted that gross pile of crap. Ms. Q. explained,

“This is what sin looks like on your soul. When we go to Confession, it’s like taking a shower. God washes away all that gunk.”

I’m sure she was more eloquent, but that is what I remember. I also remember being in girl’s room afterwards, scrubbing my hands and bumming lotion and hand-sanitizer off my cousin who was in 8th grade at the time. (1999 was the year of Bath and Body Works mania, thank God!)

Some say that Ms. Q. was out of her mind that day- but I’ve always considered this a stroke of genius. Sin is ugly. It really is. And even though an 11-year-old might not be able to understand all the consequences that sin can bring later in life, she can understand that something that smells and looks like worm-infested vomit isn’t something she wants in her life.  In fact, 16 years later, that inner 11-year-old can still remember the smell. And though my understanding of Confession has since deepened, the thought of a spiritual hand-washing still motivates me on occasion. (If you’d like to read some deeper, more adult thoughts on the subject, click here.)

Thank you, Ms. Q., for instilling in me a sense of spiritual hygiene. And, um, pass the lotion, please.

He Cried More

He Cried More

Last night I went to my first healing service. I never would have gone on my own, but my mother-in-law has been inviting me for a few months now, so I went. Knock long enough and the door opens.

At one point in the night, I went to confession to a priest I’ve never met, and I told him about the trauma of learning at age 16 that I was born without a uterus. I told him that I didn’t even feel like I belong at a “women’s night” when I’m missing something that is so central to what we perceive womanhood to be. Little girls play with baby dolls, and as Christians we hold a deep love and admiration for the mother of Jesus. I didn’t even know if I would be allowed to be married. I didn’t know how a potential husband would take the news. Pregnancies and talk of “starting a family” bring up a host of traumatic memories and wounds so deep that many will never understand. We talked about that for a long time. And he said something to me that no one has ever said before.

“As much as you’ve cried over this, since age 16, God cried more.”

The priest continued, “He loves life, He loves babies! He didn’t plan for this to happen to you. He is right there with you.”

I have never “blamed” God for MRKH, but I always just kind of assumed that he must be ok with it, since he allowed it. But there is evil in the world as a result of sin, and it has nothing to do with the paradise that God originally planned. There is physical evil, like Ebola and cancer and the common cold, and there is natural evil, like hurricanes and tornadoes… and being born without a uterus. He didn’t want this to happen. It wasn’t part of the plan. It grieves him too.

He cried more.