I am in church, halfway through a sermon about Solomon and wisdom. It’s a sight to behold, me and my long face, secretly hating being there, tapping my feet against the floor, imagining I am in Italy walking along the corso at night with beautiful flowing hair. In my head, I’m finishing a lemon gelato and watching the stars as I swing hands with an unidentifiable but very handsome man. I am complaining to God that all this is boring, I know it already, and when will church be glamorous again? The man and I ride a tandem bicycle through the streets of Rome. Much more interesting, isn’t it?
What? The day dream dissolves and I’m looking into the face of Christ in the icon of the Mother and Child to the left of the crucifix.
I can’t. I can’t get confirmed- I am still exploring orthodoxy. I am still only 22! I am still young in faith and I still only really want to be with Jesus some of the time!
It’s his voice from Italy, his voice from the museum with Botticelli and Mary and the lion’s roar of love and desire for me, me, who now sits in church complaining. I go silent. This is not the Italy of the bicycle and the gelato and the swinging hands and the stars. This is the Italy of self given over to God almost without even realizing it, a promise made sitting on a bench in the Uffizzi, heart bursting, the rest of the group scattered through the long hallways. I think the priest is still talking, something about Solomon and wisdom, but all I can hear is his voice.
“I want you to get confirmed.”
I start to cry, my resistant self trying to make it a conversation, an argument, my heart already saying yes and knowing that this must be. For how could it be otherwise?
It’s the next Sunday. I thought about skipping confirmation class. I thought about hiding. Or being sick. Or just not having time. But I slide onto the edge of the chair and whisper a prayer – why am I here again, Lord? and write the date in my notebook.
He answers me with the Kenyan Book of Common Prayer: “Will you be alert and watchful, and firmly resist your enemy the devil?”
Fr. Brian asks us which will be the hardest promise – the ones about justice and feeding the hungry and preaching Christ to our neighbors and loving others and seeking reconciliation?
In a tremulous voice, I say – “That last one – be alert and watchful, and firmly resist your enemy the devil. That one will be hardest for me.”
Be alert, it says in 1 Peter. Your adversary the devil prowls outside your door like a lion. He waits for us to become lazy, to start daydreaming about mysterious boys on bicycles in Italy, about how boring everything is, about how we have the short end of the stick in almost everything. He waits for us to forget who God is, who we are… He has his own kind of patience, this enemy who prowls like a lion. Suddenly I understand – how this confirmation, this moment of commissioning and prayer, the hands of the bishop on my head with prayers for the Spirit to come upon me?
This is the grace to be alert.
This is the preparation to keep these big promises.
This is asking for a heart to hear the Lord, to watch for Him.
So I journey these next four weeks, deeper into the grace of renewed baptismal promises, deeper into prayer for the Holy Spirit’s presence, deeper into watchfulness. Perhaps you’ll come with me, as I reflect on this new path I’m trembling down?
Be alert, I whisper to my heart. Be alert, for He will do marvelous things.