“It’s all good.”

All too often that phrase is espoused as a posture to deflect or avoid conflict. Rather than confront conflict and manage it, the passive route is taken because it is the easiest one to take.

I was raised a cradle Catholic. Born into a Catholic family, I was baptized at the age of one and I attended Catholic school from K-12. In the span of that time, I did it all with regards to Catholic traditions. Alter boy, lector, eucharistic minister; I was so involved in my faith my aunt was convinced I was on my way to seminary.

Then I went away to college, making the leap from living in a Cuban-American bubble in Miami to the jazzy streets of New Orleans. To say my time at Tulane University was a culture shock is an understatement. To say I made the most of my first experience living away from home would be even more so.

Part of the freedom that came with living on campus and being on my own was deciding for myself if I was going to make an effort to attend Mass on Sunday mornings. When your Saturday nights consist of Bourbon Street, beignets, and beer chasers, there’s not much other than sleep that makes the priority list for Sundays. You could say my first year in New Orleans was like a Will Hoge song. Although I did celebrate my faith on occasion, the consistency and intentionality was nothing compared to what I exercised in high school.

Fast-forward fifteen years. I was recently separated from my wife and trying to do the best I could in a co-parenting situation. My daughter had completed her first communion and now I was sitting through the Parish-mandated parent meeting – again – in preparation for my son’s sacramental experience. The person conducting the training/meeting told a story about how she recently had an argument with her husband, she realized she was in the wrong, and when she went to bed that night, she kept her back to her husband in order to, “save face.”

Save face.

It was as if a switch had been flipped in my head. All of a sudden I found myself looking around the room and coming to the realization I didn’t know anyone there. Sure, I had said hello to them in the pews and perhaps greeted them out of obligation at the local Publix, but I didn’t know anyone in that room. I had never invited anyone over for dinner. There was no sense of fellowship with any of the other parents. From my perspective, I was not in community with any of the people at my church.

Wait. What did she say? ‘Save face’?” I replayed that phrase over and over in my head. I tuned out everything else she said and focused on the egregious and theologically flawed idea that the best way to handle conflict with your spouse, especially when you’re at fault, is to not seek reconciliation and basically lie through omission. There we were sitting in the house of God, a God who grants us mercy and forgiveness when we don’t deserve either, and the message being conveyed was, “just pretend it’s all good.”

I left that day and never returned. For me, that was the day I stopped being Catholic.

Three years later I found myself re-married and walking through the doors of a non-denominational Christian church for the first time. It was a first step in finding a way for my wife, who was raised Southern Baptist, and me to celebrate our love of God together. I maintain in all that time I never had a crisis of faith but rather a crisis of church. And it was at that church that I learned it’s not about what I do (salvation through works), but rather what’s been done for me (we are saved by grace through faith).

It was there that my eyes were opened to what being a part of a church community meant. It was there that I learned the importance of participating in my faith and getting involved with the other members of my church. It was there that I truly learned the more we serve, the more we grow in Christ. It was there that I first experienced real, authentic, ugly, gritty, tear-jerking, uncomfortable, thought-provoking, heart-expanding relationships, all of them bookmarked by the love and grace of Christ.

Gone were the facades. Gone were the pretenses. Gone were the ideas that having it all together and ‘saving face’ were things to be celebrated. It wasn’t “all good,” but at the same time, the experiences and new relationships were all so very, very good.

We serve a real God who loves us and wants us to be joy-filled in all we do. Despite our pasts, in light of our flaws, and because of our imperfections, He loves us. And it’s been my experience the more honest we are with ourselves, the more we can really plug into a relationship with Him.

You see, once you accept that God cherishes you just the way you are, there’s no need to make others think you’re something you’re not. Once we pivot from doing things for our benefit to doing things for His glory, then can we say with confidence, “It’s all good.”

Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.Galatians 1:10 NLT


4 thoughts on “On The Surface

  1. As one who dislikes confrontation, I can relate. Thanks for sharing your personal journey of finding the Jesus who loves you and me and all beyond any masks we wear. I always enjoy your posts, Gil. Keep writing!

    1. Thank you so much, CJ. We all walk our different faith journeys, but so long as we seek Christ in all we do, we’ll share in His Kingdom forever.

      I miss seeing you and our writing clan, and I hope all is well with you.

  2. Gil,

    Thank you for sharing. My next statement will take you by surprise! I agree with you!! There I said it. With that said, I would like to use a sentence from your post in order to share with you and those who will read this response, my reasoning as to why I am in agreement with you. “It was there that I learned the importance of participating in my faith and getting involved with the other members of my church.” This is key regardless of what religion one professes to follow. You searched and found community and fellowship with Christ. You decided to participate with the Baptist community. You decided to get involved and share your faith of God with this community. You made your choice, and there is nothing wrong with that. I am very happy for you that you did. God is not a God of any one religion, culture, or nationality. God is the God of all, and He loves everyone and everything He has created; so much so that He allows us to CHOOSE!

    We shared the same upbringing and schools. We both lived out of state for several years. I too fell from the Catholic faith and did not practice my faith for years. But now, my wife and I have been involved with a Catholic Marriage Movement for the past 19 years. I will say that I have been a practicing Catholic man since I decided to return to the Catholic Church over 27 years ago.

    I am very sorry that the person speaking to you during the sacramental preparation said that she wanted to “save face”. I believe it was a poor choice of words on her part. In our marriage ministry we work on learning and providing several, Catholic based, communication techniques for married couples, among many other marriage topics. One of them is to allow the situation to calm down before continuing the discussion. Nothing is gained when two people are so heated and caught up in the argument that LISTENING to each other is not possible. “Saving Face” may have been here way of allowing that night’s sleep to calm each other down. Her choice of words must not be interpreted as being a result of being CATHOLIC. I am very sorry that you did and respect your and all other people’s decision to seek and find a church that allows for your faith in Christ to grow and flourish.

    Yes, there are many people in the Catholic Church, and any religion for that matter, who are “going through the motions” and even being hypocritical about their faith. But this is not true of just Catholicism. The biggest fault any person has with “going through the motions” is that he or she has not chosen to FORM himself or herself in their faith. Regardless of the denomination one professes to believe in, one must choose to be learned about the basic truths upon which each denomination is based on. If not, a person may inadvertently turn another away from the faith he or she is trying to share.

    “later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature”‘ – Mark 16:14-15. Jesus charge the eleven to spread the Good News to those who “had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.”. Why the eleven? Because they were witness to Jesus’ teachings and the word. We must make every effort to choose Jesus and become witness of the word, regardless of what religion or denomination we choose.

    I take this charge from Christ very seriously and it is why I always prepare any teaching I am to give. I will research the bible, Catholic doctrine, the Catechism, Papal Encyclicals, and any catholic resource available to me so that when I share my teaching with others, I can be the best witness to the Catholic faith. My faith in Catholicism is not determined by what is said by any one person, but rather, from the rich and abundant teachings of the Catholic Church I have learned from and come to understand.

    Please understand that my intention of this response is in no way an attempt to sway you or anyone to the Catholic Faith, but rather, to convey that we must all search for Jesus in our own way and respect each other’s decision to do so and each other’s religion.

    As I said earlier, God is the God of all, and He loves everyone and everything He has created; so much so that He allows us to CHOOSE!

    Your “Big” Brother in Christ,


    1. I did not decide to “participate with the Baptist community.” Not every Protestant church is ‘Baptist’, and my experience with Relevant Church in Tampa is one that was non-denominational.

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