By the time I was nine years old, I had a huge passion for Jesus. I loved Keith Green and remember attending one of his concerts not long before he died. He was passionate for the Lord and it was something I could sense in every word he spoke and sang. I wanted to be a part of it all and I accepted Christ into my heart as my Lord and Savior. It's a moment many Protestant parents dream of: when their child makes this choice to be a follower of Jesus. Not long after that, I was baptized in a local public pool with my family and other church members in attendance.
It seems necessary for me to mention that my mother took us to church alone because my father was not a believer. My mother accepted Christ shortly after they were married and this is where her journey of prayer for my father began. I would be another 30 years or so before he would follow suit. He accepted Christ September 9, 2005 and was baptized on June 27, 2006... an occasion we'd all awaited for so long.
I continued to grow up in church. Over the course of my 31 years, I've attended eight different non-denominational churches. They were all similar in practice and doctrine and I never had any reason to doubt anything I was taught. I thought all Christians believed in the same essential truths but that some had practices that were not Biblical. As a non-denominational, I believed that included anyone inside a denomination, especially Catholics, which were likely farther from the truth than any other. I believed that while there were some truly "saved" Christians in Catholic churches, if they were truly saved, they would likely find their way out and when I would meet one that had a visible passion for God, I'd simply hope that they would find their way to a greater truth and leave the Catholic Church.
Through most of elementary school, I was a happy kid with a great sense of humor and passion for life. I loved Jesus and I didn't understand why anyone wouldn't. As I grew a bit older, I realized that my passion for God was something that separated me from the majority of my peers. I was called a "good little Christian girl" and though a part of me was proud of that, it seemed a greater part of me was hurt by it. I didn't want a label and I didn't want to be different. My status as a "good little Christian girl" did not get me in with the popular crowd and I spent much of my adolescence as a loner. I lost my happiness, my sense of humor and my passion for God.
I never stopped believing in God and I knew I loved Him and that He loved me (at least in my mind) but I was not bold unless I felt I had to defend something. In high school, I was miserable. I attended high school with kids I'd known most of my life who would not give me the time of day. Friends came and friends went but few stuck around for very long. I was depressed, cynical and pessimistic...
My senior year, I became friends with Damion. I can't remember how it came to be that I hit it off with a guy two years behind me but we were inseparable. We spent hours debating religion and just hanging out together. I finally felt I had a true friend and I fell in love with him. He liked me despite my pessimistic attitude and put up with all my moodiness. Like many good things at that time in my life, the friendship and all hope for a dating relationship came to an abrupt end that slowly began to be mended about the time I graduated from high school. Damion went to another school the following year and over time, we lost all contact with each other. But I never forgot him and he held a very special place in my heart.
Though I never stopped attending church, I spent the next several years making very poor choices. In short, I was married three different times, never to a Christian man and never with any thought about Biblical marriage. I just did whatever I wanted to do and lived my life any way that I wanted to live it in the moment, believing that no matter what I did, though it might have earthly consequences, I would be forgiven and my salvation was assured. The consequences of my poor choices brought three blessings into my life: my children.
My faith over the years had dwindled, at least in heart, and I no longer felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. I still attended church regularly and wished that I would feel "something". The only time I'd pray is when I was so low in self-pity, I didn't know what else to do. I attended Bible studies and other small groups, always with the hope of being "grabbed" and regaining that feeling of faith that I had as a child. It never came. One day, I was informed that I should not expect to ever feel that way again. It broke my heart. If I would never feel passion for Christ like that again, why even bother with the whole thing at all? Yet, I continued to attend church and other small groups, still waiting and hoping to be grabbed but doubting it would EVER happen. Where is God? Why bother praying when it changes nothing?
In this time, I also found that I had a serious problem with depression. Counseling only took me so far and so I began to take anti-depressants. They helped... took the edge off the depression and anxiety and allowed me to be a calmer and more rational person in my everyday existence.
In late June 2005, I found Damion through an internet search and we decided to meet. I discovered, much to my surprise, that he was a Christian and much to my dismay that he was a Catholic. I thought I'd just pray him out of the Catholic Church and all it's error. He was "just a Christian attending a Catholic Church" and it would only be a matter of time before I could show him the errors and he'd leave.
Instead, when issues of faith came up, we did nothing but argue. I continuously found more and more things that were debatable ... things I never even KNEW were up for debate. I understood that Christ wanted unity with all Christians and especially in marital relationships and Damion and I both strongly felt we were brought together by God... But how could two Christians be at such extreme odds with one another? There were days when our arguments would cause me to doubt whether or not I even wanted to be a Christian at all. We got to the point where we could not discuss issues of faith at all and the subject was ignored for several months. Every time I heard anything about Catholicism I'd cringe.
What is truth?
If I am to believe that God exists, then there must be an absolute truth. He would not want us blindly following a false interpretation of his living Word. Between Damion and I, if we are supposed to be able to agree on issues of faith, then who has to bend? Could it be me?
Around the beginning of May 2006, I hit a very deep low point with my faith. It is difficult to reflect on those feelings adequately even three months later because the despair I felt was so painful.
On May 8, 2006, I wrote:
I absolutely struggle with the concept that God can fix, heal or solve anything. Thing is, even though I know he CAN, I always doubt that he WILL. I also know how little effort I put into believing that he will...
It is difficult for me to admit that my head knowledge does not often reach my heart. Easy for me to tell someone else to pray about something but when it comes to myself, I don't because I don't believe it will make any difference whatsoever. Prayer often feels like an empty one-sided conversation...
I read otherwise, see otherwise, know in my head otherwise... but cannot seem to apply it to my own life and problems... as if they are too big and God is unwilling... They aren't too big but I still don't know if God is willing. I cannot know if God is willing if I don't surrender it to Him... but to be honest, I do not know how to do that and on an even more honest level, I fear the response for such obedience.
I hate to admit it but I question my faith right now more than I ever have before and more than I ever thought I would. I almost feel that in the big picture, I nearly lack faith completely at this point... and although I want to turn it around, I feel like I lack something necessary... perhaps the faith itself.
I have never felt such self-loathing, despair, hopelessness and helplessness. I find joy in very few things. Perhaps He is breaking me... I feel devastation with nothing to feel devastated about except the lack of faith itself... it pains and saddens me very deeply.
But I cannot give up.... though I'd like to just cease to exist... to walk away... to push aside the reality of God and His great existence, I can't. I know Him to be True... to be unfailing, loving, sacrificial... the Savior. This life is not an accident. My problems, my doubts, my fears... they all serve a purpose. God has given them to me with a long-term purpose in mind... something I prayed for long ago. The only thing I have faith in right now is that I will not be in "this place" forever...
While sitting in service on Sunday, my faithlessness and all, there was a small and fleeting moment where the Holy Spirit touched me. I nearly burst into tears but quickly pushed it aside. It hurts... I don't want to be broken. I don't want to break. I don't want to feel the pain of it all... I don't want to face the reality... so I just keep ignoring it, pretending all is well. "I'll be fine."
I tell myself to just work it out on my own. "Don't tell anyone... no one will understand..."
But I realize I'm putting God in a box... limiting what He is capable of doing and His awesomeness.
God is infinite... indescribable, immeasurable, uncontainable...
This, I believe, was the start of an amazing change. I just wanted to know what was true with no doubts. Was I really saved? Was my belief big enough? Had I lost my faith? Would I never again feel the passion I felt as a child?
I joined a Christian online forum. Little did I know, but this forum was focused on evangelizing Catholics out of the Catholic Church. The debates were HUGE and argumentative and I found myself joining in and arguing against Catholicism with fervor though inside, I just wanted everyone to find something in common. On both sides, some posts were loving while others were spiteful and condemning. But one day, in the midst of a debate, my entire attitude suddenly changed. I suddenly wanted to understand how Catholics KNEW that the Catholic Church was the church Christ founded and how they knew that the early church fathers didn't mess it up. It was such a bold claim to make that I had to know what they had to back it up. One Catholic poster thought I was being sarcastic (the drawback of debating in writing) but I was serious and I made a request for a God-loving and kind Catholic to sincerely answer my question. One did... I could not fully grasp the answer at that time but I abandoned that forum and began to take a genuine look at Catholicism... not from non-Catholics but from Catholics themselves. I reasoned, "Would I want a Mormon learning about Christianity from other Mormons?"
I had to go to the source and I had to keep all my searching private for now. I did not want to be swayed by anyone close to me in any direction. I wanted to search for truth with the help of God alone. I began listening to Catholic radio and on the first day, I tuned in to the conversion story of Drake McCalister. I could not believe that I was hearing someone from a Protestant background who converted TO Catholicism. Weren't they supposed to leave the Catholic Church if they were true Christians? His story was amazing and since I could hear his voice via radio, I was able to hear the passion for God in his voice. He sounded no less Christian than any other Christian I had known.
Since then, I've been doing a lot of reading and have a lot more to do. But one thing keeps coming to mind:
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesare'a Philip'pi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?"
14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli'jah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
16 Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.
19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
What continuously sticks out at me is that Christ said he would not let the powers of death (or gates of Hades) prevail against His church. The Catholic Church traces its origin all the way back to Jesus Christ himself and they were essentially (with the exception of Orthodoxy 1054 AD) the only church for the first 1500 years.
Either Christ did as He promised and protected His church, or he did not. Did He lie to us? If Christ did not do as He promised, this would force me into, at most, agnosticism. On the other hand, if Christ kept his promise, then the only logical conclusion is to assume that the Catholic Church is his church. The term "catholic" was used as early as the first century.
At this point, I realize that I must either enter the Catholic Church or completely denounce my life-long faith in God, in which I find there to be too much evidence for His vast existence.
There are many other dogmas of the Catholic faith that I have come to accept... others, I do not yet understand. But I know that God will be faithful because this is where He has taken me. Many will not understand this decision and I anticipate the loss of many of my Christian friends, but I do not follow them, nor would it be right for me to do so.
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me."
Saint Augustine wrote, "Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand."
For the first time since childhood, I am beginning to feel a little tug by the Holy Spirit, letting me know that I'm being obedient to God... There are so many other things that I have learned so far, I could not possible share them all on this opening page.
I invite you to read my blog and to come back often to share in my journey with me. I no longer believe that salvation is a one-time event but a daily and life-long journey. We are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13).
I would also like to ask anyone willing, to pray for me and my family - that we would continue to grow in faith and follow God wherever He may take us.