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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Journey Towards The Church: The Beginning or Am I Saved?

These last few days my mind has been drifting from thought to thought and writing has not come easily.

I'll begin by asking you for your prayers for a friend who is very dear to me, who is struggling through her last days on this earth.  My heart is breaking for her, and I know that she would appreciate your prayers (and I appreciate them greatly).

Amid the whirlwind of thoughts that I've been trying to order, I awoke to find a short comment on an old post that told me to quit whining about people saying that Catholics are wrong and going to Hell, because there's a scriptural basis for it.

Right. Well.

In the midst of my prayers I have been asking now and then for some inspiration to help me find the words that God wants me to be writing... and since the answer has felt like silence these past couple weeks, you've gotten to see a lot of pictures of the kids.

Yet this comment inspired the post that follows, which answers far more than the original commentator likely would have asked, if they had managed to form there insult in the form of a question (which they didn't).  And so, this is the post, which came from his insistence that damning Catholics is "scriptural."

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I began my first steps towards my conversion when I met my husband who told me he would never be anything but Catholic.  But while it was my marriage that propelled me on those first few steps down this path that I've been stumbling and running and walking and crawling along ever since, it was something far more than our blossoming relationship that compelled me to embrace the faith that I found within the Church.

Before I met my husband my faith had all but been destroyed.  This crisis was helped along quite a bit by a certain "Catholic" professor who gave a very convincing (to my 18 year old self) argument claiming that Jesus was neither the son of God, nor God himself and that he'd never claimed that there was a afterlife.  But even without that particular rubbish class, I was having my own problems.

I'd read the Bible and read the Bible and read the Bible, but I felt like a piece was missing and I hung on the words in Matthew chapter 7, which seemed to indicate that once saved always saved, which I believed was the basis for all Christian denominations, was missing something.  Here are the words that so grated in my mind:
Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'  And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.  Matthew 7: 21-23
Wait, what?  Because that sounded to me like there might be something more involved in salvation than that formula of words accepting Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior.  And when I learned that Paul didn't believe that we were all saved simply by believing in Jesus, I burst into tears.  "How could anyone not believe that!"  I railed. "It was just so, so mean!  If you said the words you were saved!"  I might have yelled (okay... I did yell... let's be honest here).  "That's what Christians believe!"

But the truth was, that very fear had been there all along, causing me to repeat that prayer, that oral formula for salvation, over and over again.  I remember rolling that verse over in my head, when I was not yet ten years old and fearing that maybe, just maybe I wasn't saved just because I'd "asked Jesus to come into my heart."  What if I said the words wrong?  What if they weren't loud enough?  They had to be proclaimed publicly?  What if I did it wrong? I worried.  Something just felt off.

I begged God for a sign that I really was saved and then berated myself for asking.  Was that testing God? I'd worry.  I was fairly sure I wasn't supposed to do that.

Of course by then the seed of doubt had been planted by conversations with other friends of various denominations.  One had said you had to be baptized to go to heaven... and I wasn't yet baptized.  She could site scripture to back up her claim... and I'd felt sick to my stomach.  I was still a few years away from being old enough to be baptized in our church, where baptism was seen as a symbolic expression of ones faith, but was not seen as necessary for salvation.

I worried about it for several years and felt an enormous wave of relief wash over me when I was finally emerged from the waters of our church's baptismal pool a few years later, when I was twelve years old.  There. I'd done it.  I didn't have to worry anymore.

Still, Jesus' words in Matthew just wouldn't get out of my head.  What did he mean?

In college, my crisis of faith reached full force and I fell away from any belief at all.  I drifted.  Agnostic.  I went through a Buddhist phase.  A Communist phase.  Nothing mattered if you didn't hurt other people, right?  And if I did do something "wrong" God, whatever he/she was would understand in his infinite compassion and mercy? After all he told us to forgive even when an apology hadn't been offered.  Wouldn't he do the same?

Yet everything was empty.  Years of emptiness, stretching from my confused faith until that moment when I lay in bed and read the words "if I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall hold me and your right hand shall guide me.  If I say, surely darkness shall fall on me, then even the night shall be light about me.  For the night shall night hide me from you..."

I whispered a prayer... a hollow, dry prayer, asking God to help me believe... if he was there... and if he wanted me to believe.

And that was what I had been missing all along.  You see, all I'd ever needed to do was ask and be open to what was coming next...

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Since this post is already rather long, I'm going to write it in parts.  And this seems like a good place to end part one.  Part two can be read here.

7 comments:

  1. Being a Cradle Catholic, I love reading the journey of converts. I find that even though there was some understanding about the sacraments,etc. I really just went through the motions as a kid. As an adult I understand better what they are and so wish that they had given so much more instruction while I was in sacraments classes.

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  2. Loving this - looking forward to your next. And thank you for sharing it all :)

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  3. As a new convert (just received into the Church at Easter) I love reading conversion stories! I can also relate to parts of your story and can't wait to read the rest! I get so excited to read blogs like yours, a faithful Catholic who follows the Magesterium. I'm not exactly surrounded by faithful Catholics in my family or my circle of friends, but I try very hard to live the faith, not just be Catholic in name.

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  4. Can't wait for part 2! One convert to another!

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  5. In the interest of fairness (feel free to delete this comment) this post has been referenced and backlinked here:

    http://auditorandagentleman.blogspot.com/2013/06/fantasy-became-reality.html

    The title seems more aggressive than the context - nothing but praise. Honestly. Very well done. :)

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  6. Thanks for sharing your story with us

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  7. I found your blog while doing a search for images of St. John de LaSalle. What a beautiful conversion story! Thank you for beginning my day filled with love for Our Lord!

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