From nearly agnostic to nearly Catholic

I mentioned a while back that I’d write a post about my near agnosticism, and now seems as good a time as any to share. Especially since so much of my life today is so different. And also because I’ve been reflecting a lot as I prepare for Confirmation. So here goes.

This is now I nearly left my Christian faith and also nearly declared agnosticism.

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I’ve loved Jesus much of my life. My family didn’t even go to church much when I was very small, and I loved the line from Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” that goes: “She loves Jesus, and America too.” Mostly because of the Jesus part. I can understand the idea of Catholicism as a journey of faith, because even though I have a little card I signed as a child where I prayed the “Sinners Prayer,” I don’t feel like it was that one particular moment that defined my Christianity.

I’d say my early faith life generally was one of growth, with hills and valleys throughout. But a couple of years into JP and my marriage, I hit a really big valley. I was a “good” person, who went to church on Sunday, and even led worship. I knew all the right things to say to fit in with all the church people, and I knew how to do all the church things. But at a certain point, I started asking the question: “Is this it?” Is this all there is to it? Is Jesus just some fairy tale story that is too ridiculous to actually believe? If so… why am I hanging out with all these people that think it’s true? Why am I getting people to raise their hands in “worship” on Sunday morning, when I don’t even know that I believe the words I’m saying. After church on Sunday, you wouldn’t know my life was any different from someone who wasn’t religious at all. I looked exactly the same as anyone else.

Jesus, other than my churchy stuff, had become irrelevant in my life.

I started reading some Richard Dawkins, and listening to debates from prominent Athiests vs. prominent Christians.  Athiests are as equally confident that life is meaningless as Christians are that life is meaningful, and I was turned off by their arrogance. I found that I couldn’t align with their superiority complex and confidence that life is meaningless and somehow, also valuable. I couldn’t reconcile the two, and still don’t know how they do.

Which left me at, possibly, agnostic. God was probably there, but didn’t really have much relevance or interaction in the day to day life of mankind. JP and I had conversations about what kinds of prayer God would answer, and how involved he might be, and kind of determined that he probably wasn’t that involved, and that humans were probably overall pretty petty with their self-interested prayer requests. If God existed, why would he care about those trivial things? Just, honestly speaking, I would have people offer to pray for me and I’d nod and say amen and not have paid much attention to what they said. I would pray at Bible study, and say the right words with the right emotion and inflection, and not believe anything outside of the group of us in that living room paid my words any heed. I shudder to think now how nearly far gone I had gone. I think, to most, I probably hid it well.

Thankfully, though, it didn’t stop there. I found that when you believe something for your entire life, you have a hard time letting go of it easily. I decided to give things one more close look. Was Christianity believing a fairy tale and going to a social club of like-minded people on Sundays? Or was there more to it? If there was more to it, I wanted in. If there wasn’t, I had to find a way out and quit wasting my time.

I read books like “If God Were Real” by John Avant and “The Reason For God” by Tim Keller. Then I read some CS Lewis. And then some Jen Hatmaker, for good measure. All these people combined presented to me a view of Christianity that was all these things: rational, exciting, challenging, life-giving, life-changing, and world-changing. I was beyond relieved to know that Christianity was, plain and simply, more. It was about more than me. But also about less than me… about making myself small and allowing God to make Himself big in my life. I was drawn in by the idea of Jesus using us as his literal and physical hands and feet on this earth to help bring peace and healing to a hurting world. I was engulfed with passion about social justice, freeing the captives, feeding the hungry. And I thought- aha! I have found it! What this faith is meant to be- and I am in- all in!

And I no longer had a great interest in being very a nice person, sitting on nice couches, in nice living rooms and talking about Jesus. Some of that can be good and uplifting, but mostly, I wanted to live Jesus in the corner of the world in which He has put me. I wanted to follow Jesus. Wherever and whenever he told me to go.  I wanted to get my hands dirty and start doing what He has called me to do. And, sadly to me, I still remember people holding up their figurative yield signs, warning us against focusing on works too much and reminding us that we can’t do everything (except for that which Christ has called us to do- Lorelei’s own personal thought that she didn’t say out loud at the time.)

And again, I thought. No. I don’t want to be a part of this. Only this time I wasn’t talking about Christianity as a religion. I was talking about the comfortable Americanized version of Christianity. I came to acknowledge that I no longer fit there. But, then… where did I fit?

I started asking questions about what the purpose of church was… and what the early Church was like… and at first I couldn’t really find anyone who could give me any answers. Because for some reason, we don’t study the early Church much, or know how early Christians did things, or understand much about the Judaism that Christ himself claimed to fulfill, or even think that it is relevant at all to how we live our lives today. I wanted depth of theology that backed how my soul was telling me my faith was meant to be lived out… I couldn’t get past the surface in many situations. I was so frustrated with the idea that church was a place where I go to be served and emotionally fed and hang out with a bunch of people that all agree with each other. That wasn’t it. I knew there was more.

And then came the night when I was sitting on my couch, and wrestling through all these questions and more and I knew enough about Catholicism to have the thought: “Oh dear, I am thinking like a Catholic.” Which is shortly before the journey of this blog began.

Fast forward.

I am less than a month away from being confirmed in the Catholic church. Here is what I can say about my faith now.

I am reading the Bible more than I have in years.

I am praying more than I have in years.

My marriage is more unified than it has been the entire time we’ve been together.

I find myself, in a rare quiet moment, driving around in my car and just thanking God for all the gifts there are for us in the Catholic faith. The Sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist, mass, the symbols and traditions that help keep our physical bodies and minds lifted heavenward toward Jesus. I’m thinking about Jesus more. I’m desiring holiness more. I still have a long way to go toward sainthood but I am so thankful for God’s abundant grace! Everything in me is growing more whole.

There is such depth and beauty in the Catholic faith. This Jesus of ours is not a stupid fairy tale. He is Reality itself. Everything makes more sense. Thank you Jesus for the grace to allow me to find that the fullness of my Christian faith will be lived out by becoming Catholic. And thank you Jesus that Easter Vigil is only a few weeks away!

Weary of The Talks

Well… this is getting … exhausting.  I’m upset today. And tired. The reason these conversations have been taking so long to have with all the people we need to have them with, is that they just plain wipe me out and exhaust me. I can only do so many in a stretch. The goal of this post is to just provide a real and truthful entry into how difficult this has been. In fact, it actually worked in our favor at the end of the Talk today that I was so emotional about it. I was able to say that even though this is clearly so incredibly difficult for me, I am still going. He acknowledged that that meant something. So, here’s an inside look into some of the specific struggles and emotions associated with converting from Protestantism to Catholicism.

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I think the crux of it is that we are, as we were told today, thought of as deep thinkers, and the idea of us making this change is almost inconceivable. How could such deep thinkers become Catholic? I suggest, that is precisely why we are becoming Catholic. It doesn’t reconcile with them. I can understand that would provoke emotion. There is so much more respect for theological differences between Protestant denominations than there is between Protestants and Catholics.

There are so many times when I am in one of the “Talks” and I don’t feel like I have the right words to say at the right moment. We were talking today with someone who has a Masters in Divinity, so there was no way we were going to know more than him in some areas. I respect the time he’s devoted to his study of God.

But… if I could have said everything I wanted to say, at the right moment… I did say some things, but, man, when words fail. They fail too much in my opinion. Right when I need them. Some things I know the answers to, or at least can explain my thinking on, some things I don’t. But I am comforted to know that logical, cohesive answers are out there, and easily accessible to me. Just not in the middle of difficult conversations, unfortunately. And, you know what, maybe that is good for me in the long run. I am not a know-it-all. I have a lot to learn. But, I still feel like it would be nice to be able to explain myself like I can on this blog when I’m in a conversation with somebody.

One of the most hurtful parts of this all is that I have been a Christian since I could comprehend who Jesus was. I have had Catholic people question my faith when I was Protestant, and now I have Protestant people questioning my faith now that I’m becoming Catholic. It’s just difficult.

I respect others as deep thinking people who have good and sincere reasons for their beliefs, even if we disagree. I do believe in Truth, but to push so hard on someone who has so much in common with you such as to make them cry is too much… but then I find myself acknowledging I’ve been on the other side of things- I’ve unintentionally pushed too hard and upset some friends. So it’s on me, too.

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All that to say, we have been very thankful for the support of everyone who has been supportive so far. One of the arguments we heard today was that all of our friends think this is a bad decision, so it should give us pause. He didn’t know about the many friends and family in on the other side of things that are happy for us, and support the decision.

Everyone’s prayers and encouragement are definitely heard and felt. In fact, my Confirmation Sponsor, JP’s Aunt Lorraine, arranged for the Nuns of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery to pray for our family during this time.

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The card from the Nuns of the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery.

Prayer for our family starts today and goes through the 22nd.

Please, pray for our family as we continue this journey. Pray for strength of faith, for grace from and for friends and for relationships to be preserved. For the wisdom of what words to say and what words not to say. For us to be able to provide a different face to Catholicism to our Protestant friends, to break down walls and barriers and to remove misconceptions through our love and our lives.