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!

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A Heart for Justice and A Rejection of Comfort

I feel like these posts are kind of random as far as order goes. Mostly because I’m thinking about different things on different days, and, though the entry topics may seem random, writing it all down is part of the way I think linearly.

Today I’m thinking about justice and living comfortably.

Obviously, when I started getting emails and seeing my views go from “zero” to “not zero” on this site, I know that some of the family are starting to follow me on this journey. (Hey, guys) :). But one of the most difficult things for me emotionally as I’m going through this is the fact that I haven’t told any of my close friends yet. I know I have to, and I will, but I don’t know when, or how… I’m concerned for people to feel hurt, for them to feel like I’m saying they are totally wrong, which I’m not. I don’t know who will ask a lot of questions and who will just accept it. I don’t know how to answer all the questions they might have. I’m thinking there will be a lot of in-person conversations so we don’t just abruptly disappear from church life. And some of those conversations might not be easy. Which is okay. They are good friends. But our Christianity is really important to all of us, so it will come as a surprise if I do become Catholic at the end of this.

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I have really good friends. This type of reaction is highly unlikely. But it made me chuckle.

Onward. I’m not suggesting that the members of the Catholic Church is immune to apathy, but I do believe it is fact that the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world. And I also know that you can go to some Protestant churches and even attend there for a while without knowing what they are doing to reach the lost on a local and/or global scale. Not all. Some. But it’s still concerning.

Social justice is my heart. Freeing the captives, and all that. I have some small ministries that are a big part of my life right now that I am so compelled to be a part of. I know I’m nothing special on my own, but I also know that God has asked me to be obedient in some things that aren’t super comfortable to do… so I go.

I was once told by an acquaintance that she knew I “was really into social justice” like it was a phase that would pass. I’ve also been told to “be careful about having a works mentality” and that I “can’t do everything.” I felt like it made some people uncomfortable for me to suggest that having our faith in Jesus meant we were obligated to feed hungry tummies, clothe those who are naked, minister to those at the bottom of society, etc. There is a heart for a relationship with God, but a lack of focus on the implications of that relationship on how you live your life towards those in need.

I feel the need to defend that this isn’t everyone. And that similar outlooks probably exists on both sides of the Reformation. But I’ve often felt like I have been rocking the boat a bit for a while now in some situations, and I am concerned that American Christianity leans this way more often than it should.

Which brings me to Pope Francis. As I went through my phase of seeking out the truth in Christianity (which I talk more about in my About Me page,) and was getting so frustrated with the inward nature of how Christianity is lived out in America… like this idea that my faith is supposed to serve me and meet my needs somehow as a primary focus, I notice the Catholic Pope.

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I really like the Pope, guys.

And there Pope Francis is … saying stuff like this and living a life to back it up:

“None of us can think we are exempt from concerns for the poor and for social justice.” -Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 2013, Ch.4, #201

I think if you asked 1,000 American Christians what the biggest thing they struggle with is, you might get a decent amount that share they like being comfortable. I am just not sure that Christianity and comfort mix well. And if that is our struggle as Christians in this country, I hope it lights a fire under us to do something about it and make a change.

I like the Church’s global emphasis on charity, and the accountability it puts on its members to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world through good works. I also like that so much of what the Church requires of its members is uncomfortable.

The whole idea of Christianity, and perhaps more thoroughly articulated in Catholicism is that you conform your life to God’s will, and make your own self smaller, while Christ becomes larger. It is uncomfortable to deny our selfish desires and do things that make God the main focus. Because of sin, we don’t tend there.

For example, it’s uncomfortable, probably, to say your sins out loud during confession… etc… but it’s also, probably, so very good for you.

Side note- I also love all these practices of the Church because in Protestantism you can go to church on Sunday, and sometimes have a small group Bible Study during the week. Other than that, you’re pretty much on your own to find fellowship during the week or have your own personal devotion time, which, by the way, I’ve never been good at in my adulthood. Especially lately. I pray more often than I read the Bible in a personal devotion, mostly because of my growing nervousness to read such a deeply theological book and attempt to accurately get at the intended meaning of the text without some sort of trustworthy guidance. And I’ve been struggling to find Protestant authors who I feel comfortable with as far as theology is concerned (Except C.S. Lewis, love me some C.S. Lewis), and just kind of stopped looking. I was going to read some G.K. Chesterton before this whole thing started, and then recently found out he became Catholic later in life! Fascinating. I’ll get to him.

So, other than reading the Bible on my own, I have had few “official” or “suggested” practices of the faith to help support my growth in Christianity. If I become Catholic, I could go to Mass every day if I wanted to. I have 2 kids so that isn’t likely, but it’s there. Every day. There is Eucharistic Adoration, and a whole bunch of other ways that the faith is practiced throughout the week and on Sundays with the richness of the Mass. The structure of it all is very appealing to me.

To sum up, I guess I would say: I’m nervous to talk to my friends about this, and that is difficult for me. The fact that some family members are reading at least part of this journey as I go through it is nice. It’s nice to have encouragement. I would also say, Pope Francis drew me closer to the Church as I was growing in frustration at the inward nature of the Christian church in America. And, lastly, I hope to live a life of obedience, not comfort, and I think that the best place for me to do that could possibly be the Catholic church.