Monday, April 15, 2013

Faith Journey Back Story, Part I (Warning: This Gets Weird)


A page from my college scrapbook: I loved this daily walk.
As I'd said some time ago, my conversion to Christ is an on-going event that has rarely been entirely “comfortable.”  Like most post-modern Catholics, I spent several years outside of the Church, trying to discern whether I would break free from it and disavow it, or just try to hunker down and make the best of being this Thing that everyone, Catholics included, seemed to be rather down on...

In my high school, college, and my newly-married, post-college years, I would never have guessed that I would have chosen to don the label of "Orthodox Practicing Catholic."  How the heck did that happen, anyway?

To sum up: not easily. And yet, paradoxically: it fit.

However,  my return to the faith was gradual, not sudden.  Hindsight reminds me of a few pivotal experiences that eventually led me back.  This post details one of several "biggies."

In college, a well-meaning friend I was enamored with began reading into and experimenting with Wicca.   I am now fuzzy on the details,  but at some point during my junior year, she invited me to join her as she stepped up to offer her first-ever moon worship. (Seventeen years later, I am not even sure this is the proper term, but that is the gist I remember.)

As supportive of my friend’s New Age explorations as I’d been, as interested in and receptive of her emerging Wiccan exploits as I’d been, Something held me back from giving her my own assent.  

I was also a New Age-y type; I'd been crafting my own "personal" religious paradigm for four or more years.  I'd freaked out roommates with my Ouija Board, had recently embarked in Tarot Reading, was interested in the power of crystals, interpreting dreams, and I was working my way through A Course in Miracles.  Oddly, I did all of this with a rosary in my pocket, even though I was ignorant of anything about that prayer (for instance, I'd never known that meditating on the Glorious, Sorrowful, Luminous, or Joyful mysteries were part and parcel of the rosary).  I looked at my rosary as special for having been blessed, as a kind of talisman against evil.  They were my insurance policy, my "just in case."

I had not been to Mass in years, had not espoused much of anything the Catholic Church teaches, was in fact actively striving in my personal life to sever the spiritual umbilical cord which tethered me to Her Moral teachings vis-a-vis “Catholic Guilt,” and yet... And yet... This invitation to take those things I'd mulled over and step into outright pagan worship gave me pause.

This was Big.  This was parting company with Christianity completely; this was no longer worshipping and professing God the Father or the Son.

Part of me was highly attracted to the idea.  Not one to succumb to irrational traditions when there were human relationships and friends’ expectations in play,  I tried to find a way around the First Commandment.  I asked myself: 'If wiccans are not even worshipping a deity, but all of nature, how is this bad?  Would calling “God” a “goddess” even truly matter?  Is that really sinning, denying Him, or  worshipping a false God?  I mean, if there is only One Creator, then isn’t it all just the same God in the end, no matter what you choose to call Him?  My mom had always told me this was so...'

Luckily, I didn’t just ask these questions of myself. 

Even in the midst of all my build-my-own-religion activity, I’d never stopped talking to Him about anything and everything, everyday.  

This day was no different.  As I walked along Lower Lake, watching ripples reflect back the light-dappled landscape I daily thanked Him for, I cast my question to Him, as if I were tossing a rock into that pond, “God, you know I’m wondering: If you’re a Spirit, without a body and so without gender, would it matter to you if I call you “Mother” instead of “Father,” “She” and not “He”?  Doesn't mankind just create religions around you, anyway?  I don’t understand how a name or manner of worship could matter to You, as long as I am giving you thanks and praise... but I don’t want to do anything that would hurt or upset you.  Please let me know.”
A different year and season, but no matter; here is where I conversed with my Creator.

Seriously.  That was my prayer.  I was a radical feminist, wanna-be New Ager.   I also believed in a Creator who knew and loved us all in a deeply personal, parental way.

Some time later, as I settled into sleep in my dorm room, the ripples from my afternoon stone's-throw prayer lapped across the hours and reached me.  

Was I dreaming?  Because I heard a voice say to me:

What do you do about Jesus?

Cue prickly skin.  Cue sudden, wide-awake lucidity.  I stared into the darkness, and no one was there... but I wasn't alone, either.  Oddly, I wasn’t freaked out.  I was glad to have been heard, just puzzled by the question.   

I whispered back, "What do you mean?"

What do you do about Jesus?  If God is only a Spirit, then there is no man who is also God... To say that is to say that He did not love, did not suffer for, and did not die for you.  To say that is to deny all he endured.  Are you saying Jesus isn't God?  Are you joining the crowds against him? 

As a young child, I used to imagine myself standing by the route along Christ's way to Cavalry; His walk with the Cross, His Passion, were familiar to me.  The thought that I might leave his side to be counted among the jeering masses, and not among his friends...  How would that feel to Him?

In a moment, I remembered with clarity what I knew: this omnipresent God is three persons in One.  His love surrounded me everywhere, always.  I knew it.  And I knew, trusted and believed in His love on a level that is akin to breathing without having to think about breathing; Jesus was not just some guy, or some myth, but a fact.  A presence.  God Himself.  A reality in my life.  

He was a person I would never purposefully betray, because I loved Him too much.  And I knew without question how deeply He loved me.

My throat ached and my eyes were wet.

I never went to that Wiccan thing.

6 comments:

  1. No, it is not weird. "Gut-wrenching" would be more accurate, perhaps, because you were on the verge of turning your soul inside out and upside down in its focus, and walking down a dead end road that would have led to nothingness. Thanks be to God that in his mercy he kept you from that. And thanks be to God you had the good sense to listen when He did, instead of perceiving his grace as an interference with your "freedom" or "self realization" or whatever the cliche may be today..

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    1. There were many such moments: this is just one distilled from a continuum. I didn't pack in my New Age pursuits for quite some time after this. Years, really. This was just where I drew a line. This was a start though, and an important one.

      The "weird" part for me is to openly admit this encounter with the Invisible. Yes, we profess to believe in the Visible *and* the Invisible... But in all honesty, doesn't it come off as strange to say, "Look, here is how *I've* encountered it"?

      Still... it happened. Thank God.

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  2. Again,I don't think it is weird, but wonderful. It is speaking your faith experience out loud (or writing it down) for yourself to come to grips with, and for others to wake up to. It's a manifestation of the Spirit moving you to witness to the Son who leads you (and all of us) to the Father.

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  3. That's awesome. Would that I could hear God so clearly. I often have to pray and ask Him to respond with a megaphone and neon lights because I know I'm terrible at hearing Him.

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  4. Lots of times he has to hit me in the forehead with a brick, just to get my attention. lol!

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  5. I love your reflection. It seems to me that once we know God on some level, he is always with us, giving us those little hints, hesitations, even right out talking to us. He is just amazing. I love one of your last statements “I knew, trusted and believed in His love on a level that is akin to breathing…a reality in my life.” I feel like that has also been true in my life, even though I haven’t always been Catholic, I was raised devout protestant. I spread my wings a bit too in late high school and early college. I didn’t attend church for some time, and did things I’m not proud of, but never ever lost that reality of my faith or God’s love. Thank you for sharing.

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