Growing up my family was not what I would call religious. I don’t think I ever heard my Mom or Gramma pray. We never attended Church as a family. To this day I couldn’t confidently tell you what either believes/believed about God or religion. My mom always encouraged us to be free to seek the Truth for ourselves, though I felt from a young age that Truth was relative.
I have a vague memory of going to Sunday School by myself, dressed in my purple Lion King dress, little white Wesleyan Bible in hand. But, I felt something missing in the Methodist Church in Clarkston, Washington, though my 5 or 6 year old self couldn’t articulate it.
My mom seemed to approach religion from an academic point of view, and that suited my temperament. Even as a young child, we would discuss the Bible and biblical events as possibly historic events, possibly mythical, and would look to dissect them from an armchair philosophical/anthropological stance. I spend countless preteen hours devouring books on World Religion and formulating a god to fit my ideals. And, all the while He was calling me Home.
I always felt especially drawn to monotheism, despite convincing myself that I was agnostic, and that all religions were of equal merit. I saw Judaism as being the closest to the Truth, it was noble, and devout Jews has some connection, a Faith that I did not share, but greatly admired.
My youngest brother’s father is Jewish, and he had things like a Menorah and yarmulke and a prayer shall, books on learning Hebrew and Jewish holidays. I decided to “become Jewish” and would try to learn prayers and blessings. I would light candles on Friday night, and shape “Challah rolls” out of frozen Texas toast dough, and drink grape juice and recite blessings over them. (Hello, Eucharistic foreshadowing anyone?)
Christians on the other hand, I always looked down on. They were stupid, and hypocritical. Stereotypes. There were a few times that I did give denominations a chance: attending Lutheran youth groups, and Baptist AWANA meetings. But, something always felt out of place, missing. I was playing Religious, and my false attempts at piety never stuck.
I do remember going to Mass once. There was something about the Catholics. They had something in their Faith that I admired, too, but it was inaccessible. I felt a power higher than myself in Mass, a desire to be reverent, even though I didn’t believe. I remember watching the parishioners go up to receive communion, and even unaware of what communion even was, I had an overwhelming feeling that I was not ready to approach the tabernacle. There was something Holy there, even if I wasn’t sure I believe in Holy things.
My preteen monotheism gave way to teenaged agnosticsm, and eventually to atheism. I saw Faith as weakness, religions as illogical. Despite not being a religious household and despite my unbelief I always felt convicted by the plaque that hung in our living room that quoted Joshua, “Choose ye this day whom you will serve, as for me and my house, we shall serve The Lord.” I was certain there was no God, but this declaration of serving Him felt noble, brave, good.
For awhile I think I was content to be “spiritual, but not religious”, meaning a part of me knew there was something greater than I couldn’t explain, but I didn’t want to have to commit. I didn’t want the rules. It was very liberal arts of me.
Something about becoming a mother the first time lit a fire in me to begin the search again. But, I was still looking to create the god and religion that fit me instead of being receptive to the God who was waiting for me to come to Him. A lot of it was arrogance. I thought I would uncover some truth that thousands of years of humanity before me failed to grasp. I was recreating the wheel.
The first big shift in my thinking and approach happened at a wedding in August of 2011. It was my husband’s best friend’s wedding and he was the Best Man. I should say, it was his childhood best friend. In years leading up to the wedding they’d drifted apart. They grew up together in the streets, making poor choices, and to make a long story short the friend spent sometime in jail. In jail he found God, repented and became a Christian, following the path of his own father and is now a youth minister for the Assembly of God. My husband, however, was not quite on that path, still making poor decision and not ready to live life with God at the center, and certainly neither was I.
I remember a desire deep within me to have the faith of my husband’s friend, but outwardly I rebuked his piety as stupidity. I made the joke the day of their wedding that I was thankful it was not taking place in a church because surely upon stepping foot in one I would burst into flames. If only I knew the irony in that statement at the time. God didn’t need a church building to pierce my cold heart, and thank God for that.
The father of the groom is also an Assemblies of God preacher and his ethnic background is Mexican and Native American. He was the officiant for the wedding, and that man was given a magnificent gift of preaching. When he speaks, I can’t even explain it, but it reaches deep down, rattles your bones and stirs your soul. I can’t remember the words, but they shook me that day, and opened my heart to the Truth.
My heart was open, but my mind still had doubts. Religion still didn’t make logical since to me. I believed in God, but didn’t understand Jesus, I didn’t understand the Incarnation. I thought perhaps it was a hoax. But, all of that changed in early October of 2011. We spent the weekend at a little cabin in a nature center. The cabin had two rooms and a bathroom, a beautiful woodburning fireplace, and a shelf full of books. Essentially my heaveb. On that shelf I stumbled upon Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. Lewis’ argument that Jesus was real and was either evil, a lunatic, or the Son of God.
God softened my heart, and reached into my head and met me where I was. I heard His call and finally believed. I knew Jesus was the Son of God, that I was a Christian, but it took a lot of study to discover that His Church was the Catholic Church.