Turns out rainbows are mentioned in the bible 15 times (well, of course this depends on which version of the bible you read – some say it is only mentioned a mere 7 times) and unicorns are mentioned 9 times (well, no one can agree if it is really a mythical unicorn creature or a bull or an extinct animal such as the Siberian Unicorn – an extinct genus of rhinoceros). If I have googled all these fun facts, I guess there is no time like the present to tell you about my spiritual journey in a two parts…the first below – what shaped my thoughts and early life spiritually and religiously and then in the second part – how I made the decision to join the Catholic Church and my experiences there. Oh, and Deacon John, I am totally going to do each part with no “bad” words just for you! 🙂
So, I was born to parents of very Baptist mothers. Both my grandma Jean and Grandma Boots were very involved with the First Baptist Church on Neville Street in Beckley, WV. My parents were both raised Baptist too. I was raised to be a good person. My dad actually told me after he had gotten sick that his biggest regret in raising me was not having me Baptized like both of my grandmothers wanted. I hate that he had that regret, but at this point in my life, I can tell you that I am very glad that I was raised the way I was.
I remember having a conversation with my mom when I was 15 or so upstairs in the house we had moved into when I was 14 about believing in something that was bigger than her. She told me how she had fallen out of traditional religious beliefs when a homeless man had come into church one Sunday and the congregation voted to have him leave. This is not Christian, and I think I would have had issue with that belief process as well. But, hey…this is my story!
I went to more vacation bible school than any kid on the planet each summer growing up! I went to the Presbyterian Church with Meredith, the Synagogue with Alisa, Methodist Temple with Mary, Baptist Church with Carla and because Grandma Jean wanted me to, Catholic Church with Ashley…you get the picture! As I was growing up, I went to an Episcopalian pre-school and later in life, I was a member of the Youth Group at both the First Baptist Church and The Methodist Temple. I remember enjoying learning about the different faiths and found it so amazing to discover the small differences between belief systems in the Christian faith and other faiths. I had a Buddhist Pocket Guide I would read as a teen nightly – I still think there is a great deal of truth to that belief system – karma and rebirth seem to be things I am drawn to. To this day, I still love to uncover commonalities between all the religions, as one of my dearest friends is Muslim. It amazes me that so many of the same people are in the Bible and the Quran. I could sit and discuss biblical stories and how they differ or continue on in the Quran with Ahmed (Tiffany, make sure to show him this:) for hours and enjoy each moment of it.
When I would stay with my grandma Jean, we would go to church Sunday morning…she would not let me drink the grape juice – recall above, I had not been baptized! I was definitely the major religious holiday and Mother’s Day attendee that I know Preachers and Priests love so much! There became a time that I questioned a lot as a teenager. I feel like I had my own Rumspringa – although I am not Amish, would be sad if I had to go back and deny worldly pleasures or stay gone and never see my family again, and really wasn’t any determinable faith at the time.
I was married in the church my parents were married in. It meant a lot to me at the time. Of course, my ex-husband and I were not members of the church, but we did not live in Beckley any more either so it made that easier. I remember my mom and dad getting nervous with me because they were worried what I would say to the pastor because they knew I did not want a “religious” ceremony. I actually told Pastor Carrico that I wanted as little God in there as he would allow. I am surprised he would agree to still marry us in his church. I was also surprised at the time how nervous being in his presence made me. I did not like the few counseling courses we had to go to. I was still uncomfortable in that church after all those years. I remember my dad being angry with me the Easter after we got married because I did not bring “appropriate” clothing for church service. I told him I wasn’t going and he was not happy by that. He told me that I should go to church because I had not set foot in there since I had gotten married. I calmly asked him how many times he had been since I had gotten married? For those of you who knew my dad, I definitely got the lip biting, red face anger he was relatively good at…lol…touché! Of course maybe the joke is now no me and the lack of God in my marriage was a reason it did not last…hmmmm…I’ll save that for another entry!
I remember learning about agnostics and atheists – as other “faiths” so to speak. I had many friends who said they were agnostic, and in all truth, I believe I was one of them. I was sure that there was something greater than me – I just wasn’t sure what to name it or if there was only one to name. One of my best friends, Amber always said she was agnostic because it made her family happier. She now will admit to being atheist. This does not mean she is the devil – she is not a satanist, she simply doesn’t believe in the existence of God or gods. She will tell you all about believing in Christmas though – as the stolen Pagan holiday and Santa Claus – as well as the Springtime Bunny. We live in a society where we should all be allowed to have our own beliefs without fear of persecution or losing friendships. Our differences are what make us special, people!
Anyway, back to my journey…again…I finished my chemotherapy and had already had one of my surgeries (we will talk about that at some point too) and my marriage was falling apart. I had so many questions. I turned to Amber at one point – she is my “no sugar coating” friend who will tell me like it is. I told her I felt like I was supposed to be learning something. Like I was being tested – we all have the “why me” moments in our life and I was definitely drowning in mine. Of course, Amber told me that she would support any decisions I made, but by her belief I was not being tested – sometimes life is just hard and sucks. This was the first time I had started to question my own belief system and faith.
When I was growing up, I formed a belief system about religion. I was sure it was a coping mechanism to make dying yourself, or processing another’s death easier. I mean, it seems easier to think we get to keep living through eternity – at the time I always said “whether that is true or not”. Like organized religion and faith was a man-made system to make life seem worth it and make it easier to die and easier to let go and easier to cope with all life throws our way. I was a science major in college as well and this did not help my beliefs. “The fossil record doesn’t lie” I would say – “how am I supposed to believe in something that all of my formal education recants over and over again?” There was a time that I thought my illness had me searching for something greater than me to make it make sense…this was the root of my questioning.
I actually now have a theory for all of those standard responses as well. You know there are creationist and evolutionist, right? Why can’t evolution be part of the plan? Time is something that has changed too…let’s be honest here, Methuselah was said to 969 years old – the grandfather to Noah – who lived 950 years. Then lifespans diminish down to 120 years for Moses. Can you imagine living that many years? CENTURIES more than we live now? Is it plausible that in the seven days it took God to create our world – day 1 light and dark, day 2 sky and sea, day 3 land and vegetation, day 4 stars, sun and moon, day 5 sea creatures and birds, day 6 animals and humans and on the 7th day he took rest from all the work he had made – that these aren’t the 24 hour days we know now? That the theory of evolution was actually a plan within the creation of the world? Maybe I should have changed my major to philosophy back in the day!?!?! HA
Wow…reel it back in, Lindsay! …I had know Michele for years before I was diagnosed. I knew she was Catholic and actually one of the most religious of all my friends. She and Lisa T. always said they would get me in a church one day. I couldn’t understand Michele’s faith and her dedication to it. I remember many conversations we had about religion and beliefs in my old office. The first I remember clearly was me telling her I wanted NO ONE to tell me my dad was in a better place when he would eventually succumb to his disease. The second came about when she was trying to get me to join them for church one Sunday morning. I asked point blank how she could go to a church and sit with all those people knowing that they had firm beliefs about her lifestyle and were not supportive of her life choices. I will never forget her response to me – she said that the God she knows would never create her to love who she loves and for that to be wrong. That her relationship with God was hers and hers alone and it did not matter what everyone else in the congregation thought about what she did with her life. That was a very powerful conversation I will always hold onto.
And then one day soon after, I woke up and decided to get dressed and go to church. I wore jeans and a 3/4 length shirt. I remember that well, because that was not appropriate for church when I was growing up. I also remember the sound of my ex-husbands voice when I told him where I was going – disbelief and shock possibly good descriptors there. I went to St. Johns where Fr. Jeremiah was leading mass and cried the entire hour I was there. Many of my friends who went to St. Johns gave me hints and pointers to feeling more like the group and some dos and don’ts for the masses. Kim was always so supportive of my initial church days and I will always be appreciative of her kind words and direction as she has entered the church later in life too. I will also never forget Michele’s voice when I said I was coming and the look on her face when I actually showed up. Like she had won or something…for those of you who know her, you can certainly see that she would have that competitive nature even when it comes to getting someone to take one step closer to Christ! This was the late fall of 2014 – I went to church more and more as time went on until I decided that this was the path I wanted to journey down and take my kids with me…
Tune back in soon to see how we actually made the conversion to Catholicism! I was told today my blog entries were getting too long winded. HA Maybe that is true, but I am so happy that I know some one is reading my entries…if only they can help one person – I know they are helping me!