Lutheran to Baptist to Catholic
|Lutheran to Baptist to Catholic
I grew up in a Lutheran household in which my parents took us to church weekly, and we were there for any other events offered by the church as well, the annual bazaar, game night, etc. I attended Confirmation and was confirmed in my 6th grade year. I always had a curiosity for things spiritual, and I was forever asking my parents various questions.
However, in my household, my parents were quite hostile to anything that was a positive rendering of the words Jesus or God. The ONLY time during my childhood that the words Jesus or God was said in a positive manner was when we said grace for meals, plus when we were at church and prayed to God, sang hymns to Him, carols, etc. Otherwise, in our home, the names of Jesus, God and even the Holy Family were taken in profanity by my parents. If we children followed suit, we would be slapped across the face but hard. In that sense, it was a double standard.
My dad was a lapsed Catholic. He attended Lutheran services with mom because it pleased her, but he still had his Catholic Bible which he kept around the house. I saw it one day and asked why it was called a Catholic Bible and what made it different from the one we called, "Holy Bible." I was treated to a torrent of abuse for asking what made this Bible different from others. Close to 30 years later I would learn that my Dad had no idea why the differences. He thought they were just the same, but one had the word "Catholic" on it. I guess he never looked inside the Catholic Bible to know what was within it.
I became a born-again Christian in 1989. I'd been spiritually asleep for years after leaving home for school and eventually marriage. I did not attend church while at university and for the first six to nine months of my short lived first marriage ( which lasted 2 1/2 years) I did not attend church either. We did start going to a Baptist church, however, since he was Baptist. This renewed my spiritual walk, and started telling me things I'd never heard in my Lutheran church, that once I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, I am saved forever. Nothing I could do anymore could keep me from heaven. Quite naturally, this appealed to me.
One night in August 1989, with the help of a radio announcer who was making a call for people to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord and who was about to "pray the prayer" -- the sinner's prayer -- I prayed that prayer and accepted Jesus into my heart in my life as my personal Lord and Savior. This began the start of leading a godly lifestyle. This included beginning to slowly get out of the bar scene, precipitously stopping the profanity in my vocabulary, and slowly stopping a lifestyle of promiscuity, to which I'd resorted after my divorce was final. I didn't know anything but that I'd been saved. I could rest in the fact that I'd repented and that Jesus had paid the price for past sins and that, because of my faith in that, I would be in heaven, and I could know this now on earth. Imagine what a great thing that was to me!
I did start attending church weekly, and was always in the door for any other events as well. My lifestyle changed drastically, and I eventually traded my promiscuous lifestyle for one that was much more godly. I met a number of wonderful, godly people and learned how to study the Bible, and as importantly, to live what was in it. For the deep reverence and respect that Protestants have for the Word of God and using it as a tool to live righteous lives, I am deeply grateful. I am also deeply grateful to the Protestant people in my lives for their zeal to get out the Word and "witness." I appreciate that deep zeal to share with others what they believe is the truth.
I grew in my faith and its impact in my life increased steadily. I remarried in 1994 and had 2 children with my second husband. We were steadily attending a Southern Baptist church and were involved in it outside of services on Sunday. My world fell apart bit by bit when he began to manifest signs of what would eventually be diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia right after the birth of our first daughter in 1996. In retrospect, the signs were there when we were dating. I just didn't recognize them as such at the time. As my pastor said when he died, "Heidi, he fooled us all. Even his own parents didn't know."
My husband had a good number of questions that went against the fray of fundamentalist theology. He was not at all satisfied with the typical responses of the fundamentalist about the hypothetical person on the deserted island who'd never heard the gospel. I found myself giving him a much un-fundamentalist response along the lines of that which is in Romans 1 -- that God has revealed Himself to such a person in that person's heart. Not having heard about Jesus notwithstanding, such a person knew about God, and it was up to him to accept that which God had showed him, and to live by that, and that person was in God's hands. If such a person had his heart continuously turned to God, then surely God would show Him the way of salvation -- not a fundamentalist response at all. However, it worked for my husband. He had other issues as well, for which he sought to find answers.
All fell apart in the summer of 1999, when we moved to Germany. By this time, my husband was drinking beyond control, consuming at least a bottle a night of hard German herb liquor. This would be about the size of bottle one might keep in one's liquor cabinet. Not a large size, but not a personal one-serving size either. He drank from the time he came home from work until he finally fell to sleep. He would awaken early the next day for physical training (he was in the army) and resume the cycle. All came to a screaming pinnacle on June 13, 1999 when he assaulted me in front of our children. For this, he was removed from our home for 60 days, mandatory for anyone in the army who assaults a spouse. He made a decision that he did not want to stay with us after that time, and so we prepared to move back to the States. In the meantime, he was sent to an alcoholism program in Landstuhl, Germany. He was sent home early due to a poor attitude and an unwillingness to cooperate in his own recovery.
We moved back to the states in November of 1999. Was it ever a humbling experience. My children and I lived there for 14 months, while I healed and grew spiritually. My husband was sent to Walter Reed medical hospital in Washington, D.C., where he was finally diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. After all the lack of support I had received from the social services office in Stuttgart, Germany -- the counselor had made the claim she'd worked in mental health services for over 25 years but did not even recognize my husband's schizophrenia -- it was a gift to hear the doctor at Walter Reed give my husband's diagnosis and the program of treatment.
However, my husband still did not want to return to our household. He eventually did in June of 2000 but abandoned us just 2 months later to go out west to go to his dad in Seattle. We never saw him again after that. He took his life in November of 2001 when he used one of his revolvers to shoot himself. It is my prayer that God would give release and peace to his soul, and for the repose of his soul, and that God will save his soul.
I bought a home in January 2001 and we moved in. I was working for a local school district as a teacher (still am) and was knowing the work of God in my life through His Holy Spirit. Still do!!!
At the end of 2002, I finally purchased a computer. During the first week of January, I used the search engine to see if I finally couldn't contact a long lost friend from middle school. I had no luck entering her name into the search bar, so I decided to enter her brother's name, figuring I'd find his name associated with some church, as he'd gone to seminary to become a Protestant minister. BINGO! His name came up in a reference to finding ancestors in a local area in New England, where he was living. I contacted him via the email link provided.
He assured me he was indeed the brother of my childhood friend, and we proceeded to fill in each other on our lives. He gave me his sister's email address as well, and my friend and I finally started regular contact with each other. One of my friend's revelations was that he had converted to Catholicism. Knowing that he did not do this off the cuff, and that it was a monumental decision for him, I asked him about it, and started giving him my list of objections and questions to clarify about the Catholic faith. All the usual issues -- Mary, the Pope, praying to saints, etc.
Nothing about the Eucharist, because this fundamentalist (gasp!) already believed in the Real Presence. Don't ask!!! It probably had something to do with my Lutheran upbringing. He deftly and gently answered my objections and started to send me some readings of patristics. I had already had exposure to Ignatius and the martyrdom of Polycarp through a publication called, "Discipleship Journal." In particular, the readings of Paul Thigpen intrigued and challenged me. Of course, many of you know that he's converted to Catholicism and that his story is in one of the "Surprised by Truth" volumes.
At any rate, my friend continued to gently but deftly share about his Catholic faith. Not arrogance here. Not treating me like I had no right to ask questions. Finally, someone who knew and understood. He challenged me to re-read the Bible, and to pray to the Holy Spirit for understanding. I did, and I found myself less and less comfortable with what I was seeing and believing in my fundamentalist Southern Baptist church.
I stayed through the first weekend of March and found myself across the street at the Catholic Church for my first Mass the following weekend. I'd already made the decision to convert, by the end of February. My first Mass assured me that there was no idolatry here (the reference to worshipping idols -- read STATUES, icons, religious art, etc). All was centered on the Eucharist. All was about the Lord's Supper. It was a communal journey in faith. I continued to attend, and have been attending faithfully since then.
I enrolled in the R.C.I.A. program in September of 2003 and was confirmed in Spring of 2004. I have been blessed to meet many individuals who have given me books, sent me websites, invited me to participate in their online fora. Above all, I have been blessed to see the fullness of truth. It was a definitive answer to the question of unity, ever posed by my late mother. It was her constant query, "why can't everyone just be one church?" This will happen when full and complete reconciliation is made with the Church. I believe with all my heart that indeed this will happen. It's just a matter of time and in which generation it will occur.
God bless you all
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