My first year at Lansing Christian School was as a third grader. We had moved from Mason where I attended a public school, Steele Street Elementary. In fifth or sixth grade I went to a sleepover hosted by friends of mine from Mason - the earliest friends I remember.
It was an eye-opener. The guys were hormonally crazed. They kissed the TV screen whenever a beautiful woman came on, they told dirty jokes, etc. I expressed my shock and discomfort to my mom when she picked me up the next day.
"I can't believe how much they've all changed," I said.
My mom, referring to my growing faith, said, "They haven't changed, you have."
Fast forward twenty-five years. On returning to the Catholic Church, I have had my share of relational turbulence that has sprung up out of my reversion. At one moment - a year after my return to the Church, I expressed to my in-laws my dismay at our floundering relationship. They told me, "We haven't changed, you have."
And it hurt.
Almost two weeks ago, Dr. Francis Beckwith, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, was received into the Catholic Church. He too is a revert, his family having left Catholicism when he was fourteen.
I've been keeping up with his comments on Right Reason, where he blogs with several other bloggers. And I've been keeping up with the reactions of both Protestants and Catholics. And I've been reliving my own reversion.
The first Protestant reaction I read was from Dr. James White. He talked about how Frank had lost his love for Christ. He said other things equally incomprehensive for a revert who has become Catholic for that very reason - his love for Christ and Christ's Church.
Some Catholics responded poorly to Dr. White's post. Dr. White said he was not slandering Frank, but only taking a stand for the gospel.
On The Journey Home program on Monday, I watched Dr. White's sister, Patty Bonds, herself a convert to Catholicism, talk about how she has lost her family and friends because of her decision. You could see the hurt written large on her, even though she said that encountering Christ once in the Eucharist has been worth all her pain and struggles. Nevertheless, you could see and feel the pain, especially understanding her brother's disdain of Catholicism and Catholic converts (the show never mentioned Dr. White specifically that I saw - though I was trying to corral the children into their beds).
(So, uh, do we have a point, Lyons?)
All the hubbub surrounding Dr. Beckwith's reversion to the Catholic Church has re-opened these wounds in my life. And I've hurt with Dr. Beckwith, though I don't know him from Adam's cat.
As I was watching Dr. White's sister, Patty, on the Journey Home she said that right before she was about to be received into the Catholic Church during Easter Vigil, a few of her good friends told her that they would sever their relationships with her if she went through with her conversion.
So they did.
And she said that when she drives by one of these friend's homes - as she apparently must do on occasion - she is struck by how much she still loves her friend, but how her love is unrequited. Patty said that she hadn't changed, but that her friend had.
And it reminded me of how I've heard that sentence spoken in my life. It was revelatory.
You see, my in-laws told me recently that our struggling relationship is my fault: "We haven't changed, you have." And I finally recognized that to be the lie it is - not a malicious or purposed lie, by any means, but a lie working itself out in my life. Patty is right and they are wrong.
It's true that I became Catholic. But I changed churches; I did not change who I am, or my relationship with them or others. They and others have changed our relationships. They and others have voluntarily withdrawn from me emotionally and spiritually. They and others have, apparently, felt that they needed to do so.
And I'm sorry for all of them. I'm sorry for all those who a friend or family member's decision to, on their own journey, follow Christ into the Catholic Church has been so incomprehensible and objectionable to them that it fundamentally changes how they view that person.
It's painful. It hurts that following Christ can cost so much because of other believers. It hurts to hear disparaging words spoken about you and your relationship to Christ from brothers and sisters. It hurts to see people whom you love and respect distance themselves from you because of their inability to recognize even the possibility of Christ in a Church that believes and worships differently than they do. It hurts to hear the Church you so dearly love spoken about with such hostility.
And so where am I? I love and I pray. I work at doing each better each day. Sometimes I fail miserably. Sometimes it feels like most of the time.
But I'm making new friends and discovering new family who love and pray for me.
So Blessed Mother, pray for me. Pray that I might love more deeply. Pray that I might love more truly. Pray for those who attack the Body of Christ and so persecute our Lord. Pray to our Lord with me that He might broaden their understanding of His grace, of His Body.