Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Where I Am

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.

She did.

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.

14 comments:

Dan said...

Beautifully said Scott.

Little Sister said...

FYI, Dr. Beckwith's family never left the Catholic Church, Frank left on his own as a teenager.
God Bless.

Tiber Jumper said...

Scott:
I could have written this post myself. You have beautifully articulated what I have experienced and it is comforting to know that others have gone through in the process of reversion/conversion. If you don't mind I would like to post your comments on my blog.
God bless

Scott Lyons said...

Little Sister, thank you for the correction. It was an assumption I made based on my own experience and based on Frank's age.

Amber said...

I can also relate... The thing most forgotten, it seems, is that we all love the SAME God.

mom said...

With all of the un-Churched it seems as though we would have plenty of fields to work. Unfortunately, we attack fellow Christians. As Christ followers we need to better understand the "tags of religion", i.e. if we go up the tag blows off, and, if we go to Hell the tag burns off. In the meantime, we need to bite our tongues more often as we will not escape judgment for the wounds we inflict on our journey. Thanks for reminding me to love more!

Prodigal Daughter said...

Scott,

I share your sadness. I still remember the day when I stood in front of my entire evangelical church having "secretly" become Catholic in my heart. We were being "sent off" to another protestant church and they were perfectly fine with it. I knew in my heart though that when they found out where my journey was truly taking me, they would reject me completely. As I stood there in front of the congregation, with my husband and two step-sons beside me, I started to cry. I am sure that everyone (except my husband) thought "How sad, she is going to miss us." Little did they know, how alone I was inside, thinking "I have no one in the world left." I didn't know any orthodox Catholics, my husband was not supportive, I couldn't tell my step-sons, and my close friends could not understand. It was like the weight of the world resting on my back forcing sobs from my broken heart.

Yet I knew that it was true, and I knew that somehow if God wanted me to follow him into the CC, He would be with me. So I worked and I prayed for five long years. I submitted to my husband and did everything Catholic that he would "allow" me to do. Then low and behold, one Lenten morning when we were late for our Methodist church he asked "What time is Mass?" The next thing I knew we were walking hand in hand to St. Ann's. Within 2 months from that day, we returned to the Church. Every time I think back on those five long years, I am filled with gratitude for the privilege of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.

My husband is Tiber Jumper.

PS. I would like to copy and paste your post on the Coming Home Network Forum if you don't mind.

Scott Lyons said...

Tiber Jumper and Prodigal Daughter, thank you for your kind words. PD, your story is beautiful in hope - thanks for sharing it with me.

Ma Beck said...

That was beautifully written.
Thank you!

Heidi Saxton said...

It's important to keep in mind that it isn't always possible to tell the end of the story from the beginning. When I joined the Church, my mother invited a woman from her church (a former Catholic, naturally) to "deprogram" me. When she was unable to do this (I countered each of her verses with one of my own), my poor mother burst into tears and left the room.

Since that time, both my parents and my younger sister have come to accept that, if anything, my faith is actually stronger now.

I'll never forget the time Dad said to me, "The thing about you, Heidi, is that once you see the right thing to do, you do it. You look at all the angles before you decide -- but once you decide, there is no stopping you."

I think my sister is a quiet seeker. She reads my blogs and "Canticle" magazine (which I edit) faithfully, and occasionally attends Mass with her boss. I'm praying that the time will come when she decides to enter the fullness of the faith -- but for now, I am content to know that our relationship was never stronger.

So take heart. Sometimes family and friends just need a little time and space to adjust.

Blessings

Heidi
http://heidihesssaxton.blogspot.com

MMajor Fan said...

Dear Scott, beautifully written, and I think you will help many by sharing this. When I provide spiritual direction to those who are suffering during revert or conversion, there is an image that I like to share with them. There are times I have been in a church when the only one present is the Holy Eucharist and me. I have imagined, what if the only believers left in the world were me, in that church, and the Pope in Rome? (No offense to any religious because I know there would be many of them too!! This is just a healing visualization exercise.) If I as a person and the Holy Father were the only people to still believe in the Catholic church as founded by Jesus Christ, that would be sad for the world, but would not change my actions or faith one whit. Imagine yourself in that situation, where only you believe, and your only comfort is the Holy Father's belief "on the other side of the pond." Now, fast forward and return to the your real situation. Thank God, no matter how bad it is, it's not that bad that you are the last and only to bear witness. Even if you are rejected unfairly by those you love, there are others who do not reject you. And even if none of those who DO love you and believe along with you are right next to you, there are millions of people around the world, humble and good people, who if they could be transported to your side, would be very glad to be there. So sometimes it helps when one loses friends and family through their rejection of you to re-visualize it by starting with thinking of yourself (and the Pope :-) being the only remaining witnesses, and then looking around you and seeing how truly many people do remain and who are there, a veritable army of humble friends and supporters who also share the faith, even if they are not standing next to you at that moment. Remember, "He has shown might with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty." Luke 1:51-53. This can also be understood to be those lonely and isolated in persecution for love of the Lord. Well, I hope that my little visualization contribution is of some help!

Sue T. said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I will pray for you and your in-laws. As "mom" said above, it's too bad that we Christians can't just come togther to focus on the un-Churched.

I actually grew up in an inter-faith family(Protestant Dad, Catholic Mom). Both my Mom's and Dad's sides of the family set a good Christian example and were very respectful of one another. It was never an issue because everyone realized that we had more beliefs in common than we had differences. Too bad that conversion detractors can't have this perspective.

Nârwen said...

Those in this situation might want to ask for the intercession of Venerable John Henry Newman. When he became Catholic, he was cut off by many of his friends, and most of his family. (His sister Harriet and her husband never spoke to him again. His sister Jemima kept in contact by letter, but she and her husband did not visit him for years, and forbade their sons from having any contact with their uncle while they were minors. )

angelmeg said...

I have a similar experience in my family among my siblings because I remain a Catholic while all of them have left to follow other paths. They call me everything from "deluded" to a simpleton. They are hatful and hurtful to me because I cling to the faith that has sustained me while they have abandoned me.

I know that God loves me, I know that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Christ. I know without a doubt that The Holy Spirit is with me guiding myself and my husband in our lives.

It hurts to know that most of my family not only doesn't share my beliefs but disdains them. But there is nothing I can do for them now but pray. My community is with other believers now.