This blog is the story of my spiritual journey. So, let’s start at the beginning, a very good place to start…
I was born and raised in a Christian family, with parents who are strong in their faith, teaching my siblings and I about God from before I could remember.
I was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school. My mom always required “Bible” as one of our subjects in school. I never thought of it as something I had to do, but rather something I wanted to do, the time of day I looked forward to.
“Bible” included reading God’s word, alone (when we were old enough to read) and/or with mom and siblings. By the time I graduated high school I had heard/read through the Bible cover to cover at least 10 times, not exaggerating in the slightest.
“Bible” also included memorizing scripture. Before we could read, mom helped us memorize verses by having us repeat back to her. Before we could pronounce very many big words, we were reciting Bible verses we had learned with mom. I remember memorizing full chapters from Proverbs, Psalms, Ephesians, Matthew, 1 Thessalonians, and numerous single verses throughout both Old and New Testaments. In high school I memorized the entire book of Romans, all 16 chapters. We would recite these passages from Scripture for grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles, and often in front of our whole congregation alongside other children from the current church we were attending.
We also used many Bible study curriculum’s and guides including Kay Arthur for children, and when I was older, Beth More’s study guides.
Probably 4-5 nights a week throughout my entire childhood we did evening Bible time with Dad. This included a chapter or two being read aloud by Dad or an older sibling, a short informal discussion on it, and a time of family prayer. We took turns praying for each other, for relatives, for our pastor, church family, and that God would bless our activities for the next day/upcoming events.
Overall, I can say my growing up years were ones saturated in the Word of God and spiritual things.
From birth to age 8 my family attended an Assemblies of God church. There I went to Sunday school, participated in the weekly Missionette’s program, VBS during the summer, and sang in the children’s choir.
Then my family moved to a neighboring city, and we began attending a small non-denominational church called M(-city) Bible Fellowship, MBF. At this church my siblings and I sat in the adult service. The pastor and his wife encouraged me in my Bible reading, memorization, and general knowledge of the Bible. This church taught a reformed theology, very different from what my parents knew from the Assemblies of God church.
When I was 11 we moved to another town about 2 hours away, and began attending another non-denominational church called Hope Chapel. This church met in the cafeteria of a middle school and over 75% of the attendees were large homeschooling families like mine.
In the beginning of my high school years, we moved to another state, and there found CR Baptist Church. Over the course of 9 years attending fundamentalist CRBC, with more than 95% home schooling families, my family was very active in this tiny congregation and faithfully attended every service, two on Sunday plus one mid-week. I often played the piano for church (the sol instrument the majority of the time), helped organize Christmas and Easter children’s programs, attended the women’s Bible studies, and every other activity the church offered. We left the church after realizing it was legalistic, and also had cult like tendencies in the leadership. Amid much pain and tears, my family left CRBC, January 2014, wounded and hurt.
After a few months of church visiting we found Saguaro Canyon Evangelical Church, a church full of God’s love, grace, and mercy, a church whose mission is reaching the community for Christ.
Through all the pain of leaving CRBC, I did not lose my faith in Jesus Christ, but I did struggle with what doctrine or theology to believe. Is Wesleyan or Calvinism the true interpretation of the Bible? Can I lose my salvation? Is faith-alone the way to eternal life? Considering Romans 3:28 and James 2:24, what does “faith-alone” mean anyway? How can I know I am really saved? What about baptism? Does it really do nothing; I just “got wet”? or is it actually required for the forgiveness of sins, like I had read over and over in the Bible?
These, and many other questions, I shoved aside in the months shortly after leaving CRBC. I often felt cold and distant from spiritual things as I tried to move on, finding a new way of life that was free from legalism and finding a new set of friends. After trying to fit into the “box” of the cult-like community we were in, I was rediscovering what my own passions and goals and desires in life really were.
One day, I was in the apartment I shared with my sister, sitting in front of my library of books and chatting about them with one of my new friends, Jake. We were talking about the book “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis, and I told my friend in about three short sentences how I had just left a legalistic, cult-like church and was still hurting from it. Jake responded something like, “I’m Catholic, and I’m always saddened when I hear of people being hurt spiritually by a church.”
For a tiny fraction of a second I was able to glimpse a spiritual life from a different view. I knew very little of the Catholic Church and its teachings. My experiences and small knowledge of history told me, in a nutshell, that most the teachings of the Catholic Church were wrong, unbiblical, they worshiped Mary, worked their way to heaven, and thankfully Martin Luther came along to correct the corruption. All the Catholics I knew were shallow in their understanding of faith and redemption.
But all of a sudden the seed of “what if” was planted in my mind. What if the Catholic Church was true?
Present day – (fast forward about 9 months to June 2015)
I have been dating my Catholic friend, Jake, for 7 months now, and I have found him to be incredibly grounded in his faith. Through Jacob, I have met many other Catholics like him who, contrary to my original perception, know what they believe, and why they believe it.
In the beginning of our relationship, Jacob told me I didn’t need to convert for us to marry. For the first 6 months of our relationship I was passive about learning the differences in our faith. We talked about a few topics; apostolic succession, the role of the Bible plus Tradition in a person’s spiritual life, the Eucharist, and I went to mass with him probably four times. Around our 6 month mark, I was still okay with marrying a Catholic, and he was still okay with marrying a non-Catholic Christian. Jacob has never pushed or pressured me to change my views. Our discussions about faith have always been the two of us searching for truth together, rather than either one of us witnessing to or proselytizing the other one.
Around this time, I had a conversation with my dad about where I was spiritually. I explained, to the best of my ability, some of the new things I was learning about the Catholic Church. In this conversation, my dad told me, “Abbey, if you are going to convert, you need to do so wholeheartedly, and want the rest of your family to convert as well.”
That was courageous.
It pushed me over the edge from being passive, to being active about learning what I believe, and why.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He gave his life for me. The only thing I can do is give it all back to Him.
This blog is a journal of my journey. I have seen some truths in the Catholic Church, and I am compelled to learn more. I cannot do otherwise. I invite you to brew yourself a cup of tea as I share what I am learning. I encourage you to participate in the discussion in the comments below.
Please do be respectful.
And also, please remember that there is an army of learned men and women on both sides of this topic, Catholic vs Protestant. I know that there are scholars on both sides that are far smarter than I am, yet I present to you my humble findings from the Word of God.
(Originally written June 29, 2015)