Posted in Blog, In the Word, Testimony

Testimony IV: Freedom

It was the end of the liturgical year, and I had forgotten all about my doubts about Mary and idolatry, about my promise to give the Catholic Church a year, and then follow God’s leading. I would have happily stayed in the Catholic Church. But God had other plans.

After reading in some now-forgotten Catholic book that every person should pray that God would send them a spiritual director, I was asking God to provide me with one. And one day, the leader of the Catholic Bible Study that met in my home mentioned that she had taken training in spiritual direction. I was so excited! Perhaps this was my spiritual director! I asked her if she would meet with me for this purpose. But God had other plans. The very next week, she was unexpectedly called out of the country on a family emergency.

I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with my third child, and I was having some pregnancy-related health concerns. As I walked doparkwn the street one day, I happened to pass a pregnancy centre. I thought I would stop in and see if they had any information on my health issue. They did not. It turned out that they were a Christian, prolife mission centre focused on helping young mothers. I wasn’t exactly a frightened young teenager, but as I spoke to the director of the Centre, she offered to see me for spiritual counselling. I was astounded. Could this be the spiritual director that God was sending me to?

I began to meet with my new spiritual director regularly, and we struggled for months over doctrinal issues. She was a Protestant with a Master’s degree from a prominent Bible college, and we both loved to wrangle over theological issues. I wish I had a record of those discussions, but this is all I can find about those times:

2nd Feb 2011 

I thought we would just avoid the pitfalls of sola scriptura vs. scripture and tradition, of faith vs. faith and works, of the hyperdulia of Mary, of Christotokos vs. Theotokos, of transubstantiation, of Immaculate Conception of Mary (yes, of Mary, not of Christ as is commonly misunderstood, even by Catholics), of dulia of the saints, of papal infallibility, etc. etc. etc. I thought that this would be more or less a Bible study, and we would stay away from these areas. But it seems to be impossible. 

pregnant and dorky

She is extremely knowledgeable about Scripture, far more than I. And there is a lot that I can learn from her. When she leads into the aforementioned areas, I thought we would agree to disagree. But she leads into them ALL THE TIME! Even though she says that one can be a Catholic Christian, she keeps leading us into these contentious areas. And because her perception of Catholic doctrine is biased, and sometimes inaccurate, I feel the need to correct her on those inaccuracies. She accepts my interpretation of Catholic doctrine, but of course doesn’t agree with the Church’s position. And I don’t expect her to. But I do want to set the record straight, when her impressions of my Church aren’t quite what the Church teaches

So I find myself often in the position of defending the Church’s stance, even when I am not sure what I myself truly believe about the issue. It’s odd, because many of the points she raises I do not have a firm opinion on, in terms of whether the Catholic or Protestant interpretation is correct. But just by correcting her misimpression of what the Catholic position is, I seem to be defending a belief that I am not sure that I hold.

On the other hand,

And that’s it. On the other hand. One unfinished journal entry that doesn’t even come close to describing the feeling of those intense meetings in that little office, during which we debated God, life and everything. At times, I was so frustrated that I thought I would quit. And yet, I enjoyed it, too.

It all came to a head one afternoon when she said, “If the Bible says one thing, and the Church says another, which one are you going to believe?”

I had to choose. And I chose the Bible, the Word of God. It sounds like a small choice, but in my life, it was major. I  had opened myself to the possibility that the Church was wrong. A stronghold was broken, and there was no turning back.

She proposed that I attend a bible-believing church for a year, and see what God would show me. After all, I had given the Catholic church a year. But that seemed too long to me. What about three months?120315-1737a

And so, my family began attending a Pentecostal church for a 3-month trial. During that time, my third child was born, my husband was saved, and the chains of delusion and idolatry that I had been bound in were broken. I was free, and how greatly God had blessed us!

My husband, who did not then believe in God but had been patiently coming to Catholic church alongside me for six years, was saved within three months of attending a Bible-believing church and hearing the true gospel message preached each Sunday. And he has been transformed — from the man who, when I first told him about Jesus, thought I should see a doctor about my mental health — into the godly Christian man that he is today. What a blessing to have him as the spiritual leader of our home!

We were baptized together, in November of 2011. Since then, we have tried to live more and more as God would have us do. I started homeschooling my oldest child during my maternity leave, and I never did go back to work. We felt that God was calling us to homeschool, and despite misgivings about how we would fare financially, we took this step in faith. And God blessed us with a new job for my husband, that covered not only his old income, but mine as well!

Baby Busy Boots

Our family has grown in so many ways — not least of which in number!  We are truly blessed by a remarkable God.

We have since moved, and we now attend a Baptist church. But this was a much less momentous decision. I no longer believe that the church I attend holds the keys to my salvation. Christ is my Rock, and it is to Him that I turn for salvation.

It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again with a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1

My Testimony Part 1

My Testimony Part 2

My Testimony Part 3

Posted in Blog, In the Word, Testimony

Testimony III: Beginning a Journey of Faith

After I was saved, my whole world was upside down. The shift in worldview changed everything. God was manifestly real, and it seemed suddenly like the most obvious thing in the world. It imbued everything with significance. My life was suddenly not my own, and I was fine with that.

I truly enjoyed reading the Bible. I could feel God’s word jump off the page as if it were spoken to me particularly right in that moment.

The Lord changed my heart right away on so many things. I couldn’t argue my own ideas of right and wrong against God’s.

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

Whatever feats of logic we may use to justify behaviours are all meaningless nonsense before a Holy God. His “Because I say so” trumps our useless justifications. He is the Creator, and we were created to fulfill His purpose, not the other way around.

I suddenly believed in a Young Earth. I had never heard of such a thing as a Young Earth. I had accepted evolution as fact, but suddenly, I found Psalm 94:9:

He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?

This was no impersonal evolutionary force being described, but a Creator! I was amazed. I found ministries such as Answers in Genesis and CMI, and was stunned by how one-sided my education had been.

I had been going to Sunday Mass for years, but now I began getting up early and going to Daily Mass. I wanted God. I hungered and thirsted for Him.

The Catholic Church does not take the Bible literally. It was never meant to be a science textbook, the Church teaches, but a spiritual guidebook. But as I read it, I just knew that it was God’s Word. The Truth simply dripped off its pages.

Certain verses stuck out to me as in conflict with the Church. I attempted to do some research on the dogmas of the Catholic Church, so that I could know whether or not the Church was right. But I soon found myself over my head in heresies, Church Councils, and conclaves. I didn’t understand how to be sure about the Church’s teachings on Arianism, Nestorianism, Purgatory, Mariology.

Mary was a big concern to me. I would open my Bible and find verses like Jeremiah 7:18 :

The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger.

Why do Catholics call Mary the Queen of Heaven?

Or Luke 11:27-28 :

As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

If we were meant to venerate Mary, why would Jesus not have taken that as an opportune moment to tell us so?

I spoke about these concerns with a highly respected family member. She reassured me that Mary was supposed to be venerated, that Jesus wanted us to honour her, and recommended a book to me. The Mystical City of God, by Mary of Agreda. But when I read it, I became more disturbed than ever. This book set Mary up as a goddess. Created before the rest of creation, firstborn after the Son Himself, she was co-mediatrix and co-redemptrix with Christ.

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus
1 Timothy 2:5

I read Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn. His book, too, raised more questions than answers. He tells the reader that he has come upon his faith through research, but fails to cite any of his sources! I tried to take comfort in the fact that he was a Protestant minister who had the same concerns about Mary before he turned to Catholicism. His books state that he had gone through the same crisis I was now in, and had come to Catholicism after careful research. But none of his books sourced any of the research that he claimed to have done!

While I was disturbed by what I understood from the Bible, I had been raised to believe that the Bible could not be interpreted without the aid of the Church, and I knew that I must “trust in the Lord and lean not on [my] own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5). I was not going to take the position that I could possibly understand better than the whole Catholic Church.

In humility, I made a deal with God. A new liturgical year was beginning. I would spend that year in the Catholic Church, and trust Him to pull me out of it if it was wrong. After all, it was He who had placed me in a Catholic family, and I resolved to trust His judgment. If he wanted me out of the Catholic Church, He would just have to draw me out Himself, clearly and undeniably.

I cast all doubts aside, and leapt into the Catholic Church with both feet100321-1212a, praying and trusting that He would show me the truth throughout the liturgical year.   I can remember my mother asking, “What if He doesn’t?” But I had no such doubt.  He had shown me the truth about Himself and His Son, when I had finally humbled myself to ask Him. And I knew He would show me the truth about this, too.

Relieved to have resolved the issue for the time being, and delighted to be able to fellowship with my mother and other family members, it was no time at all before I had forgotten all of my concerns.

My second son was baptized in the spring, and soon afterwards my maternity leave was over, and I was back at work.

My husband lost his job, and we went down to one car. He started working a night job. He had the boys all day while I was at work, and then they would pick me up at 4:30pm, and we’d drop him off at 5pm. I’d feed the kids dinner, put them to bed, and my poor husband would jog home in the middle of the night. It was a busy, stressful time, but I look back on it now as a blessing. It’s funny. I didn’t know it then, but I think God was already working to keep my family together and my boys out of daycare.100227-1047c

He was still coming to church with me  each Sunday, but he wasn’t a believer. He certainly wondered at the change in me. I just couldn’t get enough of Mass, the Bible, Communion. I was getting up early every morning and going to Daily Mass on my way to work. I even bought a Psalter and began keeping the Liturgy of the Hours. I joined the weekly Bible study at my church, and when it was going to be shut down for lack of a space, I offered my living room as a place to meet. I was hungry for God… and expecting our third child, a daughter.

I had forgotten all my doubts about the Catholic Church. I had set them aside at the beginning of the liturgical year, and stopped fretting about Mary, the saints, and papal infallibility. I was praying rosaries and doing devotions to saints. If I was reading my Bible less, well, I had a lot of other reading to do. The Catholic Catechism, the papal bulls. And then, just when I had gotten good and comfortable, just when I was no longer even thinking about issues with the Catholicism, just when I had all but forgotten my deal with God, the liturgical year came bumping to an end.

My Testimony Part 1

My Testimony Part 2

My Testimony Part 4