Greetings my followers and anonymous readers!
I have decided to write a series of posts on the great things about Catholicism, from my point of view as a convert. I use the word “convert” simply because it is commonly used and people understand better than the phrase I prefer to use. I prefer the phrase “changed denominations.” For convenience, though, I just say “convert” since it is the common vernacular.
If you are just catching up, and I’m not entirely sure if I have mentioned this before; I was confirmed as a full-fledged Catholic this year. As I mentioned in the earlier paragraph, I am what is called a “convert” to Catholicism. I grew up a protestant. More specifically, United Methodist.
To start off my series, I’m going to give you a rundown on my faith Journey. The next installment will include my story on my conversion to Catholicism. Much of this up until high school has to deal with my experiences at Vacation Bible schools.
I was like most kids, but I had a lot of doubts as a child with my faith because things didn’t add up. I had questions and I would get an answer in a weird tone. In addition, the answers were usually rather dumb and didn’t satisfy my question. I remember, at the age of ten or so years of age, being told the story about Thomas. They would say “don’t be like Thomas” and at the time I related most to Thomas. I also related to Martha, and this bothered me. They were both used as negative examples on what not to be.
What I learned as a child was that asking hard questions was considered taboo. To me, the atmosphere I got was that you aren’t supposed to ask questions or if you did you are looked at as someone who did not have enough faith. There was this certain shame to it. It seemed like I was the only one who struggled with certain questions as a child and doubted my salvation.
The reason I doubted my salvation was because I had gone to many different Vacation Bible Schools over the summers as a child. I would go to different denominations because they had their VBS on different weeks of the summer. I suppose my mother did that so we had something to do. From the different denominations, I would get different theological perspectives and that confused me even more. I remember I went to a Baptist VBS and they did an altar call. I was 10 at the time, and from what I think I remember, they asked for those who were unsure of their salvation and wanted to go to heaven to stay behind in the sanctuary of the church. They spoke about the terrors of hell and I remember I was scared and was very fearful that I would end up there. I stayed behind because I thought this would be the way to finally be like the rest of the kids with the assurance of their salvation. When I did that, I received a bible and said a prayer. And I was basically told I was saved. What they said didn’t make sense to me at the time, because, I believe, I had stayed because of fear and the unanswered questions I had. There were many reasons for why I stayed and this I’m sure is not just the one.
Another thing, in those Vacation Bible Schools I went to, we would read passages for our lessons, and to me, some of the passages indicated that salvation was not guaranteed just because you have a belief in Jesus and that he died for you. Though, the teachers never touched on this and I was afraid to even bring up a notion like that. I thought the other kids would figure me out, and see that I had questions and doubts. I was afraid of what would be said or thought about me. Internally, I couldn’t let go of the fact that passages seemed to say that salvation was not a given and there was another aspect to it. As you can see, I was left with much confusion and had this notion that one should have blind faith. Eventually, I just accepted that and it put much of it to rest.
However, I still held onto the notion that we are not guaranteed salvation. I considered salvation to be something I hoped for and avoided the question because I had no answer to it. Therefore, I focused more on who God was and not on the notion of my salvation. I was a kid who was very much loved rules. The statement “rules are made to broken” sounded very idiotic to me and was just a phrase people said to justify the bad thing they were going to do. I saw God as order. I also saw him as that rewarded good people and gave the bad people punishment. I didn’t see him as being that wanted a close relationship with me. I saw him as something distant and that I had a relationship with him, but not like a friend. He was more like and acquaintance I went to when I had things on my mind and was afraid. Someone prayed to before tests. I also saw him the person that would get back at the people who bullied me. I saw him as my vengeance. The vengeance notion is biblical, but it lacked the maturity of what being a Christian meant. This as you can see, was not a great relationship, like I have now. To put it a different way, I use to imagine him as a being that lacked patience and was a father who was strict and didn’t understand. Some people reading this may have a hard time picturing this as something I thought, but even while I had that notion I still very much had reverence for him and understood that we should try to be better people.
It was during my high school years that God really got a hold of me. And you can probably tell from my earlier posts that since then Jesus has been something I have loved to talk about. God wasn’t this strict Father to me anymore. I came to really understand what his love is and how much he loved me. I began to believe that I was probably saved, but it wasn’t important to me really. Yes, I still had that fear of hell, and I’m sure everyone does, but I saw that it is better to love God for who He is and His love for me than what he can give me.
The experience I had was God was there for me when I went through my first episode of Major depression, granted I didn’t have the official answer that it was depression. What helped me during, that time is that the idea that God love me immensely took a greater meaning and helped in my dark thoughts. At that time, I felt like everyone was pretending to be my friend and only my parents loved me. When I had a thought that God loved me immensely, it overpowered my dark thoughts of being unlovable. The fact that God loved me became something that was meaningful. It planted the idea in my head during that time that it didn’t matter about anyone else. They were not important and didn’t matter. They didn’t matter because Jesus loved me so immensely. And he was also rejected and knew how I felt.
That wasn’t all he did though, in the mornings I would have this feeling that I can’t describe. I thought it was God though. At first I was scared of this feeling, because it was unknown to me. I believe it was God letting me know he was there and giving me peace at the time. Though, at the time I mistakenly believed it was God healing me. Which is what shook my faith when I was 20 when I went through my second episode and much worse episode of depression. In retrospect, I see that time as God really doing something. I was diagnosed with depression and not a disorder that gave you weird feelings. I believe that was God showing me he was close to me and giving me peace as I went through something that wasn’t diagnosed yet.
It may seem farfetched like I’m deluding myself, but I can’t fully explain the impact this had on me. It made me yearn to dedicate my life to him. Eventually, I gave up on my previous dream of being a video game character designer/graphic artist and instead decided to pursue theology.
Be on the lookout, the next installment will be about my conversion to the Catholic faith.