Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Conversion Story Part VI - The Marriage Tester

I left off in the last post saying Doug and I parted ways.  Maybe I should clarify that statement, we didn't get a divorce if that is what you are thinking!  Although both of us would admit that at times it probably seemed like the easier, less painful path.  However, neither of us believe in divorce as an option.  So instead it was "trial by fire".

December 12, 1998
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our marriage has always been one of spiritual unity.  We were brought up in the same faith and we sincerely held the same religious beliefs, up to this point.  But as I continued to follow Jesus deeper and deeper into the faith it drew me farther and farther away from my husband.  He just could not go where I was going.  So this led to a painful back and forth for both of us.  I would try to hold back, but not following where Jesus was leading was not an option for me.  I had to put Jesus first, when it comes to a choice between my beloved husband and my Savior I have learned that Jesus must take priority.  I have a "people pleaser" personality, so this was a difficult past lesson to learn.  If I put Doug first, I make him into my own personal "god", and this never works out well for our relationship in the long run.  Doug loves me, but he is human and cannot possibly be expected to fulfill Jesus' place in my life.  In the beginning, Doug would try to confront me about my emerging beliefs, but these discussions would always break down into hurtful arguments and disagreements.  Doug was absolutely hostile to the Catholic faith, he sincerely believed (at the time) that it was a false religion and that I was travelling down the road to apostasy.  He was concerned about the state of my soul.  We got to the point where we could not even talk about spiritual issues, because it would always boil down to a Catholic vs. Protestant argument.  Considering that Catholics and Protestants share probably 95% of the same beliefs this is a sad testament to how bad things had become between us.

We both experienced incredible loneliness at this point.  This is not something we could discuss outside our marriage because we both still loved each other and we didn't want to reveal to those close to us how much we were hurting.  We didn't want our loved ones to take sides.  Doug and I struggled to find spiritual activities that we could both enjoy.  In order to keep the peace in our home I would keep my emerging Catholic spirituality to myself.  I would hide my Rosary and wear my Miraculous Medal under my shirt because I knew that seeing any Catholic stuff was painful to Doug.  I worked on showing love to Doug instead of trying to preach.  I secretly watched the Mass on EWTN, and shows like The Journey Home program to help strengthen my faith.  After two years of just watching the Mass on t.v. I actually started attending Mass at my local parish.  This was the summer of 2008, we had just had our fourth baby, and our first daughter!  We would start homeschooling in the fall of that year and there was exactly one homeschooling family in my parish.  God arranged for us to meet and they really helped strengthen me as our family started that journey.

Picture of some of our West End Pro-Life Group
God also led me to other authentic Catholics that worked in the pro-life movement (what Protestants would consider "born again" Catholics).  I was amazed to find such a vibrant Catholic faith and a love for Jesus among these people.  Before attending Mass I had begun to wonder if the Catholic faith was dying because all the Catholics I knew were not strong in their faith.  I was thrilled to meet and become friends with the people in my new parish home.  God had heard my prayers and took pity on my loneliness by bringing them into my life at the exact moment that I needed them.  To be fair, I think they needed me too.  My zeal for learning about their faith and the understanding I brought with me was like a breath of fresh air for them.  At this point I had a lot of personal experience with different Protestant denominations, ranging from Presbyterian, to Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, Lutherans, Pentecostal and Charismatic.  I even had friends who were Muslims, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses.  Many of my new Catholic friends only knew other Catholics.  It was not unusual for them to have no experience with any other type of denomination.  I can only pray that I was a good representation of your typical faith filled Protestant to them, and that my unending questions did not drive them crazy.

A few days after Christmas that year I would have a medical emergency that would permanently alter Doug and my relationship.  My appendix ruptured, but was misdiagnosed as a kidney infection.  Which meant it would be seven days, and with me being on death's doorstep, before I would have emergency surgery to remove my appendix.  Normally, appendectomies are a pretty routine, in and out surgery.  But because of the seven day delay the infection had spread throughout my body and I had become septic.  I spent 10 days in the hospital and required another surgery and four months of modified bed rest and home health care to recover.  The surgeon told me it would probably take about a year before I fully recovered, and he was right.  If you ever read the book Heaven is for Real, that is probably the closest description of what our family went through (except I didn't get the cool trip to heaven out of it).  It's amazing how God uses suffering to strip from us all the unnecessary things in life and bring us back to focus.  This time brought some healing in our marriage and caused us to realize what was really important.  It brought a subtle turning point in how we related to each other, an appreciation that just wasn't there before.  It brought more maturity to our marriage.  We would need this in a few years when I would start attending RCIA classes in the Fall of 2010.

Coming up...my last installment in the story and where we are at today.

No comments:

Post a Comment