Faith of Christmas Past

This is a three part blog series that explains my current state when it comes to matters of faith and spirituality. This is one of the hardest things I’ve written, but hopefully it will be instructive to those who might have a similar background and journey as myself.

Anyone who has known me for a long time knows that the first half of my life was deeply intertwined with faith. I became a Christian when I was seven years old, after my mom sent me off to a summer youth program at the local Salvation Army corps. While I was there I came under the wing of some incredible people, including a man who would be my “big brother” for much of my elementary school years. He was a great friend to me, and a wonderful mentor for a boy growing up without a father.

It was at this Salvation Army church that I found a home. A place where I was accepted and friendships were developed. I was introduced to the Bible, and my geeky, child brain wanted to know everything I could about it, along with the history and traditions of the Church. I loved the community aspect of church and would sign up to take part in a many of different activities. Even though we bounced back and forth between a couple different, local, Salvation Army churches in my youth, I found a way to engage with the community of all of them.

In particular, Sunday mornings were special to me. It was the body of believers gathered to take part in a meaningful ritual. I got a metaphysical high while taking part in these community gatherings, which led to my eventual desire for something even more liturgical. As I learned and studied more, I started to understand the depth of the history of the Church and how it came to what it is today. In high school I decided to make the leap and leave my comfortable Salvation Army setting and join a Lutheran church that a friend of mine attended. I fell in love with the liturgy and sacraments, and found yet another home in my journey.

In college I attended the local Lutheran college, but struggled with certain deep, theological, aspects of the Lutheran faith. Throughout college I waffled between Lutheranism and Methodism, dissecting the minutiae with my professors and friends, trying to find a nugget of truth and fact. Since age 13 I decided that I wanted to be a pastor, and these exercises in theology were just steps along the path to finding where I wanted to eventually serve. However, when I left college I still wasn’t sure where I belonged. I took a brief respite from school, but eventually I enrolled in seminary to work on my Master’s of Divinity Degree.

As life is wont to do, things changed, and it was during this time that I met my future wife. As we got closer and decided to get married, school took a backseat. I took a job that eventually led to my technology career, and we bought a house and started having kids. Her family was a strong family of faith and we decided to attend their church. It was an evangelical mega-church, but it was a powerful example of the type of community that draws people together on a weekly basis. We found a small group of family and friends and made a place for ourselves among the masses.

After the birth of my second child I decided that I wanted to finish my seminary dreams. I enrolled in a night school program that was designed for working adults. For the next 5 years I would work on completing my studies, eventually settling on the Methodist church as the place I wanted to serve. We joined a local church near us, and once I was finished with the first three years of my degree I transferred to a different seminary to take the rest of my studies. It was there that things started to come apart for me theologically.

I had grown into a theologian that deeply loved ritual and liturgy. I started to question how many modern churches had abandoned these basics of faith, and through a long series of events I found myself looking at converting to the Roman Catholic Church. A good friend of mine had recently converted to Orthodoxy, and through talking with him and others, knew that I no longer had a home in the Protestant church. Through decades of study and growth I had come to the conclusion that it was “Catholicism or atheism for me.” For obvious reasons at the time, I chose Catholicism.

I wanted to connect with the historical Church. I wanted to engage in ritual and liturgy as part of my weekly, and sometimes daily, experience in life. At this same time I was going through a rough divorce, and being a part of something so large as the Catholic church grounded me. I found something stable that I could hang on to and keep me focused. It became a place of stability for me as the rest of my life erupted into chaos trying to find the new normal.

Joining the Catholic church meant that one aspect of my childhood dreams would not come to fruition. As a divorced parent of 2 boys, becoming a priest was not in the cards. Plus, I wasn’t really on board with the idea of celibacy for the rest of my life, as I wanted to get married again someday. What this meant in practical terms is that I stopped working on my M.Div and instead settled for a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. I continued to grow my career in technology and settled into a period of time where I wasn’t really sure what was next in my life.

I eventually married again, and my wife, although a professed atheist, grew up in a Catholic family and was very comfortable taking part in my religious life. We got married in the church and attended mass regularly for quite a while. Things seemed to be normal, but under the surface something was growing. That’s the story for tomorrow.

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