In the Beginning
Born in September of 1987, I am the oldest of 3 children. My childhood was pretty good, probably typical of any suburban, middle-class kid. I had tons of toys, fought with my brother and sister, was kind of spoiled and kind of bratty. I was a good student but I was kind of socially awkward. I got along with kids at school, but I was very quiet and shy and I liked to keep to myself.
My family wasn’t really religious at all. My mother came from a long line of Baptist Germans from Russia and my father had been raised as a Lutheran. However, religion didn’t really play a part in my family. The only times I had ever been to church was in the event of a wedding or a funeral. I had never been to a Christmas or an Easter service, let alone just a regular Sunday service. I hadn’t been baptized and I didn’t have any faith formation outside of receiving a King James Bible from the Easter bunny in 1996 and earning my “God and Me” badge in Cub Scouts the next year.
The summer before I started sixth grade, my grandmother passed away. This was the first major death I had ever experienced. It gave my whole a family a new perspective for awhile. For me, I began to question the existence of God. I didn’t know much about God, but I couldn’t believe he would let my grandma die. I remember telling my mom that I did not believe in God. I don’t know what she said, but I changed my mind and I started to actually consider that God might exist and that I might be interested in knowing who he was. My parents bought me a new Bible at that time and I started reading it. Two years later, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: a pastor. However, my family still didn’t go to church ever, and it is impossible to truly understand the Scriptures without some kind of guidance and so I hit a wall as I reached the end of middle school.
The summer before I started high school, my other grandma died and the whole “God thing” was behind me. I would try a few times during my high school years to read my Bible and even bought a new one my senior year, but it was just too much. I had too many problems, too many issues, and it seemed like no one was there to help me through it all, least of all God. That’s how things were when I graduated from high school in June 2006.
The Word Was Made Flesh and Dwelt Among Us
When I began college, God was the furthest thing from my mind. My highest priority was school. At school things were going great, I was getting good grades and I was kind of breaking out of my shell a bit. But at home things were not too hot. My parents had run their finances into the ground and things were always stressful when I would go home for a visit. Christmas break was terrible. Things finally snapped and I had lost it with my parents. I came back to school so very depressed, angry, frustrated, and at the end of my rope. I felt like I had lost all control of my life. I felt like things could never get better. I didn’t think I could press on much further. The weight of my cross was unbearable. In my moments of utter desperation, Jesus Christ came to my rescue.
Thanks to my friend Ness, I was brought to church that Sunday night after driving back to Fargo. For the first time, I heard a message, that Christ loved me, and cared for me. And even though I had a difficult time believing it, I was intrigued. That week I attended a campus ministry called Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) and I thought that I actually felt the love of God in my heart. The Peer Mentor who lived on my floor had heard about this and invited me to attend the Bible study he lead with another staff member. Suddenly I felt wanted. I felt community like I never had before. It was through this experience that I met many of the people I called friends for the next two years.
The following school year, I became an RA in my dorm and was asked by Cru to lead a Bible study on my floor. That year as an RA, things didn’t go so hot. I wasn’t very good at my job and my new found faith in Christ often exhibited itself in huge displays of zealousy that my hall director didn’t really approve of because it “isolated” residents who didn’t share my faith. The continued clashes and the feeling that I wasn’t allowed to be me and be an RA, lead me to decide to call it quits after one year.
During the spring semester, I had applied for, been accepted to, and raised money for a Summer Project with Cru in San Diego, CA. Raising funds really tested my trust and my faith, but it all turned out all right and at the end of May, scared to death, I boarded a westbound plane, to spend my summer in California. I had never had a summer this awesome before. This was where I first realized that there were many things about me that needed fixing, things that I had always tried to fix myself, or had foolishly had pretended weren’t there. God used this experience to re-shatter me so he could reset all of these broken things himself.
There were about 120 students from all over the US on our summer project. We lived in close community, sharing pretty much everything we had. It was an amazing thing that I had never experienced in my life before. My faith in Christ was growing so much that I thought it could not possibly grow anymore.
It’s hard to condense that summer into a few short paragraphs, because I learned and grew so much and saw God work in so many incredible ways. But I can say that I for certain learned the importance of evangelism, of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. I was a member of the Evangelism team and worked hard to coordinate activities to help us share our faith. Over the course of 10 weeks I went from scared novice to confident pro when it came to approaching a stranger and presenting the Gospel to them. The confidence that I gained lead me to believe more and more that I was being called to full-time ministry. But something bigger and much different was being planted in my soul that summer that would change my life in ways I never expected.
What is Truth?
As we clamored to spread the truth on San Diego college campuses and the beautiful beaches, we often encountered people with strange ideas about life, the cosmos, our purposes, etc. The prevalent trend was that what was right for me is right for me, and what is right for you is right for you. Relativism. Logically, even the simplest simpleton can see that that is just foolish. Little did I realize at the time, but I subscribed to a different brand of relativism. Many people we talked to claimed to be Christians but clearly were not. The large majority of these people called themselves “Catholic”. They believed in silly things like Confession, Purgatory, Intercession from Mary and the Saints, that you could work your way into heaven rather than simply believing in Christ. It was obvious to me that this “Christianity” was wrong and Protestantism was right, but I began to question what it meant to Protestant. It was a vague concept and a few people I talked to on the beach said that they wouldn’t become Christian because Christians couldn’t agree on what to believe. I would often say that we all believe in the same essentials, but differed on unimportant things. But deep in my heart I knew that if the differences were so unimportant, we shouldn’t be divided over these small and unimportant things. But in my mind I tried really hard to ignore it.
When I came back from that summer, I was increasingly confronted with the Catholic faith over the course of a few weeks because one of my best friends was Catholic. I couldn’t believe the ridiculous crap that the Catholic Church was trying to claim. It infuriated me and my number one goal became to convert my poor friend away from this lying machine. It all snapped for me one day at work. We were working together and were discussing religion with one of our superiors who had gotten married, but did not practice organized religion. She wanted, though, to know more about our beliefs as Christians. My friend jumped in and started talking about Catholicism and how the Church said that to miss Mass on Sundays was a sin. That was it, I had had it. This was clearly un-Biblical and was just one of many examples of abuse of the truth and major corruption within the Catholic Church. I went right home and wrote a nice blog post criticizing the Church and my friend.
A few hours later she found it. I knew she had because her facebook status said: Megan is infuriated. I knew it was because of me. Thankfully we talked it out. We were still friends and she and her fiance suggested that I talk to her older brother who knew a lot about the faith. I was against that, but I decide to look into the actual claims of the Church and why they claimed them. My intent, however, was still to bring the Church down. But as I began to look into it, it kind of sounded like it made sense. At this point, I went on a full-fledged search for truth, examining a few different denominations. But as I explored, as I read articles of Catholic converts, of theologians from the Church, from the first fathers of Christianity, and the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church, I got this uneasy feeling that the Church held the fullness of truth.
The Prodigal Son
The most difficult decision was laid before me. Really, though,I had no choice. I knew what I had to do. I had to either submit to this truth that Christ had decreed, or I could disobey and be eternally separated from the only One I loved. In my mind there were many reasons to not obey. One was the approval of my friends. Virtually every single one of my friends was from Cru. I feared rejection. I knew how some of them felt about Catholicism. The last thing I wanted was an intervention or something crazy like that. But God had already been removing this block with the tension I had caused by leaving all my roommates to take back my job as an RA. Another stumbling block was a girl. This girl was the girl of my dreams, intelligent, funny, beautiful, sweet, anything good you could say, she was it. I believed I had a shot, and I believed that if we were to date, it would be difficult to become Catholic while dating someone whose faith was in direct opposition to my own. God took care of that by moving her to crush my heart into little pieces right in the middle of this whole search for truth. Slowly the stumbling blocks were being removed. And as they were removed I could no longer make up excuses, and so on Christmas Day 2008, I assented to God and promised that I would become Catholic. And on New Year’s Eve, from the Cru Christmas Conference, I sent an apology to Megan and expressed my desire to become Catholic.
When I got back to school, Megan and Andy helped me get into RCIA with Andy so that I could become Catholic. Megan’s brother became my sponsor and for the first few months of the semester I continued to learn about the faith, and never at any point felt that I was making a mistake. At the Easter Vigil, April 11, I received the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation with my best friends, Andy and Megan, there with me. I can hardly explain how great it felt and how much more meaning was given to my journey with God. For the first time, I had actually received grace from God through his Sacraments. My life was forever and always changed from that moment forward. And even though I got some really negative feedback and lost some friends along the way, most people were really happy for me, and I gained a much larger family than the one I left behind.
Life to the Fullest
From that point until now, my life has been radically transformed and it continues to transform to this day. I strive daily to attend Mass, and frequent the Sacraments, especially Confession and the Holy Eucharist. By these things, Christ has granted me the grace to grow and change, to be able to love and know him, to follow and to understand. It’s hard to convince someone that life with Christ truly is different, and its even harder to convince a non-Catholic Christian that the Catholic faith has so much more to offer than all other sects of Christianity combined. But I speak from personal experience. I’ve applied myself in learning theology, in diving into the rich prayer tradition of the Church, in understanding and implementing my faith, in following Christ, and he changed me in ways that my Protestant faith never dreamed of being able to do. And THAT’S my new life in Christ.