When people talk about spiritual matters in the southwest United States where I grew up the discussions generally center on the experience of “getting saved.” Accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior is a direct, personal, life-changing event among Christians in the state of Oklahoma where I’ve lived most of my life. In my 30 years on this earth I’ve been “saved” on more than one occasion and, though my own faith journey has also been very personal and life changing, it hardly could be described as direct.
I was born to married teenage hippies in 1975, in Oklahoma City. I highly doubt we attended church as a family; my parents were too busy getting high and just chilling out. My dad left us within a few months of my birth, swinging back by to visit—and to help create my brother Jason—a few months later. After they divorced in 1978, Mom drifted a bit, partying while trying to raise two children who were still in diapers.
Saved by the Hell
In the summer of 1979, out of concern for my mother her sister Kathy took her to church. Mom wound up “getting saved” that night and started participating in everything at the church. She changed her personal life as well—furthering her education and socializing with a cleaner-cut group of friends. As for me, well let’s just say that thanks to the Southern Baptists I learned a lot about hell before I was 10.
In 1984, my mom, decided to pursue her dream to become a singer so we moved to Nashville where she took an office job at a prominent Christian label. She wound up joining a nondenominational church where, for once, she wasn’t judged for being a divorced single parent.
When financial difficulties forced us to return to Oklahoma City a year later, my Mom tried to return to her old church but wasn’t able to find the same acceptance she’d had in Nashville. We pretty much stopped going to church as a family and my mom never found another spiritual home. My brother and I were pretty well left to our own devices as far as church went and I pretty well stuck with a church-less lifestyle.
Irreversible and Reckless
All that changed when I was 22 and my mother suffered a stroke. She had lapsed into an irreversible coma and Jason and I were faced with the task of deciding whether or not to keep her on life support. After much consultation and prayer, we decided that we would respect her wishes and take her off dialysis. Losing my mother was more than I could deal with—she was the glue that held our family together; I had never dreamed she would be taken from me so soon.
After her death I sank into a self-destructive life of drugs, alcohol and bad company in an effort to not deal with her loss. My reckless behavior eventually landed me in jail for a night where I realized that I needed to get my life together. I submitted to being re-baptized in another Southern Baptist church, only to leave within months because I was constantly being judged for my Goth style of dress. I was done with anything that had to do with religion.
Rebel Without a Church?
Ironically it was my rebelliousness—the part of me that often felt at odds with traditional churches—that actually inspired the next step in my journey. After returning to college I made friends with a woman named Theresa who invited me to come to her church. I’d been through enough with churches and I was about to decline when she mentioned that this was a Catholic church. Catholics are a decided minority in Oklahoma. The Southern Baptists, who are the overwhelming majority, believe that Catholics are at best confused and at worst hell-bound. Theresa’s invitation really appealed to the rebel in me.
That night with Theresa I attended my first mass and found myself filled with an incredible sense that this was the way to find the answers my heart sought. I began attending mass regularly and even started the process of becoming a Catholic but my friends and family (including my devoutly Southern Baptist brother Jason) pressured me not to do it.
It seemed that my spiritual journey had finally come to an end and, once again, I became disillusioned by the circuitous route my life was taking. Though I’d seen a lot in three short decades, nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.
My brother’s religious fervor was beginning to spill over into work. He had befriended some Catholics there and began getting into theological discussions with them. Initially he decided to learn more about Catholicism in order to debunk it or at least try to win these arguments. The more he learned however the more he found he actually agreed with it. Finally, a year and a half ago, my brother dropped a major bomb on me: he had decided to become a Catholic.
When he asked for my support in following through on his decision I immediately told him that not only would I support him, I’d attend the RCIA classes with him.
Jason and I were received into the Catholic Church this past Easter. But this wasn’t an ending for me; my journey has only begun. I have begun the process of discerning my vocation as a religious sister. I want more than anything to give something back.
I want others to feel the joy that I do in simply being alive, a beloved child of a God whom I love with all my heart. He has given me so much: the two remaining members of our small family—my brother and I—had survived being “saved” several times. We’d weathered many twists, turns and detours and our faith journeys were headed in very different directions. Yet somehow we both wound up together again, spiritually speaking, in the same home.