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March 18th, 2011

Lost and Found

The road of return to the Catholic faith

 
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I went to Mass every Sunday with my father throughout my childhood, and even said evening prayers with him until I was a teenager. Then I went to college, and promptly stopped all of it. Sure, when I was home I’d attend regularly but, on my own, my faith — which had never really matured past childhood — was pushed to the side. By the time I arrived at graduate school, I was Catholic in name only.

My early- and mid-20s were a challenge for any glimmer of my remaining faith. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, where my father — who worked in 2 World Trade Center — was lucky to survive, I felt overwhelmed and fell into a depression. Then, two of my close friends attempted suicide and my world suddenly spun out of control. I distinctly remember passing a Catholic Church in a low moment, taking a few steps toward the door, and then turning away in anguish. How could God let all this happen? I knew that I needed my faith, yet it felt like God had abandoned me.

An old friend who sensed my inner struggles gave me C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. I read it and was instantly touched: How do I become a better Christian? Start acting like one. How do I find God and faith? Just go to Church and be open to it.

I said, “OK, God, here’s the deal: I’m going to do what C.S. Lewis says. I’m going to go to Mass every week for one year and try to act as if I’m a good Catholic. I’ll show up, but if You want me to stay there, You’ve got to do the rest.

So by age 26 when I returned to New York to finish up my graduate work I was at that point in life where you start making deals with God. (We’ve all done it, right?) I said, “OK, God, here’s the deal: I’m going to do what C.S. Lewis says. I’m going to go to Mass every week for one year and try to act as if I’m a good Catholic. I’ll show up, but if You want me to stay there, You’ve got to do the rest. If after a year, I hate it, then that’s it — no more Catholic Church.”

On Christmas Day, 2005 my parents and I were going to meet at St. Paul’s Church in New York City, not our usual Church, but one we visited now and again. I arrived early and waited in the vestibule for them to arrive. A priest came up to me and made conversation. “I haven’t seen you around here before — what’s your name?” We chatted a bit and I told him I was a writer and a sociologist. “Oh, you’ve got to meet the folks here who have just started this great new website, BustedHalo.com — you should write for them,” he said.”

I’d given God a year. It took Him six months. And with the help of the Busted Halo faith community, I began to find my calling within the Church.


There has been a steady decline in church attendance, across geographical, denominational and class boundaries in the past 40 years — and the decline in young adult church attendance has been precipitous. As Princeton professor Robert Wuthnow explains in his book, After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion, there are about 300,000 religious congregations in the U.S.; the loss in membership since 1970 (if you divided it evenly) would amount to 21 young adults from each. And despite what these singles may say about returning to the fold once they are settled down, only about half actually do so.

The question of what to do about this trend is probably the single greatest concern of religious leaders around the country. From Catholic priests to Conservative rabbis to Mormon stake leaders and Muslim imams, the American clergy is searching to understand how these young adult “sheep” became so lost and what will return them to their religious pastures.

A good friend of mine, Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of several books on religion, including God on the Quad, is exploring this topic for a forthcoming book on young adults and faith. Why are young adults moving away from the Church? What can lay people and Church leaders do to help them return? In our video series, The Princess, The Priest & the War for the Perfect Wedding, I’ve talked about how the Sacrament of Marriage and Pre-Cana marriage preparation programs would be an excellent time to welcome young adults back, but does it actually work?

This is a personal topic for me — and for many of you, I’d imagine, as well. Share you stories: Have you decided to return to your religious roots after some time away? What drove you away and what brought you back? Did you attend Mass as a child, and then stop in college? Or perhaps there was a particular incident that precipitated your decision? If you’ve come back to the Church, who or what helped you on your journey — friends, family, a spiritual director?

You can post comments below, or email Naomi directly at naomisriley@gmail.com.

Originally published on March 18, 2011.

 
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The Author : Christine B. Whelan
Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Joseph

    I am a wandering Catholic, going church to church in my city, who chose to leave my regular church which had been taken over by an unbearable administrator. I was not the only one since he complained from the pulpit that people complain to the Bishop about him. When this became his weekly mantra, I needed a peaceful Mass, and I have found it in many other churches. I am still sad not having a “home” church but I am thankful that Jesus meets me elsewhere…

  • Martin

    What a touching story. It truly shows what God can do if we truly believe and work in faith. Thanks for sharing this especialy in this season of lent.

  • Catholic

    What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing this with us. Deo gratias!

  • Frank

    Hi again Steve — I enjoy the discourse.

    I hope you do not mean that Catholics are saved by merely being Catholic — or was that sentence meant to mean only Catholics are bound by the sacraments as the path to salvation?

    I thought the historical claim of the Catholic Church is because of an unbroken line of ordination — Christ to Peter to subsequent Popes and then from Popes to Bishops, Bishops to other Bishops, and Bishops to priests. I can buy that logic. But what about the Anglican Communion? They can claim the same unbroken line.

    The Anglican non-acceptance of Papal authority doesn’t alter their priestly functions which are as valid as those of a Catholic priest. Which is why attendance at an Episcopal Mass and reception of the Eucharist at same is allowed in the absence of a Catholic option.

    In your opinion would such attendance rationalize the “sin” of an ordained female or a gay/lesbian priest or bishop if one was the celebrant of that Anglican/Episcopal service?

  • Steve

    Absolutely not, Frank. I do, however, believe that Jesus Christ founded a visible church (Mat 16:18) and promised to be with it until the end of days (Mat 28:20) and that the only institution that can make a credible historical claim to be that church is the Catholic Church. The best hope for anyone to get to heaven is by availing themselves of Christ’s church. God, of course, is not bound by the sacraments and can save whoever he pleases; we, however, are.

    My original comment was merely a warning that people (including myself) must avoid rationalizing sin by creating in our minds our own personalized version of God rather than the version of God revealed to us.

  • Frank

    Steve, are you intimating that one can know Christ only through the medium called a church? And only the Catholic Church at that? Doesn’t that conflict with the doctrine of Baptism by Desire (as opposed to Baptism by Water — traditional, or Baptism by Fire — martyrdom for one’s beliefs)?

  • Steve

    Frank, I believe you are creating a false dichotomy by trying to separate Christ from His Body, the Church. Trying to tailor a God to match your own personal preferences rather than what has been revealed by Him in scripture and tradition is truly an awful idea.

  • Frank

    Thomas — if the choice is God or the Catholic Church, choose God and leave behind the Catholic Church inspired guilt and fear. This is the same church that condemned Galileo and rationalized slavery.I have no doubt that eventually Catholic condemnation of gays and lesbians will cease, but probably not in my lifetime. Perhaps in yours if you are significantly younger than my 60+ years.
    In the meantime find a friendly, accepting, God loving denomination other than Catholicism. You will wonder why you didn’t do so years earlier.

  • Thomas

    I came across this article by accident.

    I am at the point where I just am tired of caring.
    I was raised Catholic by a pretty religious family, my grandpa (a deacon) basically scared me into being religious when I was really young by lecturing me on blasphemy because I had been talking too much when I was altar serving during Mass once.

    I discovered my sexuality pretty late and realized I’m gay around the beginning of college. I still can’t believe the Catholic Church makes definitive statements on the sexual orientation God gave me saying it will take me to hell if I do anything because of it.

    That one piece has strained my relationship with the Church itself. I still love God and pray and have a relationship with Him, but its not as strong as it used to be. I feel like that relationship before was artificial anyway, so somehow it’s like I’m building from the ground up, but I wish I had a church to do that in. I’ve never felt comfortable around other Catholics out of fear that they all assume I’m some immoral heathen just because I refuse to denounce my sexual orientation. It’s too awkward for me.

  • Christina

    I can relate to others who have commented that they never really lost their faith, as I grew-up Catholic and from a young age really experienced the faith as my own, not as something my parents forced me to participate in. I was the one who wanted to go to church on holy days and I thought about being a nun. In high school I read books about chastity and “courtship” vs. dating. But in reality, there weren’t guys around who shared my views, even the Catholic ones. As I moved on to college I felt like I spent a lot of time holding up my end of the deal, dating guys without discriminating against them for their beliefs (or lack there of) and lecturing them about why I wouldn’t sleep with them, etc. But I didn’t experience what was written about in those courtship books – it was difficult for me to see the value of some of the Catholic beliefs, such as chastity, because in my daily life there were no tangible examples of these lifestyles. I participated in pro-life activities, retreats and went to mass more than I had in high school, but I began sinning in other ways. Eventually I stopped going to church as often and I started living with my boyfriend. Somehow God led me to get married to this man, even though we had a lot to work on in our relationship and our faith life. Although my significant other had led me to make some wrong decisions, he did ultimately grow to respect my faith and want to learn more about it. He has since joined the Catholic Church. After almost four years of marriage, sometimes I feel like we are “behind” because of the mistakes made early on…but there are signs every once in awhile that we’re right where we need to be and God made that possible, even during the times when I was most lost. I am excited to find out how he will work in my life now as I find my way back.

    Thanks for sharing Christine!

  • Caitlin

    Can you find something that was never lost? I might be an example. I am a cradle Catholic. As soon as I made my First Communion, I became an Altar Server. A few years later I was able to go to church on my own. My parents stopped going regularly, and my Mom joined a local Episcopalian church. Maybe she rubbed off on me as I have a lot of issues with the Vatican. Some of the same issues she has and some different.

    By the time I was in high school, I was still altar Serving, but kinda operating under the premise that I was Catholic until Confirmation. (Hypocritical? Maybe, but it was discussed with Mom) I ended up never leaving. Not sure why, but a year later when I had a personal crisis I was glad I didn’t. I remember having almost weekly talks with my Pastor during the summer of ’06. That kept me going (along with twice weekly therapy)

    When I went off to college, I was lucky that there was a Mass on campus. But for the first couple of years, my mass habits were like Lather Rinse Repeat. I went to Mass every Sunday but that was it.

    Now that I’m a senior, I’ve really made an effort to get more involved with my faith and it’s paid off. I’m friends with a lot of regulars at Mass, who are active in the student-run Newman Club.
    But I worry what’s going to happen after graduation, when I return home. The community that I’ve finally became a part of won’t be there. There really isn’t anything for me back home, other than the altar serving and most of those kids are half my age (literally.)

  • Jill

    I’m a cradle Catholic and fortunately or unfortunately I’ve never quite been able to shake that. I go to Church as much as I can, but residency schedules and my intermittent sense of apathy interfere. I’ve never really doubted God’s existence, for if nothing else, I’ve always legitimately felt a pull inside of me, but like some others, I sincerely question some of the choices the Church hierarchy makes and whether they are truly in line with what Jesus was all about.

    Many comments mentioned sharing faith with a spouse. As I’ve discussed here before, that’s a huge issue for me. I would like to have an opportunity to meet with a priest and discuss religious issues, but pre-Cana classes obviously aren’t an option for me. Many religious events “for singles” or welcoming of singles too often seem like a meeting opportunity for the desperate. The Church does very little to celebrate single people, whether it is their true life calling/vocation (the Church even seems split on whether being single is a vocation) or just a stage in life they are currently in. Hence if you are single, I think it’s hard not to feel like you don’t fit in. Feeling personally like I’m not totally welcome and knowing the problem the Church has with losing young people for all sorts of other reasons, it’s very frustrating to me that Rome makes something like changing the language of the Mass such a priority. To me, that’s not relevant and it reeks of exclusivity.

    Also, as a physician, I plan on working full time even if I do one day get married and have children. I feel very called to being a family physician and feel strongly that I help a range of people get through many different issues. I am so thankful for this sense of purpose. However, I joined the Catholic Medical Association of my state in medical school and they sent me a book of collected essays on various medical topics. One was on the bishops response to the sex ed curriculum being taught in public schools in NYC. Granted, this was in the 80s, but as an example of one of the “alternative lifestyles” they felt the curriculum was promoting was a passage that said something to the effect of “Dad got the kids ready for school, while mom went off to work.” Seriously!?! I am not making this up in any way. I honestly can think of few other times I’ve ever been so hurt or angered. At the very least, did not one bother to read this book and update it for 2007? Or does the Church still kinda think women should just be in the home?

    The social teachings of the Church are the things I wish they’d take more nuanced stances with. I’ve been told before that both JPII and Benedict have narrow reasoning for the death penalty, which I find inexplicable given the bluntness of the 10 commandments. Yet the Church cannot seem to find a way to engage those who are pro-choice, those who support stem cell research and those who use birth control. I have no problem with absolutes and understand and support their role in the Church. We must say that abortion is wrong. But is it necessary to argue over giving communion to someone who supports that, or would the Church’s attention be more suited to reducing the profound education and economical gaps that exist within our nation? I think young people really appreciate the complexity of situations because we’ve grown up being exposed to so many more peoples and ideas and cultures. It’s my older patients who tend to see things as black and white and that’s where I feel the Church is – ancient and without and ability to see gray.

    My biggest problems as a young person trying to find my way in the Church is that I don’t feel like I fit into the standard definition of a young Catholic woman, and that I think they fail to even dialogue on far too many issues.

  • V

    I was NOT raised Catholic. Ok, maybe I was. The truth is, my upbringing was so confused religiously speaking even I am not sure.
    My mom believed that religion corrupted young minds and turned natural (wo)man into zealot-zombies. She hated the Church and spouted every awful stereotype and misinformation at every step. My father, who, ironically, was raised by atheists, went to a school ran by um, conservative Jesuits(???) who were better catachised than average. They taught justification through natural law with the most obvious serial numbers filed off.
    This was the basis for his moral/ethical system, which he taught me early on.
    [brief summary: God loves all of us, and reflects that through the loving relationships that we all have. Humans are not valued by temporal means, but by the fact that we are loved and that we love in return.]
    Jesus was only mentioned in a fairly surreal way during Christmas, as a figure who saved the world, but we can’t tell you why, or how, or even What It is All About.

    Easter was all about bunnies and colored eggs, and something about Resurection, but until I was at least 12 I didn’t know who or why.

    So… This level of information about Christianity is probably pretty typical for your average child of the BoomerBabies. Dad told me about how Santa Claus wasn’t a confusing super hero but actually a saint, in hushed tones away from mom.
    Indeed, my biggest real Catholic experience as a child mostly came from
    my piano teacher, who was a pious yet independent and courageous woman. She managed to raise 6 kids, teach, go to church regularly and think for herself. Just by being present in my life, she refuted every nasty argument my mother ever made.
    She was a staunch believer, yet was kind and not at all stuffy about things. She had a supernatural view of the world, but she wasn’t a gullible fool. She stood for the Church, but wasn’t a robot. Most importantly, you knew what the rules are, they were reasonable, and had a logical framework that could be sussed out without a lot of explanation. Forgiveness and love were abundant in her household. Sadly, most kids aren’t blessed with a such an example.

    The whole point of all this is that no one seems to do any kind of investigation into what, precisely, moral relativism is good for besides winning arguments and keeping the insecure from having to explain their reasoning cogently start to finish.
    I wound up here because I found a coherent, complete theology that backed up a sound and reasonable way for living that worked during the good times and the bad, and didn’t play favorites.

    Seriously, try paganism sometime. It’s the religious equivalent of a fair-weather friend. Job wouldn’t have lasted 20 seconds. But here, even a pathetic loser like me can find the strength to do the extraordinary.

    So how did I become Catholic? Granted it was a long and twisted route filled with seekerism. All people crave to know what is true, real and eternal. In a world of moral relativism, nihilism, and 90 second attention spans, it’s easy just to think that it’s all the same rehash of feel good drivel punctuated with moralizing sin talk for spice.

    What is often missed is that all those annoying rules are around for a reason, that they work in real life, provided you understand the spirit of the law, rather than merely the letter.

    Life sucks so much more without it.

  • Frank

    I am 60 years plus and married 40 plus years. I attended Catholic schools through grade 12. I was active in the Newman Club in college. I was a lector and Euchariast Minister for over 30 years. I was a Catholic school administrator. And during each decade of my life I had to explain or rationalize some systemic flaw. I can no longer do so. The combination of the excommunication of that nun in the Phoenix hospital, the pedophile cover-ups, the banning of an order of nuns in Pennsylvania for supporting the health care overhaul, and the unreasonable punishment rendered for female ordination put me over-the-top. I no longer consider myself Catholic. I feel like I was played for a sucker my entire adult life. I now attend services of another mainline denomination and find my Christianity being rekindled.

  • Matt

    You write about being distraught that God could let such tragedies happen to you. Not to try and play a game of misery one-upmanship here, but I’ve been in a headspace where the mere notion that God gave a crap about me one way or the other, at all, was a massive improvement.

    I spent months there. No, really, I spent my entire youth there, but it was a period of months of thinking virtually nothing else that drove me to the brink of suicide. What brought me back was…a traffic jam, and a handshake.

    I’d planned to drive my car off a pier and drown in the ocean, you see…but I got caught in traffic, and suddenly needed to use the restroom. I parked with the intention of going inside the only open public building I could see, which was a local Catholic church. On the way in, an usher greeted me, welcomed me, and shook my hand. This was mid-March, and it was the first time anyone had looked me in the eye since Christmas. The effect was, needless to say, profound. Profound enough to entice me away from simply using the facilities and then returning to my planned mission of self-annhilation. Instead I sat down in a pew and witnessed the Mass, for the first time since I was a very young child.

    “This is the cup of my blood — the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, which will be shed for you and for all, so that sins may be forgiven.”

    I wasn’t the uniquely unworthy wretch I’d thought. I was a member of a huge community of human errors, great and small, from the dawn of Man until the end of time. God gave us perfection, and we screwed it up. He sent His Son to be tortured and killed for our sake, and most of us still didn’t get the picture. Even those who profess to believe are making mistakes all the time. And yet…and yet…He loves us anyway.

    God isn’t just for the Good People. There aren’t any Good People walking around…just sinners like us. And forgiveness is on offer, if we but ask with a sincere heart.

    “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, yet only say the word, and I shall be healed.” Pretty much sums it up, right there.

    That usher never knew my name, and probably forgot my face ten seconds after I passed through the doors. But he and his parish priest saved my soul that day, and also incidentally my life.

    What can the Church offer other young adults to entice them to come back and stay back? Simple.

    The Truth about what sin is and isn’t. And forgiveness when we screw up anyway.

    The Church has thousands of years of tradition and teaching to cover the first, and a unique authority passed directly from the Son of God to St. Peter and all his successors and assigns to cover the second.

    What’s a real shame is that too many folks in the Church imagine that what will really draw young people back in is “relevance”, even though their ideas about what’s “relevant” to young people were formed before we were born, in an era that makes the historical all-star team for short-sightedness and self-centeredness.

    Sin is relevant…we spend our lives surrounded utterly by a culture built on sin. Forgiveness is relevant…a lot of us have little or no experience with real forgiveness in any other context, having spent our whole lives being told that other people aren’t even responsible for their own direct behavior, but WE are to blame for not only everything that’s wrong with the world today, but everything that used to be wrong with it decades before we were even born.

    What’s not relevant? Politics. (We get way too much of that already. Christ refused temporal power, and those who have devoted their lives to teaching his example should do likewise.) Modernizations. (God does not “keep up with the times”. Tradition prayers do not need to be rewritten for the sake of interest-group neutrality. And an institution that has over a millennium and a half as the human race’s most prolific patron of the high arts loses a lot of credibility when it tries to pawn off the likes of Marty Haugen and OCP as the most suitable music for a religious service.) Redefining “charity” to include acts of government and “justice” to be another layer of “blame the white guys”. (Seriously. We get a 24/7 feed of that from the world. Nowhere in the Gospel does Christ preach self-hatred.) Cheap PC moral relativism. (Sin is sin. And while forgiveness is and must be available to the repentant, it does no one any good to stand at the pulpit and pretend that our culture’s favorite sins are really not so bad after all. Down that road lies nothing but horrific scandals and bishops paying hush money. Oops.)

    In other words, if it’s going to entice young adults to care about it, the Church needs to stop standing with the world and the times, and start standing with God and the timeless. If we wanted timely and worldly, we have television for that, and television is better at it.

    Some parishes and dioceses are better at this than others. I’ve travelled a lot, since that fateful day in 2001, so I know the amount of variation on offer. And from what I’ve seen, the ones that focus on God and eternity have no trouble keeping young folks in the pews and the volunteer groups. It’s the ones that don’t which are 3/4 empty on an average Sunday and populated primarily by rapidly-aging boomer women who appear more concerned with their social cliques than with the Real Presence.

  • JMS

    Beautiful post. I’m working on writing down my own journey back to the faith, but I will tell you, it is such a turn for me that my own parents think I must have done something terribly wrong (affair?) to be so deeply commited to my faith after so many years of barely practicing. I will add that book about the post-baby-boomers to my reading list.

  • Michael

    I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic elementary school, but my very liberal mother had left the church in the 70′s over the abortion issue and we didn’t go to church regularly. For high school and college I went to a public school and was pretty liberal. In my mid 20s I began really researching certain topics (instead of just parroting what others said without much thought) so I could defend them better. The more I researched the more I came to realize that I was on the wrong side. Abortion (ironically) is the first issue I did a complete reversal on. I studied the actual Roe v Wade decision and couldn’t believe the line for life and death was so arbitrary. When I learned that at conception unique DNA is created I was done (My ‚ÄúChoose Life‚Äù license plate is UNQDNA). There were other secular revelations along the way but I also began having a deep yearning for God but didn’t recognize it. I tried filling the hole with base pleasures but that path only made it worse. Around the time I was really feeling hollow I met my future wife. I know God put her in my path because the circumstances of our meeting required so many dominoes to fall just right. She had been searching for a faith all her life (raised marginally Baptist) and her previous attempts to join a Catholic church had failed for various reasons. Together we found a great priest, who eventually married us. Now I‚Äôm a Knight, usher, lecture and we‚Äôre both CCD teachers.

  • Tom

    Demo love.

  • Adam

    I attended mass every weekend when I was young and come from a strongly Catholic family on both sides. I made all my sacraments and attended youth groups at least semi-regularly.

    Eventually however a process began that is now taking me farther and farther from the Church. It began with simple questions but soon those questions became deeper and I began to question not just the rules and regulations of the Church but the motivating principle behind some of it’s core beliefs.

    At this point today I am definitely on the “Lost” path as this article would phrase it. I attend mass occasionally but do not support the Church hierarchy. Interestingly I feel that in my status of “lapse” I have more religion in my life than ever before.

    All my questions and wonderings have led to reading dozens of books on spirituality and religion, attending retreats and workshops, and meeting with several priests. While I was not satisfied with their answers in the end it was still an enjoyable process and one that led to many interesting insights.

  • Kim

    I went to Sunday school at a Church of Christ from birth to age 11 with my parents and grandparents on my mom’s side. When my grandfather died and my grandmother remarried and moved away, my parents and I quit going.

    When I was 13 I started attending a Baptist church with friends, but my parents wouldn’t let me join. They said that it was better not to attend church at all than to join a church with ideas that my Church of Christ upbringing didn’t believe in.

    When I decided to be baptized, my parents started attending a different Church of Christ with me. After two wonderful years in the Middle School group, I was thrown in with the high school kids. My parents wouldn’t let me ride in a car with any of the teenagers, so I was unable to make friends and felt uncomfortable. When I quit going, my parents quit going too and never went back.

    I visited a Catholic church with a boyfriend I dated all through high school. He was not really serious about church, but when it came time in college to make a marriage decision, he only wanted to be with someone who was Catholic because his parents were Catholic. My parents again gave me the speech about how it was better not to go to church at all than attend a church with ideas different than the Church of Christ. My boyfriend and I were both close to our parents, so we broke up when I wouldn’t become Catholic.

    After the break up, I tried to attend the college Church of Christ, but I didn’t meet anyone that really shared my serious spiritual longings. In a college-sponsored city choir, I met a family who had church at their home. I met with them my senior year of college and really explored my own Christianity. But when I attended a yearly convention that this group of home churches attended, my parents met me on the return and warned me that they were not following the Bible, but some person’s interpretation of it. They showed me where some internet bloggers had called them a cult and literally scared me away from them, even though deep down I knew that they were not.

    I had some minor medical problems after college and moved home with my parents to sort them out and attend graduate school. I joined a large Church of Christ single’s group, but after a year of not meeting anyone and having to take care of my mom emotionally while my father had an affair and they divorced, I quit going.

    I did end up meeting a man on the Church of Christ singles website who really helped me through those rough times and had a lot in common with me. We got married and I moved to another state. We have been married for 8 years and he has truly been a spiritual leader in our marriage. But what I have really come to love about him is his openness for my exploration of my own Christianity and his support for my spirtual explorations that have been different than our Church of Christ upbringings. Even though we are members of our local Church of Christ and attend regularly, this is my second year to participate in Lent and this year I even attended the Ash Wednesday mass at our local Catholic church.

    I am 34 now and my husband and I are expecting our first child. I think the most important thing I have learned from this journey is that God meant for me to have it so that I could be in this place spiritually today. I hope to keep growing closer to God each day of the rest of my life.

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