Step One: Rootless

This is one of those days (hours? minutes? weeks? moments? months?) where I feel a bit like I’m drowning in the overwhelming undertaking of being willing to journey out from a place of comfort and safety towards the unknown.

I listened to a podcast of a Catholic radio program today.  I think the program was called “The Journey Home” or something like that.  It was a convert, talking about joining the church.

Listening and talking about things like this sometimes feel freeing, and sometimes feel like ripping my soul apart.  Today was more of a ripping my soul apart today.

A couple of months ago, as it became clear that I was going to need to give serious attention to this idea of Catholicism, I randomly selected some titles (mostly memoirs really) on Amazon, written by converts and purchased all of them for the Kindle app on my iPad.

Last week while I was in Florida, I was flipping through one of these, read the introduction, found it helpful, and passed it off to one of the friends I was staying with, asking him if he’d ever heard of the author.  The book is titled, “How to go from being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps” and is written by Christian Smith.

What resulted from handing my iPad, open to this book, to James is one of those God orchestrated circumstances I’ve learned to pay attention to.  I’d purchased the book on a whim, opened it on another whim, and begun reading while I babysat my friends’ daughter earlier that day.  What resulted as James paged through the book was an excellent and much-needed conversation.  Smith details a series of 95 steps to move, just as his title implies, from being a good evangelical to a committed catholic.  We skimmed the entirety of the book that night, listing the 95 steps, and stopping here and there to talk about specific points of doctrine.  It’s one of those conversations I’ll forever wish I’d had the foresight to record on my laptop or iPad, so that I could listen to it over and over.

I talk about all of this today, in the context of a soul-ripping sort of day of pondering, because Smith’s first step is this:

“Begin to feel rootless”

He goes on to write, “Do not run away from this nagging sense. Pursue it. Attend to it. Allow yourself to own it, to examine it.  It is not crazy. There are good reasons for you feeling this way. This intuition is telling you something important. Something is missing. You need to find out what it is.”

And everything within me cries “Yes!”, because this has been the off and on journey of my faith for the last ten years.  And it is the way I am feeling now – that place of in-between that I’ve already talked about in this space. I feel like what I have known is something that I have left behind.  But I still don’t know where I’m going (at least not clearly anyway…) and so I feel just a bit rootless, a bit unsheltered and unprotected.

I thought about this sense today, as I wrestled with one of the bigger theological issues I’m currently considering – a topic for an entirely different post.  I feel rootless, and it makes me tired, and sometimes angry.

And yet, I know this feeling.  I’ve been here before.  I stopped dead in my tracks tonight as it hit me that the last time I felt this level of restless, of a sort of holy discontent in my faith was in the time period in which I first left the church I grew up in (the one my dad pastors to this day) and began exploring charismatic theology and expressions of evangelicalism. I met some new people and saw something in their relationship with God that I’d never encountered before – something I knew I wanted.  That is how I feel as I explore Catholicism – there is something deeply real and important here, and I want it.  I’m scared spitless of what that means for my life, but I want it, and that reminder (and the reminder of the beauty that has continually come when I’ve pursued the things that have caused me to feel this way) is enough to keep me moving forward and exploring and wrestling, even in a unsheltered rootless place, for another day or two.

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