This week of vacation/retreat time has been rough. All of the challenges that were easily masked in the busyness of life when school is in session hit hard. Most prominent in my thoughts was the sense of isolation and loneliness I’ve felt as I walk this journey towards Catholicism.
It’s an odd thing, this, to be called from a place where I was thriving and comfortable into an entirely foreign realm, and to be called into it alone. I’ve thought a lot this week about the verses from which this blog draws its name. In that passage of Genesis God is calling Abram out of the land he’s known and prospered in, to a land that God promises to reveal. He doesn’t give details about the journey (and if you read Genesis, it’s a messy sort!) but he does promise a rich blessing if Abram will choose to follow. That was the verse and story from scripture that Christ put on my heart a year ago when I began this journey, and it’s a passage that continues to resonate even now.
On Saturday I spent the afternoon miserable, wallowing just a little in how isolated this journey has left me feeling. The friends that I’m closest to live in other countries, and the only close friend who is also an observant Catholic is no exception. Having come from a tight-knit house church community it’s been weird to be called to an entirely different spiritual journey than my friends. And on Saturday I was feeling it even more than usual as I contemplated taking myself to the vigil mass that is the one I usually attend these days. I texted a dear friend commenting on how lonely I was feeling and that I was hoping desperately to meet with Jesus at mass.
On Sunday afternoon I decided to attend a gathering hosted by the house churches that I was formerly a part of – a lovely picnic by the river complete with a baby dedication and two adult baptisms. I wrote yesterday about how I was debating if I’d attend – how it could go either way – alleviating or exacerbating my sense of isolation. I did ultimately decide to attend, and it did both – alleviated and exacerbated how I was feeling.
As I look back on the weekend, though, I have to recognize that Christ has been so faithful on this journey to meet me in my moments of need.
I wanted to laugh as I heard the readings for mass on Saturday night. First the passage from Hebrews about a great cloud of witnesses, and pressing on and enduring even suffering. It felt timely as I considered how I’ve felt about this journey this week. And then there was this: On a day when I was very much wondering if this journey was worth it, if the cost and the isolation of the journey could really be the result of something that Christ has asked me to follow him in, the Gospel reading for the mass was from Luke, and it was this passage:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
Yep. The passage about how following Jesus so often brings division. The passage that I’ve come face to face with over and over on this journey, as I’ve slowly prepared myself to break the news of my conversion to my family and those friends outside of my innermost circle.
In something so simple as the scripture readings for mass, I felt seen again by Christ. He met my heart and reminded me that it was indeed Him who initiated this journey, and that there would indeed be a cost for following him. I was reminded of the way I’ve been encouraged in the past when I’ve been lonely to think of a great cloud of witnesses cheering me on as I walk with Christ. (Don’t get me wrong – they don’t quite make up for the lack of in-person hugs, but it’s still pretty great!) It was a powerful reminder to me that Jesus sees and meets the needs of my heart even when I least expect it.
And then there was Sunday. I’m glad I went to the baby dedication and baptism service, I really am. It also broke my heart. It was hard to be with a body of people that I once considered home, and know that I am called out from there. I felt a bit torn in two, as I celebrated the momentous steps of baptism and the commitment to raise a child in a Godly manner even while feeling acutely aware that my beliefs about these particular theologies and practices has changed.
I hadn’t intended to share how my summer has gone with anyone who was there, but I ended up walking for a bit with a friend, the wife of the pastor who oversees the network of house churches, and we started talking about my summer. I was in tears before I knew it, sharing the fact that this summer had been immensely challenging, and how isolated I’d been feeling. It was so helpful to share this with someone in person, and to have her listen, sympathize, and then just give me a hug. It was even more relieving when she asked if we could get together semi-regularly just to stay connected to the part of my spiritual journey that has played out through the house churches. My answer was an emphatic yes!
It was an up and down sort of weekend, but as I reflect on it, what stands out is the thing that I’ve been learning most clearly in this journey – Jesus sees and is remarkably faithful to meet the needs of my heart – even in ways I could never imagine.