Becoming Catholic: God’s Tools for My Conversion
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It all started on Easter Sunday 2010, the day I know to be…
The Day of My Conversion
When Anna and I started dating, we never discussed religion. I was baptized Catholic as an infant, but never saw the inside of a church until I was 13 years old, thanks to my dad. That period of church going lasted 2 weeks, by the way.
Still not sure what his intentions were… Maybe there is some sort of parenting checkbox that he wanted to fill.
Anyway, I was a little surprised when Anna invited me to Easter Catholic Mass during the first year of our relationship. I considered it though, and then quickly agreed to attend.
How better to impress her mom?
Everything was just how I left it…
I didn’t know what words to say, when to stand, when to sit, or what anything meant.
Why am I even here?
Then, in a snap, I was jerked away from my thoughts as everyone abruptly rose from their kneeling position. They started forming lines, and Anna explained that they were going up for something called communion.
Well, I wasn’t about to do that, seeing as how I wasn’t “allowed to” (eye-roll). So, I stayed in the pew, feeling increasingly out of place.
Just as my eyes wandered over to the exit, a memory that I had been suppressing flooded to the forefront of my mind. A memory of a decision I had been battling with for months.
Aching guilt settled in, and I started panicking again as I had so many times before.
Several months prior, I did something that I swore I would never do again – or Anna and I would end our relationship.
The guilt swelled up inside me.
Bursting with shame and deceit, I had no idea what to do. So (being in church and all), I started praying.
I asked God one little question: “Should I tell her?”
And within seconds, having suffered months of anxiety, guilt, and anger with myself, it all melted away. For the first time I could remember, I was at peace.
It was not time to tell Anna what I had done. But rest assured, the day would come.
Three months later I broke the news, and wow was she was furious. She took a full week to digest everything. Her decision was straightforward:
Forgive him? OR Not.
Spoiler alert! She did… I mean come on, we are married.
Seriously though, the way each of the events played out was so unbelievably coincidental that it forced me to stop believing in coincidence!
God took one small prayer, saw one tiny opening and kicked my doors in. He used my weakness and started creating a man of faith. I believed that he was real and present, and was converted from my agnosticism.
4 Tools God Used to Build My Faith
Looking back and seeing how God has worked in my life is one of my favorite parts about our relationship. I love to think about an event, or conversation, or trial, and then how he used that to change me.
In particular, there are 4 tools he has used (and continues to use):
Tool 1: The Hammer
God’s hands were clearly present in my relationship with Anna, but that alone did not set my spiritual world ablaze. Even though it was clear that he had been involved from the start…
- We both had autoimmune diseases and a passion for helping others (i.e. this eventual blog)
- He delivered us out of a very difficult situation early in our relationship
- Our friendship from high school was the backbone of our relationship
But even though I recognized these things, I wasn’t fully invested. I was going to church every weekend, praying every day, and desired more time with God, but…
Something was missing.
I guess I just needed more reassurance. I think we are all in this boat nowadays. We need “science”, data, or proof to fully believe anything. Apparently God was OK with giving me some.
During one of my visits with God at Perpetual Adoration, I was reading a book by Fr. Larry Richards. It was titled: “Be a Man! Becoming the Man God Created You to Be”.
In the book I came across the following passage:
“In Jesus you are a beloved son of the Father. Stop reading for a moment and let God, Who is with you at this very moment, speak to your heart by hearing Him say, ‘You are My beloved son, you are My beloved son, you are My beloved son!’ Be still with Him here.”
I stopped reading for a moment because the book told me to – even though it seemed pretty silly. I wanted to give it a try. With a wry smirk on my face I closed my eyes and asked a seemingly simple question.
“God, do you love me?”
To this day, what happened next became the single most powerful moment that I have ever experienced. Words cannot describe it… but I’ll give it a shot.
Not more than a second after I asked the question, it felt like someone took two high voltage wires and shoved them into my hands. My entire body surged and tears came streaking down my face. I could barely breathe!
I could feel all my hair standing straight, and the most amazing part was that DEEP down I knew. More familiar than the spelling of my own name – I felt God’s love for me, as if it had been there the whole time (since it was after all).
He answered my question in a way that left no doubts.
The first tool God used was a hammer. I asked a simple, unassuming question, and he brought the answer down on me like a 40lb sledge hammer.
RCIA – My Actual Catholic Conversion
Up to this point, everything I had done was on my own time. I went to church and prayed, did all the things I mentioned, but I still wasn’t Catholic.
During my conversion, Anna’s mom, a very devout and knowledgeable Catholic, was my go-to authority. I had a thirst for knowledge and she was comfortable answering my questions.
The more I talked to her, the more I wanted to know about the faith, church, community, and overall life as a Catholic. There was a lot to learn and one day she brought up finally taking the plunge.
At first I just brushed it off.
I made up some phony excuse about wanting to be prepared, and not being ready yet.
She said, “OK”, and must have prayed pretty hard, because 6 months later (with the help of the Holy Spirit), I decided it was time.
October marked the first month of RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and the following Easter, I was a confirmed Catholic!
So God used a hammer to knock some faith into me. I was confirmed. And ever since, it’s been really easy.
The minute he roped me in, was the minute he started throwing curve balls. He made sure I had the full support (especially Reconciliation) of the church before showing me what it was really like following in Jesus’s footsteps.
Tool 2: The Chisel
When someone says, “Man, that guy is chiseled”, or some variation of that statement, what they mean is: that man has very well-defined muscles.
And now you’re thinking – This just got weird…
But the adjective chiseled makes a lot of sense!
A chisel is a tool used (with a hammer!) to cut and shape hard materials. The actual process of working with a chisel is slow. It takes multiple blows by the hammer and after many distinctly placed blows, a craftsman will conclude their work.
For a person with chiseled muscles, they go to the gym, exercise for long periods of time, eat and sleep right (hopefully). After many repeats of this cycle, their body is transformed into a “chiseled masterpiece.”
OK, so my point is, the chisel can be used by God as a spiritual formation tool too. I like to think of the cycle of Sin and Repentance as the use of a chisel.
Just think, humans kind of suck at being good. We ALWAYS get stuck with our heads in the wrong place and end up doing something stupid – usually by choosing something other than the Lord.
But thankfully God gives us repentance (confession) to retract our sinful intentions and replace them with good, holy ones!
Once I converted to Catholicism, God let me experience the full breadth of sin – basically life as an American male.
My cycles of sin were annoyingly consistent. Fall, repent, stay clean for a period, repeat. Not once was there a break in the chain until I noticed that sin creates more sin. I heard the concept before, but it wasn’t clear until I experienced it.
What I was experiencing never seemed to go away, no matter how hard I tried and prayed! Then I found a trend. I would fall, repent, and the time in between was ALWAYS dependent on whether or not I gave God credit (and stayed close to him).
I would go without repeating one of my common sins for weeks or months at a time, and just as I started to think, “Man, I have done a really good job lately”, or “I think I have this figured out”, I would repeat the same act!
Then I realized that I was always giving myself the credit – aka PRIDE (one of the 7 deadly ones). Once I had pride in my heart the cycle would start-up again. I finally understood how sin caused more sin.
This concept (in scriptural terms) is if you take your eyes off God and start looking elsewhere, you are guaranteed to sink – Matthew 14: 29-31:
‘He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”’
Just like Peter, I was taking my eyes off of Jesus and looking at myself as the real hero, and was sinking.
Literally any time I stay focused on God, I stay clean and dry! Hopefully overtime, I will be spiritually “chiseled” and have my soul looking ready for the beach.
Tool 3: Strong Adhesive
A good adhesive (like glue) binds things together. If it is really good, the objects that are bound become inseparable.
Now consider something as fragile as a relationship. Without a strong adhesive, it’s nearly impossible to keep one together.
Fortunately, Christians and Catholics alike are given a little-known product called God Glue. This miracle product holds together and actually strengthens the most broken pieces of any person’s (especially mine) life!
After Anna and I got married, some wounds from my adolescence surfaced.
It was ugly.
I would get mad at her for things like how she said something. After I cooled down and reflected on the situation, I would get frustrated with myself. The majority of the time she wasn’t even doing anything wrong, and yet, I would be so furious in the moment.
Eventually, it became clear, I had to do something or our relationship would just continue to regress.
Therapy was my first course of action (which God had a hand in). What happened during the next 5 weeks was nothing short of miraculous.
I basically just talked to myself a lot, because the therapist sat quietly and acted as a sounding board. In that short time I was able to dig down deep and understand what was actually eating away at me.
Related: How I Battle Depression Naturally: 5 Drug-Free Ways that Ensure I WIN
I was projecting my pain onto Anna caused by things that happened in the past. The biggest sore spot was my relationship with my parents. My parents divorced when I was 9 years old, and it affected me more than I ever realized.
Clearly, the only way I could solidify my relationship with Anna was to repair my relationship with my parents.
The perfect situation for God Glue.
The pain I had experienced during my parent’s divorce caused our relationships to fracture and seriously needed help. What exactly the glue in this instance turned out to be was forgiveness.
Once I forgave my parents for the unfortunate circumstance that they placed me in, things really turned around. Forgiveness (my God Glue) held such power that I started applying it frequently.
Having God use this on me, my relationships with friends and family haven’t been perfect, but they continue to hold tighter with time.
Tool 4: Sandpaper
To finish any fine wood project, you have to have some sandpaper. This “tool” is used to smooth out the surface of the wood and make it capable of being a finished product.
God’s version of sandpaper is prayer.
There are a range of sand grits to remove different levels of material. But spiritual sandpaper is usually fine grit, meaning it removes very little during each stroke.
Praying is like sandpaper because it slowly smooths out the surface of the spirit making it increasingly beautiful.
Prayer for me has been tricky. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I have a prayer-life that needs work. Lots of people struggle with it.
But the cool thing is, every time I pray, or spend time with God or his word, he gets that sandpaper out and just continues to smooth out my rough edges. I just have to be present, and he keeps doing his work.
I find peace in this analogy because it reminds me that I don’t have to be awesome at prayer, or any other spiritual practice. God just wants me to know and love him. And if I keep seeking him out, he will keep sanding me down, purifying and sanctifying me.
Thinking about all the finishing touches he will make is even more exciting!
The Man I am Today
During my life, I have experienced some ugly things, dark times, and scary moments. I have also been a part of beautiful and amazing things that cannot be explained by science, logic, or any other means of human interpretation – miracles.
As a result, I am a believer. With every ounce of who I am, I know that God is real and that he saved me. I realize I never explained much of what my past included because I wanted to intentionally focus on the graces (tools) that God has used in my life.
With that said, I thank God for helping me experience true joy, and will continue to strengthen my efforts to know, love and worship him!
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Hey there! I’m Frank, co-founder of Healthy Habits Reset. My wife, Anna, and I have battled our respective autoimmune diseases for over a decade. We have fumbled through and eventually learned that REAL mental and physical healing requires you to be your own advocate, to think for yourself, and to determine what information works for YOU.
We created this blog to teach everyone how to use the resources and tools available to make the best personal decision surrounding any health, faith, and lifestyle choice.
Great Post!! I have a long way to go.
Thank you, Don! As cliche as it sounds, we all have a long way to go – you can never be content with your relationship with the Lord. Plus, I think you have made HUGE strides in your faith too, so don’t discredit that.
I thought it was very disrespectful to say she “caved” , indicating she was weak in some way. I don’t know if you ever explained the bad thing you did, because after that comment, I didn’t continue reading. And please don’t use any excuse, such as how you are only human, because showing respect to the woman you say you love, should come so natural, you don’t need the bible to tell you how to be decent to your wife. It’s not like something you blurt out and wish you could take back, you typed the words out, read them and still decided to publish. Booo I say.
One of the most difficult aspects of writing a blog post is that sometimes what I write can be interpreted differently than how I intended it. That appears to be what happened in this case.
Surely, I was not eluding to the idea that my wife, Anna, is weak, but I can see how someone else may interpret it that way. My use of “caving” was intended to be a light-hearted way of describing one of the most nerve-wracking times of my life.
But, I agree with you and am glad that you shared your feelings, as you did. I should always treat Anna with the utmost respect, and while I do not need the Bible to do that, it certainly helps. But rest assured, I think she will attest that I do honor her and treat her very well.
Thanks for reading, Joann.