March 14, 2011 by Nicole
105 days (or 9, 072,000 seconds, depending on how you look at it) until departure for France!
The more that I spend my time preparing for the spiritual aspect my pilgrimage, the more questions I find that I have. One of the ones that has been on my mind a lot lately is the incredibly different attitude that Catholics and other denominations seem to have about how to express one’s faith. Many of you know that I am married to a Baptist pastor. If you know my husband, he is a man who clearly walks with God daily. He is a man who lives the Gospel message, and it’s always evident that he seeks to do what God commands in how he treats other people, in his values and charity toward other people. I am always reminded of John Winthrop’s Modell of Christian Charity when I think of how my husband is like the “city on a hill.”
I also just finished reading Don Piper’s latest book: Getting to Heaven. It was a very excellent and inspiring book about what we must do in order to go to heaven, which if you haven’t read, you should. Awhile ago, I listened to a bit of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (which I downloaded onto my iPod), which was also very good. I have lately noticed, however, that there is a part of me that resists, in a small measure, the way that they express their faith. Let me be absolutely clear, lest I am misunderstood: I clearly consider these people as devoted to being disciples of God and the words and advice they offer are ones every Christian, regardless of denomination, should listen to. What they say makes not only good sense, but it is the fundamental essence of who we are as a Christian people. I clearly believe that these people are not anti-Catholic, and in the case of Don Piper, I really loved that he said that one thing he learned after his experience about going to Heaven is that “God is not a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant who only speaks English.”
For me as a Catholic, though, I admit to feeling somewhat excluded from what I read. Unlike some of my Protestant brothers and sisters, I have a very hard time with the testimony and witnessing aspect of being a Christian. It bothers me that I feel this way, yet perhaps it is because some–obviously not all–of my Protestant siblings misunderstand so much of what I am as a Catholic. By nature, I am a very introspective person; I believe that faith is an important part of a Christian’s life, but so is expressing that faith towards people by doing good works. I openly admit that I do not fully understand how asking someone if they know about Jesus or if they are willing to invite Jesus into their life as their personal Lord and Savior works its way into a conversation, and how just because a person says “yes” to that question means that they have suddenly and genuinely become a Christian. And much of what I read approaches Christianity from this end; I guess I feel a little excluded because there is something about my own relationship with God as a Roman Catholic that feels like it’s being overlooked.
What I have come to conclude is that the important thing is that the fundamental message from people like Piper and Warren is right. Everyone (including Catholics!!) needs to pray more; they need to read the Bible, they need to work at opening up a better line of communication with Jesus and offer praise for the incredible sacrifice He made for us. But what becomes difficult is where some aspects of my expressions of faith–all of them Biblical–fit in. What does it mean that I pray the rosary in order to help strengthen my own relationship with Jesus? What about the fact that I have an entire family of angels and saints who will petition to God on my behalf? What about the fact that my form of “witnessing” is good works–like trying to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc.–all of which Jesus commanded me to do in the Bible?
Well, I guess that means I must work harder at finding the happy medium–that place where our two senses of Faith converge. After all, we’re all cut from the same cloth.