When I was a teenager, friends were very, very important to me. As they are for most adolescents. I remember keeping a journal, and writing in it a list of all the friends I had at the time. I like having friends, and I like having friends be happy with me.
Now, full disclosure, I was not a popular kid in school, if we are using popular in the sense of “cool.” I had this one shirt I loved in 5th grade that had a cartoon picture of two cuddly cats on it. It originally belonged to my grandmother, and I thought it was the best, so she let me borrow it. I wore that shirt to school with pride. In an era when name brands were starting to become a big thing- Gap, American Eagle, Abercrombie and Fitch… I was wearing cat shirts.
At this point, it may not surprise you to learn that I was also kind of a “nerd.” Which I’m sort of thankful for nowadays. I avoided a lot of drama by being nerdy. I wasn’t cool enough to get invited anywhere I could get myself in trouble. But, even though I was nerdy, I still cared a lot about what other people thought of me, and being different was often hard.
I think in many ways, it’s normal to want to be liked. No one is like “Man, I really hope people hate me today.” So, this is probably a universal thing.
But I think where my own struggle began is when I started to associate part of my own value as a person with how many friends I had at any given stage of my life. Like somehow how many people liked me somehow correlated with my value. Like I said, I like to keep people happy.
Now, there are seasons in life when it’s normal for one’s ‘friend count’ to go down. Situations in which you don’t actually lose friends, but when your normal peeps are inaccessible. Moving comes to mind. But I wasn’t really prepared for the shift that occurred when we transitioned to the Catholic Church.
We lost some friends because of our decision. We drifted away from others due to not seeing them at church on a weekly basis. And others, we thankfully were able to keep. But talking about the Catholic Stuff, which has become a huge part of our family life, still is a bit weird and awkward, and sometimes avoided altogether.
It’s difficult to not be able to talk about your faith openly with your friends, because you know they disagree with you. It feels like an entire part of my being, and theirs is not okay to bring up. And that’s really hard.
It’s difficult knowing that some people I know think I’m at best a bit misguided, and at worst a bit crazy for becoming Catholic. I know that reaction, because I’ve had it too towards other people who make what I think are odd decisions or hold what I think are incorrect beliefs. There are times when I’ve been like “man, I really like that person for a lot of reasons, but in this one regard I think they are a bit out there… too bad.” Becoming Catholic, to some people, means I’ve lost some street cred. It means everyone isn’t totally in love with every part of me, which, let’s be honest, they probably weren’t anyway to begin with. I may or may not have my fair share of flaws. And that’s something I should be expecting from people anyways. I know that’s my own weakness talking because the only One who is ever going to love me completely is God. I don’t need to seek to have that hole filled by people. It isn’t a fair expectation to make.
Another tricky thing about this, I think, is that women in particular base friendships on commonalities. You become friends because you have things in common. And then, when you have a friendship formed based at least partly upon a certain common thing… when that common thing changes, it adds some challenges.
And now, writing on a Catholic blog when many of my friends are firmly Protestant holds its own unique challenges.
And, I’m in this really interesting place because I know both Protestants and Catholics and people of other world views are reading what I write.
And I need to be authentic to my faith.
On Being “Safe”
It’s almost been like… it’s okay to many that I became Catholic if it has helped my faith walk, but I think maybe if we don’t talk about it too much or I don’t write about it too much then people can attempt to think I’m only Catholic in the “safe” ways to be Catholic. Like with the connection to history, and the liturgy, and the reverence. All the things that set the Catholic Church apart, but don’t offend people who disagree with the Church. And this has mostly come from me. I’ve been the one to emphasize how much I like the “safer” aspects of Catholicism. Because I don’t know how to bring up how much I love The Eucharist to a friend who doesn’t believe in the True Presence, or how much going to Confession or Adoration recently helped me refocus my prayer life, or how much I love praying the Rosary. Literally I know almost all those things sound weird or crazy to my friends that aren’t Catholic. I know, because that’s how I felt when I wasn’t Catholic. Catholics were to be loved on, but also kept at a safe distance… because they were a bit loco.
But… if I only write about those “safe” Catholic things, then I’m not really being true to myself, or the totality of my faith. I didn’t join the Catholic Church for only the “safe” reasons. I am fully Catholic. That means I believe in the Authority of the Catholic Church, and the Communion of Saints, and asking for the intercession of Mary and the Saints, all the Catholic teachings on Mary and Purgatory, and the True Presence in the Eucharist, and Confession, and that the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus founded during His time on earth. I am Pro-Life. I don’t support the use of contraception. I also believe that everyone, without knowing it, who has a genuine Christian faith is to some degree, though imperfectly, united with the Church Jesus founded.
None of this is a recipe for having everyone like me, or keeping everyone happy. And that is something, as I mentioned, that I have really struggled with since my youth.
As a former Protestant, I know that many of those aforementioned things sting when you aren’t Catholic. And that they bring up many, many thoughts and feelings and reactions.
I know hearing that the Catholic Church claims to be the Church Jesus founded stings, because as a Protestant I felt like people were telling me that my own faith was somehow not enough. Even if that isn’t what they meant, it felt awful to have someone tell me that there was a fuller version of Christianity out there that I didn’t agree with. It felt arrogant. It made me feel defensive. It made me mad.
I had no idea what my Catholic in-laws were talking about when they talked to me about things like the necessity of Mary being Ever-Virgin. I thought they were super weird, and had no frame of reference to understand why that would even be important. I cried a few times because I had no idea what these people were talking about.
The idea of accepting the Tradition of the Church on the same level as the Bible was offensive to me. I didn’t have any context for what it meant, and I had grown up my entire life hearing over and over again that The Bible is the sole authority for Christians on matters of faith.
The Nature of the Claims
I remember watching a video series by Protestant Pastor and Author Tim Keller on The Reason For God. The book and video series were awesome tools in my own faith walk as I discerned whether or not Adult Lorelei believed Christianity to be true. Keller met with a group of people who were not Christians, and explained Christianity to them in a series of videos. They then had free discussion, where they would ask him questions, and he would answer them in a loving, yet truthful manner. One discussion was on the exclusivity of Christianity, and the idea of why are the perameters so narrow in the sense of Christianity having a corner market on Truth. Mr. Keller responded, basically, by saying, that Christians aren’t being exclusive just to be exclusive. It’s an inevitable side effect of the “nature of the claims” of who Jesus claimed to be. And if Jesus was truly who He claimed to be, by the nature of His claims, the perameters become narrow.
I guess I could ask my Protestant friends to pardon the seeming exclusivity of the Catholic faith. If the claims are true that Jesus founded The Catholic Church, then, by the nature of the claims, all the Catholic stuff is going to be true- the safe and the non-safe issues. I don’t know how much of a help that would be, but it is one way to look at it.
Finding an Answer
I often ask myself… Why can’t I just focus only on the nice things… parenting, and marriage, and all the other safe ecumenical Christian topics? And I do enjoy writing about those things, and plan to continue. But, again, it comes down to authenticity. And the passion deep inside my soul to help reduce the misconceptions about that which divides us. So I need to write about All The Things. Not just the easy or comfortable ones.
I desire to get better at this. To get better at being fully myself, and allowing others to be fully themselves without feeling like I need to censor so much. And I do so much love writing about my faith. It just hurts to know that what I write might cause any amount of pain or discomfort in another. I think in some ways it is God allowing me to feel the pain he feels at the divisions within Christianity. He meant for us to be one.
So… how to live and write authentically when you know a lot of people close to you disagree with what you believe? I don’t think the answer is to stay away from the controversial stuff. Avoidance inhibits authentic relationships.
I suppose I could take the attitude of “they don’t have to click on it if they don’t like it,” but that isn’t who I am. I care… perhaps too much at times, and not enough at others. But I care about the feelings the things I write bring up in those that read it. But I hope I’m learning not to care so much that it impacts how I feel about my own value or worth. Or so much that I’m scared of sharing that which I believe to be Truth.
I think perhaps the answer is to be authentically me, but also try to write in a way that explains my thinking as clearly and graciously as I can, for those who read that aren’t coming from a Catholic worldview.
I think God allowed that side effect of our journey to Catholicism, at least in part, to help reveal an area of sin in my own life. That I care far too much and too often about keeping the peace, and being liked, to an extent that I tend to lose myself when I am in a position of being different.
And I know I won’t be perfect at this. I’ve lived long enough to learn that there is no way to have an opinion about something and also keep everyone happy. And writing is all about having an opinion and sharing it in ways that other people can relate to, or can learn from, or that helps people see things in a new way. But at least this is a way to move forward, and do what I can to be open to conversation, and bridging those gaps.
So, I want to take a moment to thank both the friends and strangers, Protestant and Catholic, and whatever other background that have been reading this blog, especially those who took the time to read this post in its entirety. I respect you, I care about you, and I respect your faith life. I can’t promise that what I write won’t ever offend, or puzzle you… but I can promise that I am going to do my best to be authentic and gracious. I am always happy to answer a question. I hope if you aren’t Catholic, that you are able to learn a bit more about the Catholic Church, and I admire you’re willingness to learn about a worldview that differs from yours. I hope if you are Catholic, that you are able to find a place to be encouraged, and to learn more about this faith we share. And, I hope we can move in a direction of greater authenticity with each other.