Growing with and toward the Church

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There are literally thousands of different ways to be a Christian. I read somewhere that there are something on the order of 22,000 different Protestant Churches with new ones being founded every year. (From what a friend tells me regarding the coming Episcopalian convention, it would hardly be a surprise to find a new Church springing up in that confession in the near future.)

That is why conformity with the teachings of the Catholic Church is so important for me. I don't want to be overly-scrupulous--I want to exercise freedom where prudential judgment allows for variation of opinion; however, where the Church is definitive, I want to toe the lie of that definition insofar as I can understand it.

Why is this so important? As with many converts, I sensed something that drew me to the Church. Initially, it was the certainty that the Church was right about the real presence. When I joined the Church, I didn't accept much of Church teaching besides the elements of the Nicene Creed (which nearly every Christian can assent to) and the belief in the Real Presence. However, from the moment of my joining my prayer has constantly been, "Lord, lead me to where you want me to be. I don't want anything less than the Truth."

Now, I will admit, that I am remarkably adept at deceiving myself--thinking that I am following the truth while following something else. But I also am willing to rethink and abandon my errors for the truth when the truth can seep through the pores in my mostly adamantine skull. But, fortunately for me, God is a God of patience, generosity, and love. And when you ask for something as important as the truth God will give it to you. Once again, fortunately, He will give it to you only in the amount you can accept. So I have been extremely slow in my growth as a Catholic. I've come to recognize the pattern by which growth occurs--stubborn resistance transmutes to indifference on a given point transmutes to interest in the opposite view transmutes (often without my active participation) into acceptance of Church teaching. Usually resistance takes the form of asking why such and such a truth is the way it is, what sense does it make? Often at this stage I can't make out the sense--that may persist through the whole journey. The indifference stage (which comes ever faster) is typified by the attitude that "sometimes you have to give up the right to know." In other words the panic over the truth of the matter vanishes and leaves behind a residue of "Okay, it may be true, but I'll leave it alone until I'm certain." At this stage, usually, God sends someone to me who will touch on the matter in unexpected ways. It may be a long-term friend, it may just be someone I meet at a lecture, or perhaps even something I hear on television. Of recent years, it has often occurred in blogdom. I can recall several things said to me by Karen Marie Knapp, Tom of Disputations, TSO and others that have permanently altered my view of things. These are precious gems of consolation and love God sends out--often the sender is utterly unaware of his or her effect.

Encountering the truth is hard. It requires that one be ready to abandon cherished illusions and ways of life that flow from them. Accepting the truth can only be done in the light of grace. Without that grace, I would have arrived nowhere. With it, I hope to arrive at God's truth before I die. If not, I hope to have latched on to enough of it to make the journey afterwards.

But surrender to the truth requires giving up pride; one must be able to admit that one has been wrong on any given point. Abandonment to the truth can be frightening because it leads the seeker into new territory. The grounds of our illusions have been thoroughly tramped through; however, truth is always "the Undiscovered Country." Every step into is a step away from the familiar and comfortable.

And ultimately, as I am constantly reminded, Truth is a person. Getting to know this Person can be exhilarating and frightening. It requires giving up so much that has been cherished so long. It requires giving up small illicit pleasures. It requires giving up licit pleasures. It requires giving up the sense of self that has accreted over the years so that one can stand revealed as Christ sees one. There is an exquisite agony in these progressive stages of revelation--but that agony is the foreshadowing of the ecstasy of Union which may only be had when everything that separates one from God, most of all those cherished illusions of self, has been stripped away and one stands naked and unashamed before the living God, ready to serve without masks, without hiding--ready now to don the full Armor of God and become His work in the world.

That, ultimately, is why growing with and toward the Church is important. I have lived in deception long enough--it is time, Lord knows it is time, to come into the country of truth and freedom and to assume my place in the body of Christ. Heaven help the body if all of the liver cells have functioned as poorly as I have for so many years. Or heart cells, or brain cells, or muscle cells. I am only a small part of the body, but my proper functioning is critical to the health of the whole. By grace I will arrive at that place, by grace all who arrive will draw more to God. By grace, we will all come to know and, more importantly, live the truth.

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That is a beautiful text, you have described some recognizable features of my own (still searching...) situation. Thanks!



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on April 20, 2006 9:53 AM.

At the Fountain of Elijah was the previous entry in this blog.

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