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Friday, September 7, 2012

A New Door Opens, Reflections

In the post A New Door Opens I began the story of how I happened to be at the birthday party that proved a powerful catalyst to change my life. The next post, A new Door Opens, Conclusion I shared the rest of that life-changing moment, which occurred in the seclusion of my own living room. If you missed those, especially the last one, you might want to read that before this post.

Whenever I have shared the story of this personal encounter with the Living, Almighty Father God, I am always asked if I left the Catholic Church. The answer is simply, no*. I enjoyed a reverential peace in the worship at my church, but I also knew I needed to learn more about God and the Bible. From that time on, I went to both Mass on Sunday and a Bible Study during the week, wherever I lived.

I did go to Confession the Saturday following my Tuesday night encounter. I told my priest about the “I’m ready” lie and also that I had attended, but not participated in, the Bible Study without first speaking to him. These things are called venial sins and he offered me the forgiveness I sought. He said that in the last few years the Vatican had changed its view of Catholics attending Protestant services. It would be allowed as long as the priest knew about it. I tried to explain my experience to him and expressed my desire to go back to learn more. He advised against my returning as thought it would bring confusion, but he did give me the permission to go as long as I also attended Mass regularly. I had no intention at all of skipping Mass; I loved the sacred service. In addition, I did attend, and participate in, the Bible Study every week from that point on.

Funnily enough, not a single person asked me what had happened to me, not even my roommate. Since I had no idea what had happened to me, I didn’t mention it to anyone other than my priest. No one gave any notice to my regular attendance on a weekday evening, wearing the more appropriate jeans and a tee shirt. Sometimes I even went to a Sunday evening meeting that a wonderful lady conducted for the same group of kids. She was a spiritual mother for many, including the couple leading our weekday Bible Study.

It wasn’t until nine years later, on the eve of my speaking at an Aglow meeting in Wyoming presided over by my former roommate, Joyce, that she asked me what happened. “I mean, Sojourner, I know you are saved and did get born again but I have no idea when or how that happened? C’mon, lay some details on me here, will ya?”

“Well, the thing is, Joyce, I didn’t know what had happened. No one had explained to me about being born again and, though I had heard of getting saved from a lot of Bible thumpers, I never figured out what I needed saving from. I believed in God; I believed that Jesus was the Son of God and the entire Apostles Creed, every line of it, so their pleas to get me saved just fell on deaf ears. I knew without a doubt, if I died I would be going to Heaven.” Next, I gave her the details of that special “Rey’s birthday gift” and what happened to me that night. We rejoiced over it all again, this time together.

Often the folks telling me I needed to get saved used three portions of Scripture from the Book of Romans, which they called The Roman Road:

1. Everyone has sinned; not a single person can say that they have never sinned. (Romans 3:23) I never disagreed with this; I still don’t.

2.  The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) We are going to die because of our sin and that is a fact. It doesn’t mean the physical death like all of our bodies will experience at some point, but it means we go to hell for all of eternity… a spiritual death. I agreed that I believed that, as well. The Catholic Church teaches the same, making the Sacrament of Confession available to the congregants.

3. You have to confess out loud that Jesus is Lord; that He died and was raised from the dead. I’ll put the exact wording here since this is a pivotal passage for evangelists.

Romans 10: 9 and 10: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Let me say here to the precious, well-intentioned  Fundamental Christians who may be reading this post today, every single service I attended in the Catholic Church (and a few of the Protestant ones), I did exactly that! I believed in my heart and I confessed those very things. I know it is true because the services so often included the public reading of the Apostles Creed, or some other similar Creed, which included the same points. So why didn’t they believe me? Why did they keep telling me I was going to hell because I was a Catholic? No, I didn’t worship the same way as they did but I, certainly, believed the same Biblical truths about Jesus. It was so puzzling to me, really.

Equally perplexing was the very real, unique encounter I had had at the foot of my crucifix. What had happened there? Since I already did believe what Jesus said I should believe, what was that all about? To me, it felt like a new door had opened. A door that would lead me into a deeper understanding of God, His ways and His thoughts. As I considered what had happened to me that night, this is how I pictured it:

Standing inside a palatial structure, I could turn to look through an open door behind me. There were lots of marble steps from the outside, leading up to the massive entryway doors. I had never seen these doors closed, actually. I had walked across the beautiful marble foyer and into an enormous sanctuary, elegantly appointed with ornate pieces of all kinds. I never saw where the light was coming from and had the sense that it was just “there.” To the side of the platform, another superbly-crafted, large door stood open just a crack from the frame. I hadn’t seen that door open on prior visits to the sanctuary, but it was on this day.

I drew closer to the beautiful, inner door. As I approached, I saw the radiance of a brighter light emanating from within and was totally drawn to it. The funny thing is that I thought I would ask if I could open the door; but, as it turned out, it swung wide open as soon as I was in front of it. It was the most natural thing ever to just walk through into the room. However, once through the doorway, I saw a vast area ahead of me. It wasn’t a small office or conference room of some kind, as I had supposed; but, rather, it was like stepping into another galaxy. Everything was totally different; even those things which had a familiar feel to the eye or ear were not really the same.

Well, that may be a writer’s flowery idea of the situation but it expresses what I was feeling about it all! I had just had a new door open and I could hardly wait to see what adventures awaited me in this new world! Indeed, I did feel as though I had been born again; everything had become new. Perhaps, that was it, then, I’d been born again? I decided to check out what the Bible had to say.

*More on this later in the journey of this twenties decade.

****Jesus and Being Born Again… Next Post

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