Confessions of a Cradle Catholic: How I Found God
I am a cradle Catholic--I was born and baptized into a Catholic family, and from a very young age I have been attending Catholic classes, going to Mass, and praying Catholic prayers. Like most Catholics of my kind, my faith was never really personal for me. That is, until I found God.
My Confession: I found God from a testimony given by an Evangelical.
And this is my story.
It was the summer after my 8th grade year, and my Church was sponsoring a Mission Trip to Delbarton, West Virginia through an organization called Youthworks. I didn't want to go, sure I had grown up in the faith, but it wasn't that important to me. I was a short, socially awkward, and "slightly" dorky kid who was being forced into traveling with twenty people he didn't know. What made it worse was that my mother was going with. Honestly, how many teenagers like to hang out with their mother?
Nevertheless I was being forced to go. I suppose my parents hoped it would change me a bit, open me up to letting other people into my life, and perhaps even strengthen my faith. They also told me it would be a great opportunity to see how other people live. I'll admit, I've been relatively spoiled my entire life.
So I went.
Youthworks Promotional Video
The drive there was nearly perilous for me. 21 people packed in 3-mini vans. I wanted to die (in an overly dramatic teenage fashion). I was "anti-social"--I sat in the back of the van playing the Gameboy I had snuck with me. I had been picked on in middle school, so I didn't really want to open myself up to that again. The rest of the people in my van thought I was stuck up. Really, I was scared. Eventually people started to force me to open up. I put away the Gameboy, my reservations, and my shyness, and started to socialize. I began to feel, for the first time in my short life, I actually belonged somewhere. I started to think to myself, "maybe I can do this God thing..."
Being a mission trip, we did a lot of service work. Two of the days we worked with kids, sharing the Gospel message, playing games, and doing crafts. The other two days we worked at the home of an old woman doing painting and weeding. It was here that I again felt the community accepting me. We sang songs, and even made a band with instruments being formed out of random junk we found lying around. I was the "triangle" player (my instrument was really just an old piece of metal bent to look vaguely like a triangle.
The best part about the trip though wasn't the service, it was the fact that it was focused on Christ. Every morning we had devotionals, and every night we had praise and worship music and a testimony by one of the staff. It was one such night that changed my life.
I don't remember what night the talk was (I think perhaps maybe the first), and I don't remember what the readings were. But I remember the talk, because it forever changed who I was in Christ.
The staff person (we'll call her Lucy) told us about her days in college. She decided to try out her independence and attend a school far from home. She knew no one at her new school, and because it was very large, struggled to make friends. Her freshman year she lived at the top of a medium apartment building, and every time she wanted to do laundry she had to carry her laundry down 10 flights of stairs.
Now, she didn't own a laundry basket (Being the inexperienced freshman she was, she had just never thought of using one), so every time she wanted to do laundry she had to carry it in her arms. One week life had been particularly hard for her: she wasn't doing well in some of her classes, had spent a few nights without sleep because she was up studying, was feeling lonely, her grandpa was sick and perhaps dying, and she had to do her accursed laundry again.
On this particular day she tripped and dropped her laundry, scattering over a few flights of stairs. Overwhelmed by the stress in her life, she broke down and cried. Another young woman passing by saw her crying and stopped to help her. She ran back to her room and arrived back with a laundry basket. She then comforted Lucy and helped her pick up her laundry. She gave Lucy the basket, told her she shouldn't have to carry her dirty laundry alone, and walked off. Lucy never saw her again.
Then Lucy said, "Let God be your laundry basket. We all have dirty laundry in our lives, death, sickness, poverty, bullying, fear... whatever it may be. You do not have to carry these burdens alone, give them all to God, and you will feel so much lighter. He wants to carry all of that stuff for you, you just have to let him."
After that, we had praise and worship music. I don't remember the songs, but I do remember that I spent most of the time trying to hide the fact that I was crying. That night in my journal I wrote, "I think I'm coming to God. I want him in my life". Then I prayed and invited him into my life. In a sense, I became a born again Christian.
Why this Matters
You may be thinking, what's the big deal? I'll be honest, Catholics and Evangelicals don't always hold each other in high regard. Sure, we (hopefully) love each other and members in Christ, but we tend to approach our faith from two different directions. Furthermore, not many Catholics would confess to being born again. The fact that I was brought to Christ by an evangelical testimony shows that there are things to be learned from each other, that we can serve Christ together.
I'll be honest, I'm not so born again anymore. In my adult years I've begun to see conversion and sanctification as an ongoing process, not a one time event. However, I still think of Lucy often, thanking her for the gift she's given me. This summer I will be attending my 11th Mission trip (my 5th through Youthworks), and I will be taking 21 kids from my youth group with me. I hope that they may find the same community and love of the Lord that I found there. I hope that their lives may be changed as well.
© 2010 rdlang05