When I was in college, I was attending this charismatic, pentacostal, evangelical, non-denominational conglomeration of a church that hated women. It was weird. It was uncomfortable. It was… gross.
The main reason I attended this church was because the “holy of holies” attended this church. You know, the campus worship leaders, the students on fire for Christ, the future youth pastors of America. (You know the type.) And I figured, if they were going, then I should be going too. Clearly, they knew something I didn’t. Clearly, they were being fed here. Clearly, this was the place to be for the who’s who of campus ministry.
So, I went. And I almost instantaneously hated it. But this is not that story. This is the story of the story that came out of being asked about “my story”.
Almost as soon as I started attending this place, I was cornered and confronted by some of the “holy of holies” within the church – the people who had made it their mission to determine who was “saved” and who wasn’t so they could either give them the seal of approval or pray their souls out of an eternity of fiery damnation. The “holy of holies” wanted to know my “witness” – my “story” – the moment the heavens opened up, God revealed Himself unto me and made a prophetic proclamation about my life. Because apparently, this is the rule rather than the exception in these churches. And if you’re the exception, then you’d better hunker down for one heck of a hot eternity.
So, apparently, in order to be accepted into the fold, I needed to have my salvation story ready. And I didn’t. And I was all…
And they were all…
And so I stuttered and stammered and limped my way through a story about giving myself to Christ at Vacation Bible School with Missionary Larry at the age of five. But, apparently, that wasn’t a good enough salvation story because it wasn’t dramatic enough and puh-lease… everyone had gone to that same Missionary Larry VBS and that did not make me a born-again Christian.
And I remember going back to my dorm room and calling my mom and telling her that I was pretty sure I wasn’t a Christian because I didn’t have a bonafide “salvation story”.
She was able to convince me that that was silly, that a bonafide “salvation story” didn’t make me a Christian, and that I needn’t worry about my “salvation”. So, I believed her…. or at least pretended to. But I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that maybe I wasn’t a bonafide born-again Christian after all because… well… even when I had been standing there reciting that prayer in front of Missionary Larry at the age of five, I wasn’t buying it.
You see, in order to understand the thought-process of a five year old Annie, you have to understand that even at the age of five, Annie was a bonafide cynic. This was the kindergartener who had been given a stern talking to by her kindergarten teacher after laying out for her classmates the exact reasons why Santa Clause wasn’t a real dude. This was the kiddo who laughed maniacally at her older siblings when they tried to convince her that the Tooth Fairy was an actual thing. I didn’t buy into things easily. I was a realist through and through.
But when it came to Jesus… well, Jesus was an entirely different story. Jesus was the real deal. Jesus was awesome. Jesus was love and goodness and grace and mercy and forgiveness and awesomeness all rolled into one. That was just fact. That wasn’t something little Annie even flinched at. Jesus just was. It wasn’t even up for debate. What was there to debate? Reality? Reality wasn’t up for debate. Reality just was. You know… kind of like Jesus.
So, since little Annie knew this from a very young age, she found it somewhat bewildering that she should have to “give her life to Jesus”. This concept was baffling. What was there to give Him? He already had it. She already knew Him. She already loved Him. But now she was supposed to officially make a public proclamation in order to make it stick?
Little Annie, being the realist she was, found this absurd. I mean, let’s be honest… WHY???
However, Annie was not yet the feisty, spunky, spit-fire she would one day become. So, when she saw everyone else going up to the front to give their lives to Jesus, she figured she should too, because she didn’t want it to look like she didn’t love Jesus. So, she gave her life to Him again and asked Him this time if He could make it stick.
Fast-forward almost 30 years later and I’m sitting in Fr. McCutie’s office, asking about the Catholic thought-process of baptism and suddenly, this happens:
I’m sorry… are you trying to tell me that my inclinations, understandings and proclivities of the Christian faith have been CATHOLIC this whole time?! That maybe, just maybe, when five year old Annie was standing there all confused in front of Missionary Larry, that there was a teeny-tiny Catholic just dying to get out?!?!
Holy crappers… I think I’m a little bit Catholic.