Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Are You Saved?

by Penni D'Aulerio

The kindest thing my parents ever did for me was to have me baptized in the Roman Catholic Church as an infant, even if at that time they were not particularly church-goers. I think I got a jump-start on spirituality, sans my permission.

I have loved Jesus since I was little, learning about Him in Sunday school and Youth Group at our local Methodist Church. That was my Jesus on the front of the building: mosaic-tiled, looking lovingly down on the two children He had gently placed His hands on. If I had no such place to center myself, growing up dysfunctional may have been slightly more traumatic.

I can recollect being 13 and listening to the AM station in the dark of the night. The light from the clock radio would illuminate my room, while the raspy voice of the Radio Preacher suggested his dutiful listeners should "give their lives to Jeee-zus" and "belieeeve in Him so yeee shall be saaaved…" Every Sunday night for the better part of a year, I laid in my bed, reciting the words of the "Sinner's Prayer" as fervently as I could without sounding trite; I was sincere, after all. I would feel a flood of relief wash over me each and every time Raspy Radio Preacher announced that I had been "saved." Prior to that time, I have no memory of anyone telling me I was saved. Wanting to make sure I really was, in fact, saved, I continued praying the prayer.

At least 43 more times.

Good thing, because years 14 through 20 in particular were a blur, either because of the emotional abuse I tolerated as a child, or the marijuana-induced haze I continuously entered into to endure said abuse. Good times; pass the bud. My mid-20's were less blurred because they had to be: I was thrust into adulthood by having a son to raise. How na├»ve it had been of me to marry an agnostic who was, by all standards, truly an atheist, simply holding onto the agnostic title "just in case there was a God…"

Although I had grown up in the Methodist church, during this particular time I attended a nearby Episcopal church. They they welcomed me as a single parent with open arms; the pastor counseling me during a period where I felt all had been lost. While I don't recall feeling anything overtly spiritual happening then, I felt love, warmth, and an acceptance I had longed for. I felt safe.

"Jesus loves you," Fr. Mike would tell me, time and again…

"And I, Him…" I would respond, as enthusiastically as I could muster due to the challenges I faced in raising a toddler alone. After my divorce, I would sit alone poring over scripture verses, seeking anything to hold onto while I clung to the cloak of my Lord, begging for the hemorrhaging to cease. I was determined to have something break through because I was supposed to be saved at least 43 times; I was having my doubts.

When I met my future husband, he had a solid faith, but he was "a Catholic." Being Catholic was foreign to me, but it somehow made sense: after all, I had been baptized Catholic and was already practicing a faith that was one step removed. After attending Mass with him, I thought "I can do this"; initially because I had a husband who loved God and, get this, went to Church! Eventually, something much deeper latched onto my spirit and I converted.

As someone who had already participated in two other Christian denominations, I had a unique perspective about how each faction felt about the other. I have heard ultra-conservative Catholic views, such as how we should be more obvious with our Catholicism – in displaying signs, symbols, scapulars. If that is the case, should we also widen our phylacteries and lengthen our tassels? Or perhaps stand on a corner and chant so we can be heard for our many prayers? While I am sacramental by nature, I do believe we need to be more inwardly collected. If our outward actions show others Jesus is our Lord, we don't need to prove our religiosity when God is the only one we need to impress. He knows our hearts, after all.

Conversely, I have chatted with Protestant brethren in such innocuous settings as grocery stores, where conversation ultimately turns to the things of God. One question has become the classic conversation ender: "Where do you fellowship?" I always hesitate before I answer, not because I am ashamed to reply, "St. Bernadette's"; simply because I know the talk is about to come to a grinding halt.

"Oh…is that…..Catholic?"

"Yes….can you believe it?"

I never remember questioning whether another believer was saved, but when I became a Catholic it became a routine question asked of me. If they felt I wasn't (because I didn't spontaneously break in to speaking in tongues or something), they would further question, with a narrowing look to their eyes, my ability to read Scripture or if I worshiped Mary.

For the record, I've been reading the bible since I was a small child and have never worshiped anyone other than the Triune God. Although our services differ in a myriad of ways, when it is broken down to the basics, is it not the same God who loves us all because He is no respecter of persons?

We all have so much to learn from each other, if we would only choose to listen and dialogue rather than pointing out how truly wrong the other is. Thereafter, we should lower the volume of the response after our opinions have been so stated. Should I have told my almost-new-friend in the grocery store that I am "different" and may not be like the other Catholics she knows?

Instead of sharing further thoughts with my grocery store acquaintance, after our awkward exchange we parted ways: she pushing her cart and wondering if I "had been saved"; me pushing mine, wondering if I should have offered that I have, in fact, been saved 43 times...44 if you count the night where I professed my faith openly for the first time as a Catholic, some 13 years ago.

Penni D'Aulerio is a Christ-follower and married to a saint of God, Jimbo. They have three children plus one daughter-in-law to be. Although she works at a nearby childbirth center, she desires to be an Addictions Counselor. When not helping babies and mamas, she can be found blogging at Martha, Martha.


wilsonian said...

Penni- I so appreciate your voice in bridging the gap. :)

Kullervo said...

Excellent post.

So I Go said...

this is such a humorous and at the same time hopeful post, Penni.. thanks for sharing it so eloquently, and (as Erin said).. for bridging the gap.


am i allowed to be here? lots of estrogen.

Lorna (see through faith) said...

GREAT article/post (as ever)Penni

the whole question of salvation is a tricky one isn't it? I guess that if someone is really a practicing Christian and in relationship with God rather than just going through the motions (just in case) is what we mean by it.

I know a lot of methodists, RC and others who are not saved in that sense. You see in my book it's not about church per se, it's about you yourself.

saved 44 times ... and counting :)

Steph said...

Amen to bridging the gap as others have said. I have sort of the opposite situation - in the Irish dance circles I frequent the conversation grinds to a halt when I admit I go to a Baptist church.

I find myself trying to break away from the mainstream evangelical culture, and find meaning in some of the older rich Christian traditions. But I like to pick and choose :)

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