I was listening to a radio program this morning and the host was relating how his profession had changed since he first started. There were cathode ray tubes, tapes, stopwatches … now it’s all digital.
It reminded me of the changes in my profession. Gone are teletypes, manual typewriters, red editor’s pencils, Linotypes, galley proofs, typographers, chases, lead plates. Back when I started in the newspaper business, it would take three to four hours from final copy to first paper. Today, we write, edit and paginate on a computer screen. When I hit the send button for my paginated PDF, it takes less than an hour to get that first paper. And I was a part of the evolution. While in Illinois, our newspaper was one the first among small newspapers to go “electronic.” And I introduced laptop remote pagination to the Diocese of Toledo.
Those memories shifted to my evolution of my faith, from my early rigid Catholic upbringing to my realization there is a gigantic difference between religion and faith. And I owe a lot of the transition to my wife Karen.
We came to our “meeting with Jesus” moment much differently. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t trust in the Lord with all my heart. I made that commitment formally the day I received Confirmation way back in grade school. At that time, I pledged my heart and soul to the Lord.
Karen’s journey was a little different. While she, too, was raised in the Catholic church as a youngster, it wasn’t until March 1977 she fully understood and accepted Jesus as her Lord and personal Savior.
I traveled the traditional path. Karen enjoyed a rebirth. I focused on the Old Testament as a foundation for the New Testament. Karen reveled in the New Testament as a fulfillment of the Old Testament. I was more comfortable with orthodoxy and hymns. Karen enjoyed good worship music and energized services. I had an exclusive personal relationship with God. Karen was more inclusive. I wasn’t confident sharing my faith. Karen was quite comfortable sharing her faith. I was reluctant to lead prayer. Karen was open and willing to lead prayer.
From those two divergent views, we came together with a common purpose. Karen introduced me to contemporary Christian music. I taught her how to discern matters of faith. Karen opened my world to diversity and evangelization. I drew her into a deeper personal relationship with the Lord. Karen showed me how to share my faith. I showed her how to live her faith.
But I think the turning point — the moment when we turned onto the same page — was born from a “discussion” we had in Illinois shortly after Karen was reborn. We were at a crossroad … she was attending a Pentecostal church while I was going to Mass at the Catholic chapel in the local hospital. Everything was going wrong and we got into one of the very, very few arguments about something. I flew out of the house and peeled out of the driveway, spending the next few hours at the park in Belvidere.
The next couple of days were strained to say the least. That weekend, she went off to her church and I went off to mine. When we got back I said, “we have to talk about this.” She said, “Yes we do.”
So we set aside the time to just talk. Neither of us could remember what sparked the original argument. The conversation quickly turned to our faith journeys.
I told her I was uncomfortable with her church which, to me, was too Pentecostal and had some questionable doctrines. I liked the pastor and the people, but it seemed too divisive. The church seemed too willing to separate the sheep and to cast non-members as non-believers who should be avoided … even if they were spouses. Karen wanted to be baptized again at that church. I told her I wouldn’t stand in her way, but before she made that decision, she should pray on it and check out its doctrines, especially concerning speaking in tongues as a prerequisite for believers. Just because the pastor says something doesn’t make it true.
She told me she wasn’t comfortable in a Catholic church. “All you do is stand up, sit down, kneel down, stand up,” she noted. “There’s no worship, no songs of praise. Even during the sermons, rarely do you hear a priest talk about Scripture or the plan of salvation. It’s the same thing, over and over. And when was the last time you saw a Catholic with a Bible? They don’t even bring them to church.”
The debate lingered. My defense was simply my faith was in Jesus Christ; I believed Jesus Christ was the promised Savior; He became man and died to free my personal sins; through Jesus Christ I was assured salvation. My religion was an extension of my faith.”
But she pressed me further and asked if I was a Christian (remember, she had been reborn just a few months back). I answered a resounding “Yes!” but I was taken aback. How could this baby in faith question me … who had walked the walk for years?
“I thought so,” she replied. “But I never was sure.”
It was a sobering moment for me. I guess I may have walked the walk, but I certainly didn’t share that walk, especially with Karen.
But the discussion became an opportunity for us to get on the same faith page. We both learned — sometimes to our regret — congregations can become so wrapped up in the form of faith, they forget the substance of faith. Going to church becomes an obligation rather than the celebration it was intended to be … a celebration of praise and thanksgiving to our Father for the gift of His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives … a celebration of repentance for or transgressions against God and our fellow man … a celebration of prayer and fellowship with others and ourselves … a celebration of our faith as told through Scripture … a celebration of our victory in Jesus Christ through the actuality of Eucharist.
Karen taught me those truths.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: “I don’t know the secret of success, but I do know the secret of failure, and that is to try to please everybody.” — Bill Cosby