Be still, and know that I am God! … Psalm 46:10a
I think you may have sensed a current of deep and abiding faith in these pages. While we mourn Mom’s death, we also celebrate her life and the blessed assurance she is safely home.
But I should talk about this faith journey we both took.
Mom and I came to “faith” from different paths. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t trust in the Lord with all my heart. I made that commitment formally when I received confirmation way back in grade school. At that time, I pledged my heart and soul to the Lord.
Mom’s journey was a little different. While she, too, was raised in the church as a youngster, it wasn’t until March of 1977 she fully understood and accepted the Lord as her personal Savior.
I traveled the traditional path. Mom enjoyed a rebirth. I focused on the Old Testament as a foundation for the New Testament. Mom reveled in the New Testament as a fulfillment of the Old Testament. I was more comfortable with orthodoxy and hymns. Mom enjoyed good worship music and energized services. I had an exclusive personal relationship with the Lord. Mom was more inclusive. I wasn’t comfortable sharing my faith. Mom was quite comfortable sharing her faith. I was reluctant to lead prayer. Mom was open and willing to lead prayer.
From these two divergent views, we came together with a common purpose. Mom introduced me to contemporary Christian music. I taught her how to discern matters of faith. Mom opened my world to diversity and evangelization. I drew her into a deeper personal relationship with the Lord. Mom showed me how to share my faith. I showed her how to live her faith.
She was supportive as I embarked in my ministry in the Catholic press and behind me all the way when I was became an elder at Tyre Reformed, jokingly referring to me as “Pastor Joe” when I delivered my first sermon. I encouraged her to start Manna and pushed her — without too much resistance — into being active in the church. We were Eucharistic ministers at St. Ignatius and prayer partners for each other throughout the years, although, regrettably, we did not often pray together.
I do remember a “discussion” we had shortly after Mom was “reborn.” We were at a crossroads … she was attending a more Pentecostal church while I was going to the Catholic chapel at the local hospital. Our finances were unraveling. Our 8% ARM was adjusted up the maximum 2%. We got into a terrible argument about something I don’t even remember. I flew out of the house and peeled out, spending the next few hours at the park in Belvidere just reflecting.
When I got back home, ready and willing to apologize, I was greeted with “Do you feel like a man, now?” referring to my rubber-burning departure. I simple said, “No,” and went to bed.
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 one of us could remember what sparked the original argument. Instead, 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. Mom 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 that 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? In retrospect, I felt like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time
“I thought so,” she replied. “But I never was sure.”
It was sobering moment for me. I guess I may have walked the walk, but I certainly didn’t share that walk, especially with Mom.
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 our 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.
Mom taught me those truths.
To be continued …
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: To avoid duplication, make three copies.