My parents raised us to be something between nonreligious to Catholic. Until I was an adult, I was never sure whether my father believed in God. I do believe that I learned about evolution and biology at a young age which made me feel uncertain about whether God was real and what role He played in the universe.
In my early years we did attend a college Catholic church which appeared to focus on social justice. Sometime before middle school we moved and started attending a nice, large suburban, family focused Catholic church. (Looking back, it seemed like a very politically moderate and benign church compared to Catholic churches I’ve visited in the last few years which were very conservative and old-school!) I requested baptism in the Catholic church during middle school since it had been left undone for family reasons and was later confirmed.
LOSING MY WAY
I was involved with the Catholic Church through high school but I began to feel I was “losing my way” to sin, the World and maybe the Devil. For me, something was missing spiritually for me in Catholicism. I reasoned that if God and the Bible stories were real, that people should be seeing miracles, dancing in the aisles and shouting “Hallelujah!” Many people in my Catholic church just sat there quietly and there were many young people there that I was sure partied every weekend so I felt that maybe the reality of God was lacking in the Catholic church. (Now I see things much differently, but I am trying to describe my thoughts as a 14-year-old!)
Also, I found that I continued to sin. Somewhere along the line, I absorbed the idea that once a Christian is following Jesus they would be filled with the power to stop sinning. In my Catholic church, I felt powerless to stop sinning. However, from what I had seen depicted by the fundamentalists and in autobiographical Christian books like “The Cross and The Switchblade” (David Wilkerson), “Freed for Life” by Rita Nightingale and “Chasing the Dragon” it appeared that when a person “really met Jesus,” became born-again and spirit-filled that they suddenly were freed from sin and addiction.
Many of my extended relatives were very religious, well-educated but also fundamentalist Christians and my best friend was a tongue-talking Assembly of God gal, so I did have those influences in my life. Oh yeah, and there were lots of nice Lutherans in my life too! But the Lutherans and the Catholics both seemed so mild and harmless compared to the fundamentalists, so I wondered whether the Catholics & Lutherans had a religion worth keeping. They just lived their lives quietly, while the fundamentalists appeared to be set free from all manner of evil and went around the world bringing the good news and seeing new converts set free, healed, delivered, etc., or at least that’s how the “born-again” folks made it seem. And the fundamentalists had such CERTAINTY! They were CERTAIN there was a God, a Devil, and a very war for your soul, and were CERTAIN of Heaven and Hell! They were Certain that one could be set free from sin and could have assurance of salvation. You could have a personal relationship with Jesus! You could PERSONALLY and INTIMATELY know the Creator of the Universe! You could walk and talk with him! Many people personally testified to these truths, that they had personally met Jesus and that I could know him too! If true, these claims sounded great!
BESET BY SIN
Now for a disclaimer. I was not a well-educated Catholic. Since my parents weren’t strict or knowledgable about the rules, such as how and when to go to confession, etc., I had little idea as well. Maybe I was just a BAD Catholic! Maybe being a more devout, active and knowledgable Catholic would have helped. For me, something just felt like it was missing. I felt I lacked any sort of Christian power. I felt that the religion wasn’t helping me to purge my soul of sin. It felt as if one couldn’t help but sin but one tried to be as good as possible and then went to confession to grovel, list, and then be forgiven for all one’s shortcomings.
I hated that I couldn’t stop doing things that I considered sin. Looking back, I think it is just plain HARD to be a teenager! It sure is a lot easier to be over the age of 30 than to have the raging hormones, fears, desires and anxieties of a 13-18 year old! By the time I was 18 years old, I felt that I had fallen away from God and was like the prodigal son. I felt that my life was surely on the road to hell. I had made choices that I felt were taking me down a road from which I couldn’t return. I felt out of control. I felt the possibilities of the world and life were too broad for me and that I had left God’s path and I fell into deep crisis.
Many years later, I have so much more understanding of issues that I faced and problems that I had that sent me spiraling into a horrible time of deep, deep crisis. At the time though, I saw only 2 forces that could possibly affect me life. God or the devil. To teenagers, complex situations are often black and white. So when I hit rock bottom, and felt I could no longer continue life on my own strength, I turned back to God as he appeared to me from one of the most radical churches I could find.