I have been trying to put this story into words for almost six months now. Prayer and more prayer was needed before I could even sit down to write all that I’m going to share with you. Because telling a God sized story takes more than just the desire to share it.
Many of you know that I began my journey as a Christian nine years ago. I remember the day I said “yes” to the Lord like it was yesterday. Yet, it feels like a lifetime ago on so many levels. Why? Because I have changed a gazillion times since my very first “yes” to Him. And boy am I thankful for that. My journey with God, has not been easy, or what one would call glamorous. Many times I had to dig deep within and take a very hard look at myself to see who was truly on the throne of my heart. Sadly, it was me way too often. Even though I truly believed I surrendered it all to Him, I didn’t. Let’s just say I had to eat MANY HUMBLE pies.
Funny thing is, I began to enjoy eating humble pie. Jill, how can you say that? Because it meant that I was drawing closer to God and desiring His will NOT mine. Which to me is a very good thing. It meant that I no longer wanted what I thought was good for me and was willing to accept what He was trying to give/show me was His best for my life. It took me three years to get to this place and I’m soooooo thankful He is long-suffering!
Which leads me to how my conversion taught me all about grace!
Let’s start with a great definition of the word conversion: A radical reorientation of the whole life away from sin and evil, and toward God. To separate yourself from a worldview, daily seeking to live a holy life…to be more like Jesus.
Many times over the last nine years I made radical changes to my life and how our family lived. But yet, as time went on I continued to learn that what I called radical was simply doing things a bit different then the world. Sure we no longer had TV, or music with words that caused me to be embarrassed in front of our children. Sure we adopted many times and said yes to it even when it didn’t make sense to those around us to keep saying yes. Sure we changed what we read, talked about, and how we raised our children. But all of that was truly simple when I look back on it, compared to giving up on my idea of what it means to be holy and more like Jesus.
God called my husband to seek Him with His full heart the moment he said “yes” to Jesus. He fell in love with the word of God and studied through it four times with pastors all over the country on line. Then he attended two years of bible college on line, went on for his Masters degree in Philosophy, and then onto PhD work studying Philosophy. His journey truly led our family. As he learned more, so did we. As he desired more of Jesus, we all followed along wanting to understand his passion. Not always with his same passion or level of willingness to change things even more. But we eventually came around knowing he was only going to lead us to truth. And we all know “the truth sets us free.” Being free is a wonderful thing.
I supported all of the callings on my husbands life but one…going to a Catholic University to begin his PhD work. I fought it tooth and nail. I was sure that if he went down this path he would become Catholic and I was NOT having any of that. No way. My arguments often began with, “First, remember I married you when we were both Jewish. (like he had forgotten this fact) I followed you to Christ. There is no way I’m following you into another religion. I know and love Jesus, that has to be enough.” He would try to help me see that there might be more to Jesus and our beliefs. But I would never give him a chance to share what he was learning and questioning himself. I tried to stand on all that I was taught from the various evangelical churches that we attended to support my decision and I would NOT let him forget any of it.
Yet, I couldn’t wrap my mind around any of it. I continued to resist so much that my husband told God, “I have to let this go so I can hold my marriage together and not cause strife between us.”
I let my fears of what I was told to be true to rule my faith in my husband and God. I allowed years of misinformation and opinions of what I saw in the body of Christ to be my truth. Versus opening my mind and heart to hear the truth from God or my husband. I now know all of it was wrong and hurtful to the body of Christ. Because Christ is coming back for his one bride – which will be Spirit filled believers that worship in different churches and different denominations each Sunday. The Holy Spirit is the one who truly decides who is in the Church, not where we worship. (As long as, you learn about Jesus, His life, death, and resurrection. One baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – it is the same God and truths with some difference in theology. Those differences are over things that we should not be arguing about or allowing to cause so much division amongst those who love Him.)
Again, it took me three years to get to where I am today. I had to wrestle with so many things. I had to allow God to work in my heart and help me to see things His way. I had to stop fighting Him and simply trust that He had the best plan for me. Which He made sure I couldn’t ignore one more time. January 19, 2014 our family was attending church and the pastor was speaking about truth and obedience to God. Here are my journal entries from the final two weeks of me attending this church…(which I am SO thankful that I took the time to do each week, so that I can look back over the last year and see just how far I have come with the Lord!)
I’m sure nothing stands out to all of you. But to me sitting in church that last Sunday, it was like the pastor was speaking directly to me and me alone. I could literally hear God’s voice asking me, “Jill, are you walking in truth or obedience to what I have told you?” I almost asked my husband if he heard that too? That is how real and loud it was inside of my head.
Here is why this question stopped me dead in my tracks and caused me to break out into a full on hot flash in the middle of a freezing church service. August of 2013 my husband came to me and said, “I can’t ignore the truth anymore and I need you to support my journey entering into the Catholic church.” My response went something like this, “Sure, but do NOT ask me to enter it or the children. We are staying evangelical. End of story.” He was shocked and at the same relieved to hear I was not going to fight him anymore on following what God had already shown him to be true. With that he joined RCIA classes at the Catholic church literally ten minutes from our home. He was thrilled with it and felt at home within weeks of attending classes and Mass. He would attend classes and Mass, then quickly drive to meet us at our church right around the corner from our home every Sunday. He was definitely getting his fill of God’s love each week. Meanwhile, the sister who was in charge of the RCIA classes gave my husband a DVD series to watch and said to him, “ask Jill to watch these with you.” He had already warned her there was NO way I’m joining him on this journey. She said, “Just have her watch these and leave the rest up to God.” Sure enough two hours into watching Father Barron speaking about Catholicism almost all of my beliefs were shattered to pieces and I suddenly knew more about Jesus than I had ever learned attending church for the previous eight years. I asked him to get the full set so that we could watch them each week together. I would take pages of notes after watching Fr. Barron speak about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary, faith, sins, and virtues. We would spend hours talking about all that I was learning and yet, I didn’t change my mind about where I was attending church for another five months. God and I had some things to work out first.
Meaning, my pride was too big and I refused to simply say, “Scott you are right and I will follow you knowing you would never lead me or our family down the wrong path.” I did say that eventually, but not when I should have. I’m very thankful my husband is also long-suffering and allowed God to do all the work inside of me instead of trying to force me to submit to what he wanted.
I should also note, that during the six months before I changed my mind, my husband was drastically changing right before my eyes. His love for God was already deep, but now he was allowing that love to flow freely through him to me and the children. It was a beautiful transformation. He was getting super excited to enter the church during the Easter vigil in the spring of 2014. His prayer life changed in a drastic way too. Which changed how he spoke, reacted, and treated everyone in his life. Again, a beautiful transformation. God’s grace has an amazing power to do that to a person yielded to the His Spirit!
Let me go back to the church service and what happened immediately following…from that point on, I knew in my heart that I was led to worship at the celebration of Mass. I knew I had to humble myself completely and go to Mass with my husband no matter what I felt or thought. It didn’t matter anymore. I simply had to lay down all that I wanted in order to walk in truth and obedience. Here is the funny part, when I told this to Scott, he basically said the following, “No way. You are going back to your church and there is no way you are coming with me. You can’t do this for me.” It took me almost an hour to convince him this had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me needing to stop fighting God. He agreed and yet, he sat there in complete disbelief and AWE of God. He later told me that inside he was jumping up and down over what God had done and how quickly He answered his prayers!!! I’d say!
Which leads me to my very first Mass with him the following next Sunday. When we woke up he reminded me, “I didn’t have to go for him and yet, he wanted to support my decision to try it out.” I again, reassured him that I was not going for him and even though there was still a ton of things I disagreed with or didn’t quite understand I was definitely going to Mass with him from this point on. I told him in the car as we drove to Mass that I had no clue what God had for me on this journey, but I was going to trust Him and not fight against Him anymore. I said, “OK, God, here I am speak to me.”
I was going but in my heart I was still at home with my arms folded making a “humph” sound. The joke was on me! The Mass began and as the priest began his homily we both about cracked up…today we are going to discuss conversion. God, was going to use this priest just like He used my last pastor to get my attention and make sure I knew this message was for me! I not only started to cry, but my heart softened in a way it never had toward God. When I walked up to be blessed during communion my heart was pounding so hard I was sure everyone could see it. By the time I sat back down that quickly changed to tears and my heart feeling overwhelmed with love. Something I had never felt before and certainly not after taking communion a hundred times before. That blessing meant more to me than any bite of a cracker or grape juice ever could. This time I was walking in to receive the fullness of Jesus and His promise to all who take and eat this bread (His body) and drink this cup (His blood) in remembrance of Him.
Our children were eager to hear how I liked it and if that is where we would end up going to church from now on. My answer was an easy, “yes.” They didn’t attend with us for the following few weeks until they fully understood what was going to happen during the Mass, and how we expected them to behave. They watched the entire Fr. Barron series with us and loved it. So we knew they were more than ready to worship God through Mass as well.
Within a few weeks, I began to attend Mass every morning after dropping the children off at school. Now I can’t imagine missing a day! I will begin RCIA classes this Fall and look forward to entering the church next Easter. I long to partake of the Eucharist more than words can say. For now, I am thankful for the grace His pours out as I wait to truly taste how good the Lord is! The children attend with us every morning now as well and they whine big time if we tell them they are not coming with us one day. Our conversion has been nothing short of God’s amazing grace day after day. His grace is all sufficient no matter what is going on and He pours it out more and more as we continue to humble ourselves to His plan and NOT our own. We don’t know what tomorrow brings outside of His promise to fill us to overflowing with His love by the power of His Spirit, which is more than enough for me.
This is NOT the end of my journey at all, it is actually the greatest beginning in so many ways. I’m learning to trust God in ways I never have, in ways I never could before. I’m learning to praise Him for the trials in my life and when things don’t go my way, because it is then that His grace is poured out even more. I’m learning that even when things don’t make sense to me, I simply need to trust in God’s goodness, faithfulness, and purpose for whatever I am walking through. I’m learning to stop demanding to see things from my point of view, and ask for the Holy Spirit to show me through His eyes.
There is so much more to share and I hope you are now inspired to seek God’s will for your life no matter where it leads. You will definitely end up better off and feeling a peace and joy like never before.