I wrote a story long ago in 2006-2007 of how I arrived at Rome. It's since been lost so I thought I take another stab at it here, as I'm 10 years in, and maybe in those 10 years I have gained a bit of insight. I at least hope I have.
I grew up protestant, my mom and dad had me baptized in a Methodist church when I was a baby and we moved to PA and we tried the Methodist church again, but the kids were horrid to my sensitive older sibling, and so we became Presbyterian. It was close to Methodist and it had kind people in it, kind people are always a good thing. So most of my memorable childhood was spent being Presbyterian. But my parents never seemed to care if we did things with other protestant churches, and oddly in the small town of 5,000ish people that I grew up in there were at least 20 different protestant church varieties to choose from not to mention the even smaller surrounding towns with their 3 or 4 protestant churches each. So many varieties, and honestly, as a kid I didn't think anything of this division except that these made for lots of variety of vacation bible schools and camps.
I had a good friend who was a member of the Church of God congregation who invited me to church summer camp at least twice, and for the most part I enjoyed the rock walls and the zip lines and the pony rides but then there was always an evening of alter calls. Alter calls where something in which you were supposed to commit yourself to Christ in that moment. It always felt so strange to me, that this definitive moment was supposed to be the point at which I was a Christian and everything would magically change. Maybe I was a child skeptic and I just didn't know it. But so many alter calls later I was jaded by this action and thought it felt like it was missing something. To me it didn't mean that I was not a Christian, but I just didn't get this type of theology.
Having a naturally inquisitive, deep diving personality I did a lot of spiritual reading unprompted. On top of this I actually wanted to go further into my faith and so I asked to go to yet again more camps, of the Christian Leadership variety because the alter call ones weren't doing it for me anymore and so I convinced my parents to send me to my aunt's camp at least twice who had such things. I even convinced my mom to take my brother and I to Mexico for a mission trip since I was too young to go on my own according to the folks making the rules. (I was apparently very persuasive as a young one.) It was probably a good thing that my mom went on it because the girl who bunked next to me, who was a young college student, was bitten in the middle of the night by a deadly spider (local doctor knew the antidote but it totally made this girl delirious) and I probably wouldn't have been able to communicate well if this happened to me with my parents many thousands of miles away.
So I was seeking and wanting more and just trying to figure out what this whole Christianity thing was at its core. Along the way there were some bumps, I was sexually molested as a pre-teen and it sent me into an anti-boy/men tirade of years where I felt pretty worthless in the eyes of God. It oddly later led me to block out emotion that came with anything sexual and made for some pretty risky situations. Granted I had principles guided only by fear but I figured I could do anything but and yet I still felt horrible the next day post these situations. By the time I was a college student I had convinced everyone that I was never getting married and hated men, yet honestly I was just a jumbled mess inside. I had a habit of declaring my love of someone who just wasn't even a possibility because then I didn't have to actually have to act on anything. Secretly, I wanted to be loved but just didn't think I was worthy of it.
I ended up at a Southern Baptist college, mainly because I ended up with a sports scholarship/academic scholarship and it was a place that felt safe and yet was far from home so I could make a new start. My freshman year I tried going to churches in the area but the Presbyterian churches around there at the time were terrible and felt like everything was dying. I was one of the few non-baptists around a campus filled with PKs and MKs and kids brought in to be missioned to. Most baptists pretty much thought I was Catholic, especially when it came to mentioning things like Lent.
A fellow cross country runner, introduced me to a non-denominational church with a South African pastor. Honestly, probably part of the draw to this church for me was the accent, but also the church was alive and growing in contrast to the dying southern Presbyterians. I stayed at this church from at least sophomore year until graduation. I went on a mission trip with them to Honduras to help build a school and it was just very great in that helping others sense. They were good people once again and I liked being in their presence.
I had a lot of questions at this point, none which I felt like were being answered. And of course there was that weighty question of my worth being defiled and all. I was a little strange in my college course work and took all my hefty major stuff early and then left the core freshman classes for my junior and senior years. I first took an Arts in Western Civilization class. It was the best, because I loved art and I loved relating art to God. On top of that there was an architecture project and well, I am a complete sucker for old churches and their beauty. The professor, I don't think he knew the impact of his words, went on and on about the cathedral in St. Louis, MO. He stated, "If you can't worship there, I don't think you can worship anywhere." College me was like 'Okay, you know that's a Catholic church you are talking about, right? You're Baptist." Hmm. But architecture lover me, well she made a special trip during winter break convincing a friend to accompany her there since it was near her home. MO is very far away from PA, but, you know, architecture! So I went and it was beautiful, it was pre me having any decent camera, so I believe I took pictures with a disposable camera but none the less it stuck with me that this was somewhere worthy to worship. After all the non-denom I attended met in a school assembly room a very big contrast indeed.
My brother was dating a Catholic girl at the time, and my upbringing led me to believe that Catholics were wild. I totally dismissed him in his inquiries about Catholicism thinking if he ended up marrying this girl that she would just become what he was because we were the actual church going people. Little did I know what God had in store for me. Oh life is funny sometimes, and I think I will end there today.