My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
Underlying the church hopping my husband and I did for ten years was some deep work God was doing in the secret places of my heart. You see, I had a problem with entitlement. After my Catholic first-confession, when I first experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, I knew I wanted to fully belong to God. But I didn't like the idea of being God's servant. I felt like servanthood and - even worse - slavery were beneath me. I would hear others describe having a servant's heart, and a part of me would cringe. The title of God's Adopted Daughter or the Princess of the King I could embrace fully. But a servant? A slave? I really didn't want to get my hands that dirty.
Fortunately, the Spirit convicted me about this enough that I repented of my attitude and asked God to help me change it. How did he respond?
He sent me into the desert.
Instead of forty days, I stayed ten years (I'm a slow learner). My spiritual experiences all but dried up, and my heart languished under the dry and unforgiving atmostphere. Doubts invaded; depression set in. I felt like the psalmist in Psalm 42: My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
That said, let us return to the main story. Ten years had passed, and my husband and I had finally quit church hopping and weren't attending church anymore.
Then, one Sunday morning, I asked him if he wanted to try again. I suggested we try a non-Catholic church. The idea was neither new nor unknown to us. Over many years with my husband, he would have us do a double-dip on Sunday. We would go to Catholic mass, and then attend a service from some arbitrary Protestant church. His purpose was to immerse himself in the mind-set of Protestants, to help understand why there was so much strife between Catholics and Protestants. In the past, these non-Catholic experiences had two major themes: give us money, and Catholicism is evil...right down to condemning the use of stained-glass windows and candles.
Obviously my husband held no optimism about the idea. He agreed we could try an arbitrary church, but he warned me that whatever place we visited would assuredly be a "no repeat."
So I sat down at my computer, went to Google Maps, and typed in "Church, 85050". Up popped a list of churches, and one of them read "Desert Springs Bible Church." For someone coming out of the desert, it sounded like a much needed drink of water. It had a website, so I clicked on it. I asked Brent about going there, and he simply requested that they don't have obvious signs of anti-Catholicism.
I scoured that website. I read every article. The message I kept recieving was one of loving us where we were, not of trying to push us to change. That didn't mean there wasn't an element of anti-Catholicism that wasn't apparent on the surface, but we decided to give it a try.
Words cannot explain the vastness of the gap between what we had been experiencing the past ten years and what we experienced that Sunday at DSBC. The Christ-centered focus of the message we received overwhelmed us from every angle. In the sermon, in the music, and in the people. We came in starving, we came out filled. We literally didn't want to leave the physical premises of the church grounds.
Indeed, we sat outside on the patio chairs with a happy giddiness until they were locking up the place. We wanted to pitch a tent and live there:
"One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple". Ps. 27:4
That was April 2008. Never once while we attended there did the bible church suggest Catholicism or its doctrines are evil. They even casually reference Mother Teresa as a Christian model. Instead of bashing our heritage or life experiences, they have been constant in telling us that Jesus is the answer; our background is irrelevant. When they said they'd take us as we are, they meant it.
I asked my husband if we were now Evangelicals, or Protestants. He said no, we remain Catholic because the usual distinction between Catholics and Protestants, the doctrine, was not the issue for us. The intent is what matters, and we as Catholics share this holy intent with the Evangelicals with whom we have made a spiritual home.
With a nod to our unusual circumstances, my husband calls himself a Catholic Nomad. I say I'm an Evangelical Catholic. Call us what you will, but we are not being two-faced when we "test everything, keeping what is good" (1st Thess 5:21).
And what happened to my unwillingness to serve my God? That first Sunday at Desert Springs I begged him to be his slave, if he would just grant that I could never part from him again.
I live to serve him. Now I work in Christian ministry, having been called to teach Christian Yoga. I have never led such an abundant life, with such a heart of thanksgiving. To serve the Lord is to find happiness.
God is freedom, God is joy, and if he has you in a desert right now, do not despair. If there's anything I'm sure of its this: He knows what he's doing. Rest in that. Amen, JESUS!!
"Give your life to God, he can do more with it than you can." --Anonymous