In this Parenting Dare Blog, we intentionally highlight healing, identity and mission, which is the trifecta of spiritual growth.
Usually those three things go in order. A person will find healing, then they’ll realize their real identity then they’ll go on mission.
I have gone through those three steps, I just did them backwards. Oopsie Daisy.
My mission? Well, my main mission to to raise my family! AND God has given me another mission: to help parents raise children that can recognize porn, react to it appropriately and learn how to resist it.
What spurs me on?
Right now in our world there is a lot of things falling apart and pornography is a massive part of that. Marriages are falling apart. Stats show that porn use is a key factor in most divorces.
In the Catholic Church, there is huge crisis going on. You cannot tell me those perverted priests and bishops were watching reruns of Happy Days in their quiet moments.
(By the way, I love my Catholic faith and I’m not leaving. A perverted priest is a perverted priest, he isn’t my faith.)
If you are a faithful priest or a faithful seminarian, thank you. We need your witness and we need your strength. The gates of hell will not prevail.
Okay, back to my mission: A priest friend of mine, Fr. Sean Kilcawley, told me over a year and a half ago that my mission is great. However, because it was such a hard mission I’d really have to do two things: I’d have to go through my own healing and I would have to really know the person of Jesus.
I’ll admit that I was a little confused by his words. I thought I was healed. I thought I knew Jesus. I thought this was about Lori Doing Her Thing.
He was like, “Um, no.”
Turns out that Fr. Kilcawley knows his stuff. I did need healing. Funny how you don’t know what you need until you receive it! And I also received a deeper understanding of Jesus.
Today I’m going to share that story with you. It’s truly my conversion story and I am totally jacked right now. It’s an important story for you and it’s an important story for your child.
Earlier this year my son Eric and I gave a presentation at a great school. Afterwards, we went out with the priest from that school/parish for a bite to eat. As we talked, he shared with us that the number one thing getting in the way of his parishioners’ spiritual journey was their inability to trust God the Father.
I asked him why it was so difficult and he said that without thinking, his faithful, hard-working, good people believe God the Father is like their earthly father and they have a hard time trusting.
A couple of weeks later I was talking to a good friend of mine on the phone; we were discussing faith and our family history and such. In the middle of that conversation (I’m sure the conversation from the priest had been stirring in my heart) it hit me that I didn’t trust God the Father.
It realized that I avoided God the Father.
WHAT? Dang it. Here I thought I was a good little Christian. Cutting the FATHER out of the equation didn’t seem really wise.
Now, I knew where the disconnect came; in my formative years I struggled in my relationship with my dad. He was strict and I never felt like I pleased him. But there has been such strong healing in that area!! I naturally thought that that healing would transfer over to my relationship with God the Father.
And that it obviously hadn’t was troubling to me.
I realized that I had developed my own personal trinity: Jesus, The Holy Spirit and Mary.
God the Father was nowhere to be found.
That hit me like a ton of bricks.
How could I change this dynamic?
Well, I let that simmer for a couple of weeks...then months.
Every year our family prays the Divine Mercy Novena, which begins on Good Friday and ends on the Sunday after Easter.
Major prayers have been answered through that novena; because of the nature of this novena, I take it seriously and spend a lot of quiet time thinking about my intentions every year.
For Divine Mercy Novena 2018 I had three intentions, one of them being:
JESUS, SHOW ME THE LOVE OF GOD THE FATHER.
I figured that was a prayer he would have to answer, eh? (By the way, you do not need to pray this specific prayer for the desires of your heart to be heard! I know you know that, but I want to be clear: if you struggle with God the Father, simply ask JESUS to show you His Father. He cannot NOT answer that prayer!)
The novena ended on April 8, 2018.
On April 25th a book arrived, a book that had been recommended by John Eldredge (author of Wild at Heart). He said every single Christian should read this book: The Victory Over the Darkness.
As I read the book, the truths were so big that I had to read it in little pieces. Seriously. Every paragraph was filled to the brim.
The entire book, written by Neil Anderson, was the story of who we are in Christ. Everything was based on Scripture and I loved every word.
But THEN he started talking about eternal life. Now, you guys, I am someone that is really looking forward to eternal life. I mean, who wouldn’t want heaven?
There are even some times that I almost want death to come because I really am looking forward to eternal life and bliss and joy and I simply cannot wait!
Then on page 46 Neil states, “Eternal life is not something you get when you die.”
And my immediate response was, “Yes it is.”
He went on to say that as a baptized believer, I had eternal life now.
Nope. ETERNAL LIFE IS MY REWARD!
Then he used Scripture to support his claim that “Eternal life is not something you get when you die.”
I casually looked up the verse he referenced. I knew my Bible would not support this wild claim of his.
I opened up to 1 John 5:11,12 and I read, “God gave us eternal life and this life is in his Son. Whoever possesses the Son has life; whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.”
And in verse 13: “I write these things to you so that you may know that you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God.”
Now, at that point, my heart jumped a bit in an excited kind of way. But then my rational mind took over and I knew that Neil was obviously taking those sentences out of context.
But then he shared more.
It wasn’t just one sentence. It was a theme throughout the epistles (the letters written to new believers after Jesus had ascended).
Neil Anderson says on page 84 that “The greatest tension in the New Testament is between the indicative (what God has already done and what is already true about us), and the imperative (what remains to be done as we respond to God by faith and obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit).”
We were made for relationship with God the Father.
Neil clearly, in simple words, told me that at baptism, “He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption and forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13.
What? This made no sense to my logical brain. How can I be IN the Kingdom of His Beloved Son now? Isn’t that what I am doing in my life as a Christian? Isn’t that my hope?
Neil made the valid point that if we don’t truly understand and accept what really happened on the Cross, we will try to do for ourselves what God has already done for us.
Oh my stars. I realized I had spent my life doing just that. Yes, the actions were good. I had spent much of my life in prayer, opening up to the Spirit, but if you boiled that down, ALL was in the hope that my actions would be enough, that He would approve, that I could become perfect enough to gain eternal life one day.
In effect, I had spent my life trying to do for myself what God has already done for me.
It was then that I had this moment, a moment of conversion. It was radical. I felt everything inside me shift. Instantaneously.
But in the next days and weeks, I found this new way of thinking feuding with my lived experience. I didn’t want to go against my dearly beloved Catholic faith and surely, this was “on the fringes” theology. I mean, everything was in my Bible but this isn’t exactly preached….
It was hard for me to sit with these bigger truths and not know how to make sense of them. (My poor husband. He had to live with me as I wrestled out loud with all of this!)
I made an appointment with my priest. I talked everything over with him and guess what? He just sat there grinning.
Yes, at baptism I was born into the eternal kingdom of God. I have eternal life now.
Then I asked, “Why isn’t this preached? This is kind of Good News, you know.”
He made the valid point that most Catholics are baptized as infants and their faith matures slowly, through the years. He said that most Catholics are great people with great faith. That faith is steeped slowly, through the journey of life and they die in that deep faith in God.
I sat with that. I wanted to say that that was enough. But when I was living out my life doing the things, it was super easy for me to look upon someone who was NOT doing the things.
Without any trouble, I lived my whole life as the Pharisee Jesus spoke about in Luke 18:9-14.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the story, Jesus spoke about those that were convinced of their own righteousness. The word “righteousness” means to be made holy or just.
The Pharisees had all of these LAWS, which they followed. In this parable, the Pharisee spoke his grateful praise that he wasn’t like the rest of humanity, greedy and adulterous or even like that sinful tax collector over there. As someone who knew the law, the Pharisee fasted like a good boy, he paid tithes on his whole income.
The story then switches over to the tax collector; the guy could not even lift his head but he beat his breast and prayed, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
In the parable, Jesus basically says the tax collector left justified, not the Pharisee.
Now, to be honest, that little story has ALWAYS troubled me. The Pharisee did the things. Didn’t that MAKE HIM GOOD? I mean, on some level? He wasn’t sinning. He was living a good life.
I thought of my entire adult life: I tithed. I went to Mass. I prayed daily. I did those things with absolute regularity and if you got right down to it, I was especially grateful not to be a grave sinner like the rest of humanity.
The million dollar question:
How can God save a soul that saves itself?
Doing the things does not save. Doing the things and only doing the things turned me into a self-righteous, narrow-minded, prideful woman that did the things.
As I accepted this new dimension of truth, I found it fascinating that my self-righteous, superior thoughts vanished. They just evaporated.
I loved that. But was I becoming a Catholic rebel? What did my Church have to say about this?
On July 29, 2018, with great fear and trembling, I opened The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the helpful book that sums up all of the teachings of the Church.
What did I find in the CCC?
1086: “...and proclaim that the Son of God by his death and resurrection had freed us from the power of Satan and from death and brought us into the Kingdom of His Father.....” (Goes on about being trained).
1130: The sacraments of eternal life
"In the sacraments of Christ the Church already receives the guarantee of her inheritance and even now shares in everlasting life while 'awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus."
Did you get that?
By the power of His death and resurrection we are freed from the power of Satan!
We are in the Kingdom of the Father!
We have already received the guarantee of our inheritance!
We NOW SHARE IN EVERLASTING LIFE!
That very moment of discovery was incredibly exciting and sobering at the same time. Actually, I got kind of fired up. Angry in a “why don’t we know this?” kind of way.
I quickly wrote an email to a dear friend, Father Craig Doty. We had been discussing this topic for quite awhile.
He was directing a silent retreat to a group of nuns and I typed my email as softly as possible, sharing everything that I had discovered….then I typed,
THIS IS SUCH GOOD NEWS.
Why is this not proclaimed from the rooftops?
Bless the man, even amid his busy, he responded to my email and led me to an article by Hector Molina, The Kerygma Enigma.
As I read, I rejoiced. “Kerygma” is the initial gospel message of being loved and saved by God. Kerygma is basically the same thing as “justification.”
Hector makes the point that as Catholics, we focus too much on the catechesis, or how to live out that faith, at the expense of the initial proclamation.
Hector, Hector, Hector, preach it, brother.
I wanted to know why this wasn’t FRONT PAGE NEWS instead of tucked way inside a document with a title that I cannot even pronounce.
How can we live this out if we don’t know about it?
Now. At this point I want to stop writing and call it a day. I want to go into neutral. I just want to coast. But I know that my beloved and holy Church is in crisis mode and we must have the courage to go into the hard places. So let’s rev it up.
I have spoken with my strongest Catholic friends. And none have understood that they have eternal life now, that they are part of the DIVINE INHERITANCE.
I have eight children. All go to Catholic school. Four have graduated. Three out of the four said they left 13 years or Catholic education and did not have a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ.
Do we have the courage to look at that?
But they did learn the things. They could hold their own at Catholic Jeopardy. They learned the things.
Isn’t this crazy? And sort of exciting at the same time???? Let’s have the guts to consider that we have lost a huge message that NEEDS to be resurrected.
Why is this so important?
Let’s look at this in the natural sense: If a child is raised by parents with extreme emphasis on behavior, (vs being loved unconditionally) the child, unable to meet the expectations, will spend their lives feeling UNWORTHY and they will engage in all sorts of unhealthy behaviors trying to prove themselves or earn the approval of others.
But. If a child grows up KNOWING they are unconditionally loved? (I love you no matter what/you are mine!) They won’t have to spend all of their energy fighting for self. They can rest in the knowledge of who they really are.
And that pretty much sums up my conversion experience. I went from a child scared of her Heavenly Father, trying to earn His Approval (as well as the approval of all those around me) to a daughter of The King, not only realizing I am His daughter, but that I am in the Kingdom.
I can stop working to attain something that I already have. I don’t have to try and become a child of God. I am a child of God who is becoming like Christ.
What relief. I feel overwhelmingly grateful.
I cannot keep smiling.
We act out what we believe about ourselves.
We must believe we are children of God in order to live like children of God.
P.S. Update, written February 2020: Several months after I experienced this magnificent spiritual conversion I noticed something interesting: My Food Thoughts had more or less vanished. I wasn't obsessing about sugar. I wasn't scrounging for something to Fill Me. That was so incredibly freeing and it was something I had to share with others. I did that by creating an online course. It's kind of like a self-paced retreat, actually. We only open it every so often so I can walk with the participants. Check out more here: INSIDE OUT.
Here's all the books I mentioned in today's post!
(The Bondage Breaker was mentioned in the podcast)