As I said in my last post, I spent most of my life doing whatever I wanted. From the age of 13 until 33 I had pretty much given myself control of my own life. I honestly believed that God was a merciful God and He would forgive me of anything I did, even if I didn’t humble myself and admit I was wrong with contrition. All of that was a foreign concept to me.
I stopped feeling shame for my promiscuity when I turned 30. At that point in my life I no longer felt that it was wrong for me to be sleeping with multiple partners at the same time, and according to my “counselor” at Planned Parenthood, who I saw once a month for STD testing, I was being responsible. Why? Because I was getting tested and I was sterilized so I couldn’t get pregnant. So allowing men to treat me like a toy to use for their pleasure was perfectly fine according to them. In fact, whenever I went in with one of the particular men that I was involved with, the clinic workers would flirt with him, never mind that he was bringing me in there to get tested for STD’s all while treating me like trash and talking to me with anything but dignity and respect. They still thought he was a catch.
Not feeling shame for immoral behavior was a pretty good sign that I was not living God’s plan for me. I was not ashamed of any of my actions. In fact I was proud of it. I was proud to be sleeping with two of the most dangerous men in my small town. I was proud that everyone knew it and I was proud that men thought sleeping with me was something to brag about. It might be shocking to some of you who read this, but there are many women out in the world who have lied to themselves and told themselves that being used as a sexual commodity is something to be proud of. I was one of them.
My point of telling you all of this is to show that 1) I was a lost soul, 2) I have been in the world and seen what it has to offer and 3) to show you that I was the most disobedient person on the planet and finally to show you that chastity was not something I practiced, ever.
Submission to authority is not something that I have ever been good at. Ever since I was a small child I would do the opposite of what anyone told me to do. Because of that personality trait I caused myself, my mother and God a lot of grief. BUT it has also been a gift, in that nobody could have ever told me about Church teaching and I would blindly follow without out knowing it is the Truth of God. I’m pretty offended when people assume that about me actually.
There are many aspects of my life where I have submitted to Church teaching even if I still struggle with understanding it, but I will tell you about the major thing that changed me and when I would say I became an obedient servant instead of a rebellious lost sheep.
My husband and I went to Rome during Lent of 2010. We were not married yet and I was coming into full communion with the Church that Easter. My husband was not confirmed, but we did not know that. Well, our plan was to elope in Rome, during Lent, as baptized Catholics…… yeah. That is how ignorant of Church teaching I was. And even though my RCIA facilitator told me that was stupid idea, I didn’t listen. Why? Well go back and read the first few paragraphs. I’m not the listening to others type of person.
Needless to say that that plan did not really work out. The Italian at the marriage license place literally laughed out loud when we told him our plans. But during our trip we decided that we did want to be married and we knew we had to be married in the Catholic Church. Throughout our trip we fell more and more in love with the Church and with God. After our trip he went back to Afghanistan and I came home and came into the Church 3 days after landing back in the States. (All four of my kids were baptized and received all of their Sacraments too. It was a great night!)
Stacey was set to come home that June and we planned on talking to Fr Jonathan as soon as he landed. I made the appointment and we thought that for sure Father would marry us ASAP. When I began RCIA, Stacey had moved all his stuff out of the house and left to go overseas and now he was back and we had NO idea what to do about our living arrangements. We wanted to be married by the Church and live as practicing Catholics. We loved our faith and we wanted to do everything right. For us that meant getting married in the Church and going on with our life, but as usual God had a lesson for us.
When we went in to talk to Father Jonathan, he told us that he would be happy to marry us. In 3 months……. Both of us were pretty upset at that alone and then came the kicker. Chastity. Father told us that if we were going to live in the same house (he wasn’t happy about that idea, but because of my kids and all that they had gone through already emotionally with my divorce and other things it is what we discerned was in their best interest.) that we would have to live as brother and sister, which, in adult language,meant no sex. Stacey and I had never been chaste in our lives! We didn’t even know what that word meant. Stacey’s first words after leaving Father’s office were; “I’m not listening to that priest. What does he know? What is he 12?” (Fr J is fully aware of that comment now, ps.)
By that point I had fallen in love with my Lord in the Eucharist and I was not about to do anything that meant I could not receive. Nothing. No way, no how. So Stacey and I had a long month of fights, arguments and tears ahead of us. We went to everyone we could go to to try and get them to talk Father Jonathan into marrying us sooner, but he stood his ground on the issue. After one of our meetings with him he told us flat out that we could probably find another priest that would marry us; it was our choice.
Our choice: Those were the key words. We had a choice to be obedient and do what Father was asking of us or we could go and find a priest who would tell us what we wanted and do what we wanted. What WE wanted not what God wanted of us. We made our choice and it was to be obedient to our Priest and do whatever he asked. We made our choice because we both realized that if we were going to be Catholic, if we were going to be married in the Church then we were going to do it right. All the way right, which meant doing whatever it was God wanted from us, and not taking it upon ourselves to do what we wanted all while saying we were Catholic. Being Catholic means more than just going to Mass, having envelopes, being a part of Parish activities, being on the Parish Council or any of that. Being Catholic means being obedient to God and His Church in all things, not just the teachings that we choose to follow.
I’m not perfect. I still struggle with many things. I still think things are right that are wrong. I still sin, I still choose the wrong thing. I still let anger control my actions. I have to humble myself and confess many things. But what I don’t do anymore is publicly say “the Church is wrong” about any of Her teachings. Because I understand that doing that is saying God Himself is wrong. I pray that anyone who doesn’t see that connection will look deep into the Authority of the Church and Who gave it to Her.
I know what it is to do things my way, it never turns out good. I now know what it is to do things God’s way, and I have found nothing but peace following His Will. Stacey and I will forever be grateful to Father Jonathan for never budging on the issue. It is by the Grace of God that we even made it into his office without being married by the JP. It is by the Grace of God that we have a great marriage and a great life. It is also the by the Grace of God that Fr J told us the truth, in love, and that we choose to be obedient to God’s Will. By His Grace, Stacey and I made Jesus the Lord of our Sexuality. Thanks be to God.