Saturday, January 11, 2014
Work it out
Last night I was talking to a friend of mine who knows a little bit of the situation at hand in my life. (Short version - I'm Catholic, engaged to be married in the Catholic church. My parents are militant, anti-Catholic, Protestant fundamentalists). She's very very Protestant, in the Reformed tradition. I explained a few things to her that I had discussed with my parents, such as "Catholics don't worship Mary" and "Catholics compiled the Bible." I don't know if I've been too insulated in a community of like-minded individuals or too hopeful that these points are valid, but I was surprised at the default anti-Catholic position inherent in her Protestantism. I wasn't even trying to convince her in an "I'm right, you're wrong" way. I was trying to explain certain doctrines to the best of my ability...which must not be very much ability because she kind of dug in her heels to every point I made. I wasn't trying to argue or win her over, good thing, because I totally didn't. Maybe my motivations were more prideful than I care to admit. I was re-hashing some conversations I had with my parents last year, and explaining things to her in the way I had to them. My arguments make perfect sense to me, and in fact, this line of reasoning is exactly what led me into the Catholic Church.
The conversation made me sad. And, rather than spending more energy on doctrinal "debates" or explanation of differences (especially when the other person has their mind made up), I just walked away thinking, "I need to stick to myself." Meaning, I need to "work out [my] salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12) I need to worry about me and me only. I need to do what I know to be right, for me, in my life, right now. That doesn't include telling others what is right or trying to shift their viewpoints to be in line with mine. I need to be responsible for me, pray for and care for others in tangible ways, and let it go. I've got enough on my plate to keep me busy for a lifetime.
I know this. I've always found religious debates to be wearisome and ripe with potential for pride. I worry that I've said to much to everyone in my entire life. My parents, my friend last night, my other friends and family at other times in my "convert-to-Catholicism" zeal. I resolved once again last night to work on my own problems and to pray for others. I admit, I felt defeated. This war between Catholics and Protestants is centuries old and complicated. I used to delight in the diversity of the Christian denominations. Now, the divisions make me sad. We don't all have to be the same, but we are tearing ourselves apart.
My vocation is to love, especially in this year of 2014. My vocation is not to teach, to convince, to explain, to defend. It's to love. And sometimes that means keeping your mouth shut and focusing on what you can change - yourself.