Sunday, July 29, 2007

Faith Story Part III -- Awakening

I spent my twenties making money. Out of college, my B.A. in journalism and political science got me nowhere practical, but three years working in Personnel right out of high school got me a job as a high-level clerk in the Personnel department at Pennzoil in Houston, where my parents had moved. I worked there two years. Got promoted. Managed the boredom of the job. Made several life-long friends. Quit Pennzoil to attend graduate school in government at UT in Austin. Made another life-long friend, but left after one semester when I realized I wasn't ready for graduate school.

Moved to Dallas where I landed a job as a technical writer/editor at another oil company, ARCO. Within a year I was promoted to management, and my salary suddenly doubled overnight. I remember the feeling of my false-ego surging. You know that feeling? Ah, I'm somebody now. Somebody special. It was the same feeling when my father and mother bragged on me at the Christmas gathering of the extended family a couple of years later. Bragged on me shamelessly because of my salary at that oil company. They approved of me also because with my new job and salary I looked better on the outside -- easier to do when you have the money for good clothes and haircuts. But on the inside, fear still reigned.

In my early thirties a friend invited me to a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which I'd never heard of. It's a mainline denomination, but rather small. The senior minister was intriguing--Michael was his name--and he taught Sunday School for single adults. The class was small so I felt comfortable asking all my hangover questions from my Campus Crusade for Christ days. And this minister took me seriously. He didn't give me pat answers, in fact he usually answered my questions with other questions, which absolutely intrigued me. I loved it.

Didn't take me too long to decide to test this Michael fellow out. I made an appointment to see him. I was going to make a huge confession to him and see how he reacted. The time approached and I almost cancelled the appointment. The pseudo-brave part of me tried to think of this future conversation with Michael as a test, but the "real" me was afraid he would tell me that I wasn't a real Christian. That fear was palpable. We sat down and I finally was able to get to the point. I said something like, "Michael, I was raised Christian Scientist. My mother taught me that Jesus wasn't really God. I know he was. I was baptized. I'm a believer. But..." By this time I'm crying. "But sometimes I'm not sure," I finally blubber out. I don't remember everything he said. I just remember that he sort of laughed and said something like, "You know, Katherine (I changed to Katherine when I started at ARCO), all of us have doubts. I drive down the highway to work and wonder myself sometimes if my whole life work is based on something real and true. We all of us have our doubts at times." I was absolutely STUNNED at this admission from a preacher!!!!!!

And from that moment on simultanteously FREED to receive the gift of faith with everything I have and am.

Around this time in my life also, my father died and I started therapy. I began a double-pronged journey of self-exploration, psychological and spiritual. God's Freedom within me was really unleashed now. Oh, it was a time of excruciating pain and some of the sweetest joy I've ever known, abominable mistakes and unbelievable growth. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

The psychological was so exciting. I read Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled and knew I'd been changed forever. That book opened up a whole new world for me. After that it was all the family systems and self-help stuff...gosh, who were they? John Bradshaw. Melody Beaty (sp?). Codependents Anonymous. Al-Anon. All that stuff, I just loved it, and it really helped me. I saw what the dynamics of my family life had been in a totally new way, in a way that helped me make sense of my place and my responses to it all.

Then one Thanksgiving Day, Michael invited me and a few other single folks to his family's house for dinner. He had preached once that "God was bigger than psychology," and he'd said some other things along the way that made me think he didn't really think too much of psychotherapy. To my utter surprise, at this dinner I find out that he has a master's degree is psychology. There followed a marvelous discussion about therapy and spirituality. Suffice it to say that I began to understand what he meant when he said "God is bigger than psychology."

My world, once again, opened up!

With all this awakening going on, if you guess that I found my job at ARCO more than a little b-o-r-i-n-g, you would be c-o-r-r-e-c-t! But I was programmed (mother's voice in my head) to find a good job, a job with a great retirement plan, and keep that job because, mind you now, I wasn't pretty enough to find a good man who would take care of me in my old age. I had to rely on myself. So, come what may, no matter how boring and wrong that job may be, I had to keep it. And I did, for 14 years.

Soooo, one thing I did to keep my job and my sanity at the same time was to take some night classes at a local seminary. My first two classes were Biblical Interpretation with two amazing progressive scholars. Next I took World Religion with Ruben Habito. I've written about my encounter with Dr. Habito's writing and his teaching of Zen meditation here . All of it combined awakened me to God and to who God might be calling me to be in the most world shattering way. As you can read in that previous post, in what was for me a tremendous leap of faith, I decided to leave ARCO. Soon after that decision, my mother died, I broke up with the man I'd been considering marrying, and my dear friend Nancy, who had non-Hodgkins lymphoma, went through one of the first stem cell transplants in this area. To borrow a phrase, it was the best of years and the worst of years. The worst kind of loss, but I was flowing in that river of God's grace, flowing effortlessly, feeling the stabbing pain, but flowing in what I knew without doubt was God's will for my life. I have looked back, of course, many times, on those years, but only with amazement and thanksgiving, never with regret.

8 comments:

Gannet Girl said...

What a rich portion of your journey -- thank you for sharing it .

"PS" said...

Gannet girl said it well...so I just add my ditto.

Diane said...

yes, ditto from me too...thank you for taking us there with you...

Jan said...

Katherine, how you have journeyed. Thank you for giving us a glimpse. You've revealed parts of your story that I don't remember or weren't told at the Academy, and I am pondering the you I came to know there, the you written about here, and the you I cam coming to know in blogging. I continue to be amazed at the therapies, support groups, and authors that we both were helped by. How wonderful that a pastor like Michael was brought into your life. (Is he still around?)

RevDrKate said...

I can't help thinking about yesterday's gospel... you contiunally asking and seeking, and the Spirit was(and is)given. Thank you for sharing this.

Cynthia said...

Thank you for visiting my blog. I came here and just loved what I found. Your honesty and sharing really hit home with me.

Serena said...

"I have looked back, of course, many times, on those years, but only with amazement and thanksgiving, never with regret."
Thanks be to God for Peck, Bradshaw, Beaty, Michael" ... and thank you for sharing your story.

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