Betty Duffy

Monday, April 13, 2009

Who Stole My Jesus?

“They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” (Jn 20: 1-9)

I’ve mentioned once or twice that I lost my faith while I was in college. I arrived on campus thinking my faith was invincible, and within months, it was gone. Reasons for my loss of faith could be compiled in a book-length manuscript, and indeed, are compiled in a book-length manuscript, which I turned in for my senior thesis, but those reasons amounted to one theme: My sin.

I received high marks on my thesis, because it read like a novel about an idealistic young woman who embarks on a series of ill-fated relationships, falls under the tutelage of several enlightened college professors, alienates her family by writing a play about their Christian hypocrisy (which she has staged in the alternative student theater), and ends her undergraduate career so depressed and obsessed with the gray shades of humanity that she has no options left for happiness but the vague thought of running off to a nunnery (she is enamored with the nun/whore dichotomy, after all).

At this point in my history, I graduate from college, cut ties with everyone in my former life, except for my family, with whom I am reconciled, and make the leap into a life of poverty, chastity and obedience. It was the most dramatic thing a young heroine could do, and I’m happy to say that God used my propensity for drama to put me exactly where I needed to be.

Through Sacrament and reconciliation, I gained the correct feeling of detestation for my sins. But I also felt anger towards everyone who enabled them. Boyfriends, professors, friends and innocent bystanders were all condemned. They had wanted to see me stripped of my idealism. They had wanted to see me fail. They had stolen my Jesus, left my heart a tomb, and sent me racing frantically across the country in search of Him.

It had to be done.

I am slowly becoming grateful for the people of my past who allowed, encouraged or witnessed my fall. They did not steal my Jesus. They ultimately helped me to discover the Risen Christ. I had spent years feeling crushed by my repetitive failures. I had spent years trying to excuse my sin, or rewrite how I felt about it, or blame others for it, when I needed only to have my sin redeemed by a love I had not yet truly known.

One’s history leaves an indelible scar on the soul. My past has reared its head at various points in my marriage. It has resurfaced at times in my relationships with family members I once or twice wounded. It has had to be dealt with regularly, and privately, and sometimes publicly. But we are incarnate beings. One can no more erase years of one’s life than they can erase the “Catholic guilt” or the effects of sin.

I wish I could say that I never sinned again after my reversion. I wish I could say that I never sinned mortally. I wish I could say that my marriage has been a safe haven from any sort of temptation, and that all of my writing now gives glory and praise to God. But I cannot. I can only say that I now have a Redeemer for my sin, for my married life, for my motherhood, and for my writing. No small statement.

“O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”

Pentimento has a beautiful post examining the use of memory.


Kaighla said...

it truly is frightening how very similar we are. and also uplifting as what you have just described sounds strangely similar to my own experience is losing my faith in college (at a Bible college, no less) and running all over the country/world and except joining a nunnery (which, truthfully, I would have done had I not gotten myself pregnant first...), I am also finding that it was not Jesus I abandoned at all, but a sick and messed up look-a-like (which, consequently, looks nothing like the real JESUS).

Thank you, again. :-) If you can come out of that and God can use your flair for drama, he can use mine too. and my broken leg. that too.

Kristin T. (@kt_writes) said...

An amazing post, an amazing story, an amazing God. You've made me laugh and think and understand myself better.

I, too, almost lost my faith for good, and harbored anger at the people who were in the middle of that drama (in my case, other Christians).

But gradually I have become grateful for those people and that pain, because in that rock-bottom place I found a savior--in the gritty, real way, the only way that matters, in the end.

I am also feeling very grateful for you and your blog.

Jus said...

Christ is Risen! Truly he is Risen!

for us not until the week is over but I wont let a little matter of your newer calender keep from a little bit of joy for you ;)

Pentimento said...

True that we cannot ourselves erase the effects of sin, especially because all sin, even the most private, is social and affects a wide network of people. And certainly sin changes us in some way. But so does Christ, and the moment of conversion or reversion demarcates a life into the old man and the new. And we can make reparations for our sins where possible.

Thanks for this post and for the shout-out.

mrsdarwin said...

Every now and then I harbor a half-regret that I have no dramatic past more exciting than engaging in heavy petting with a high-school boyfriend, but the honesty of posts like yours help remind me that sin leaves only sorrow and regret in its wake. I'm grateful that of the real, deep (and yet garden-variety) sorrows in my past, none have been soul-shaking because none have sprung from my own sins.

Betty Duffy said...

Thank you all for your comments. And Alleluia to you too, Jus, (in a few days).

Pentimento, you raise a point that I've been chewing on for several weeks now: "the moment of conversion or reversion demarcates a life into the old man and the new."

I wish this were always the case. I've been baffled lately by the Judas-like behavior of several prominent Christians. We have Mel Gibson, who gave us "The Passion of the Christ" just a few years ago, now seen galavanting on exotic beaches with exotic looking women, and the mother of his seven children filing for divorce. I've posted a couple times on the issue of Father Maciel, the founder of Regnum Christi and the Legion of Christ, and the revelations that came out about his private life after his death. In my own life, as well, I know that there was a period of time when my mind and heart had made a decision for Christ, but my body had not, and it took the physical removal of my body from a particular environment to yield consistent results for my conversion. And even beyond that, the physical nailing down of my life to my kids, my husband and my home has probably been the savior of my soul in married life--because there have been times when my fight or flight response has kicked in and I've wanted to run. I KNOW from experience that many people put their hands to the plow, and then look back, again and again and again. What do you make of that?

I like what you say, Kristin, about finding a savior in a "gritty, real way," because I think sometimes human behavior requires a mercy that is beyond human comprehension.

Mrs Darwin, God has Blessed You! God does have such unique plans for each of us, and stories like yours (or non-stories, if you prefer) give people like me hope that it CAN be done. "A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand fall at your right, but you, it shall never approach. His faithfulness is buckler and shield...for you he has commanded his angels, to keep you in all your ways." It's amazing, isn't it? A remarkable past indeed.

Betty Duffy said...

One more thing. Sometimes I think that having an illustrious past presents more obstacles to finding the new man in Christ, and keeping it, because there was so much worldly affirmation prior to conversion, whereas afterwards, sometimes life feels thankless and cloistered (at least for a mother). I think we are right at times to build a fortress around our bodies and souls to protect them, especially if we have evidence of a weak will. But it's tempting to glamorize the "fun" that was had by living a more public life. The problem with eating from the tree of knowlege is that the apple tastes good, at least until you get thrown out of Eden.