I have just returned from the Onething2015 conference where for the first time ever there was a Catholic track. And here I am in my very own verbal workspace to try to start to share what is in my heart about this. This may not turn out neatly.
So, I was there to intercede and to gather intercessors. During the course of conversations before the event, I realized that I had an aversion to going basically because I have an aversion to suffering. From the promo ad copy I had my sense that there was something about this I just wouldn't like. And I can't say I was mistaken. It wasn't a dislike in the sense of "oooh, bad," just in the sense of "this really isn't my personal preference." I don't like loud music that I feel in my chest (for more than about three minutes). I don't like my ears to ring and I don't find that particularly healthy. And as much as I love music and I love to sing and as much as worshipping God in song is central to my life, I just don't like praise music that much anymore. I used to love it, love it, love it and found myself instantly at a fountain of overflowing healing. And I just don't, anymore. That was actually something I began to find happening just a bit when I first left my non-denom fellowship. It began to be the sort of thing were I had to fix my mind to really dig into the words being sung to meditate and suck the marrow out of them, and often it felt I was sucking dry bones. Sometimes it could be easier, especially if it was a song I knew and had developed a "meditative history" with. But I realized I have as much difficulty really praying with praise music as others do praying with the rosary and its repetitions.
I was also reminded, before and during, of things I experienced in my exodus from the charismatic fellowship world into the Catholic Church. I remembered how shocked I was when I first started attending daily Mass, which lasted 20-30 minutes, when I had been used to a 3 or 3.5 hour service. On the one hand, I realized I had to walk in to Mass ready to concentrate and pay attention to everything. Before, I was used to a lot of "warm up" time and a generally less intense approach. But on the other hand, I was stunned and amazed in those days, day after day, of how efficient God could be. Like a laser beam, He penetrated my soul with far deeper spiritual experiences in this short time than I had ever experienced in those long church services (although I had lots of powerful and needed emotional experiences in the former days, and these required more time. Sometimes I really needed to cry through 75 minutes of worship music.) So when at Onething, the sessions or preaching went on for hours, I sometimes longed for them to discover this efficient nature of God. :)
But the important lesson in all of this for me is that I do not live for myself. Sometimes I really want to. But if I live for God, I must also live for His people. Jesus lived for His people by serving them, not to expect to be served. Sometimes serving someone means to relent and do it their way, when it is really a matter of preference. Preferences can become passions pretty easily, and we start to think we can't live without our passions being fulfilled, that our passions are really divine urgings, when really they are just our desires with a strong upper hand in our soul's functioning. And sometimes that putting to death of our passions is exactly the type of service, and living for God and neighbor that God asks of an intercessor who feels interior things deeply. I was a little surprised at the intensity of the death and the struggle and the temptation I felt surrounding all this. Which shows me how weak and inexperienced I am at serving this way.
So, there was this big huge thing that happened about unity. I mean, it was big and huge on a spiritual level. I kept saying to our host friends how this type of gathering with Catholics just probably wouldn't have happened back in my charismatic days, at least not in the circles I moved in. My evangelism training had a slide that depicted non-Christian groups like Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, and there was a significant point made about how the guy just couldn't decide whether to add Roman Catholics to that list, and his hesitation about it seemed almost scandalously generous to some people. That was my world. So for Catholics to be welcomed as equal Christians, and for one speaker to publicly (though he didn't use the name Catholic) apologize for past statements of arrogance to a particular Catholic present, it was profound. And there were other profundities.
I know I experienced something of a personal call, although I can't articulate all of it, or maybe even much of it, in any meaningful way right now. The first order of the day is in my own family. The second order of the day has to do with me being a Carmelite. Each day I always ask my prayer team of saints to intercede for me, and one morning I had forgotten to do so until a certain point during one of the sessions. Immediately I remembered, as if St. Teresa spoke it to me, "Four centuries ago I sat in my convent and prayed for a return of the 'Lutherans' to the Church. Yes, of course you are called." (See the very end of The Interior Castle).
From my young childhood, even what I count as my pre-following-Jesus childhood I have had a sense that my life is oriented towards a Church that would become pure and serious.
When I was a brand new Catholic, I had a profound blow-me-away experience of being called by God into His plan to raise Catholics, and me with them, from the dead. Read it here: When Confirmation Received Me. When you read it, you see this experience had to do with John Michael Talbot. A few years ago during a new season in my life I went to a mission of his in Pittsburgh. Now, JMT has very piercing eyes. And as he preached through the crowd, his piercing eyes made contact with mind as he said "Fan into flame the gift God has given you." BAM. It resurrected the earlier experience and, though I couldn't understand it at the time, that moment alerted me to the fact that I was stepping forward in this plan. Now, just when that thing from years ago makes some sense, I have this new thing that is just as persistently urgent and just as inscrutable. I guess I really aught to get used to this and realize that not knowing is part of how I get to know things.
So, there you have it. I have returned from Onething2015 with a heart full of something I can't explain or understand, and I know that today and tomorrow I need to pray and live faithfully, just like every day, but I also need to intentionally forsake the vast tracts of selfishness and misery I yet find within.