In 1981, my bride Sharon and I were two
wondering wandering Catholics searching for spiritual insights.
We had recently moved from Denver, Colorado to Orange County, California with two little boys, and a third on the way.
I had a new job, after selling my CPA firm, and a whole new life.
This is how we came to the Lord…
Sharon and I were both baptized, raised and schooled in Catholic families.
Like most twenty-something Catholics, we were searching. We had enough information to know that God existed and that Jesus and Mary existed.
And the thoughts of hell and purgatory scared us to death.
Limbo, even though we knew it didn’t apply to us was also scary, until the church got rid of it – go figure.
Since we were from the “one true church” we were pretty cocky. Confident that our good deeds outweighed our bad deeds, we knew we would end up in heaven. Well, as confident as anyone could be.
Since the sacrament known as the “last rites” was a sure shoe into heaven, we could always hang out with priests. That would work but was not very practical.
A confession was out of the question. Starting out with “bless me father, it’s been eight years since my last confession” would not go over well. We could be saying penitence for the next ten years with that introduction.
A new religion seemed to be the ticket, but which one? There were so many choices.
Sharon had signed up for an evening class at the local school, and a “very friendly” lady showed extra interest.
I suspected Amway but kept my distance since Sharon was alone in a new place and needed the friendship.
No sooner had I said “we have enough soap” was I confronted with the male counterpart of the friendly lady – a local pastor.
I must have let down my guard because the next thing I knew the pastor and his wife were coming over for an evening social.
Now as Catholics with twelve years of Catechism we were not to be messed with.
We had prepared some pretty penetrating questions.
Besides, he didn’t even have a black jumpsuit with a white collar so obviously, he was at a disadvantage.
Even more, his church didn’t have a pope! This was going to be one of those “feeling your oats” moments.
We pelted him with every question we could muster.
The more we talked, however, the more we realized the limited depth of our knowledge.
It seemed that our Catholicism was a church of one-liners – “…on this rock, I will build my church..” From that, the whole papacy is substantiated?
Is that all we had?
Ok, try again, um, where’s your white collar? Are you kidding? We never read the bible, that was for priests. No one in the church reads the Bible.
Needless to say, we learned much more than we taught. I should state, we didn’t teach anything – we didn’t have anything to teach.
Phase two was a real bible study group meeting.
Now everything seemed to go well at the bible study. I mean the cookies were good and everyone seemed normal until the bible topic came up – submission.
You’ve got to be kidding – wives submit to your husbands?
To make matters worse, three members of the study group found it funny that the very subject offended us, and proceeded to tell submissive wives jokes.
Sharon and I weren’t laughing.
As soon as the meeting ended, I motioned to Sharon and left for our car.
I wanted out of there. As Sharon was trying to jump into the car, the pastor ran alongside the car pleading with us to discuss our obvious concerns.
Within minutes Sharon and I were sitting at a booth at Bob’s Big Boy restaurant.
Now, we’ve never been at Bob’s before and have never been there since but…
“Who do they think they are?” I started “No kidding, he doesn’t even have a collar” Sharon replied. “And the nerve of those jerks – I mean, who believes in submissive wives.”
Now actually, a submissive wife didn’t sound all that bad to me, but now was not the time for true confessions.
“Yea,” I remarked, “what jerks.”
The three men who had taken liberties to share inappropriate jokes with us were actually two policemen and a fireman – you know macho men.
Each of these men, without provocation, (although I’m sure the pastor was none too pleased with them after his two-block jog next to my car) called me the next day to apologize.
I was shocked.
To this day, I have a hard time telling that part of the story.
Why were these guys so different?
Shortly thereafter, Sharon and I accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Why would the simple apologies of these men make such a difference?
I guess because it was in such contrast to the world as we knew it.
Macho men apologizing? Admitting that they had made a mistake and asking for forgiveness?
I mean this was different, an unqualified difference.
Sometimes it’s the little things that cause us to turn the corner, like “you’ll know them by their works”.
To this day, none of those men know that their apologies changed our lives – but it did.
I’ll share when we meet them in heaven about “The Apology”.
Eph 2:8 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…”