Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Question from a Reader about a Adventist Turning Catholic

Here is a recent comment I got:
Teresa, I left the Adventist faith several years ago and officially became Catholic in 2010. My husband, also a former Adventist, is newly Catholic as well. What steps did you take to emotionally free yourself from the Adventist experience? I am having a very difficult time forgiving the Adventist community for their hatred towards other Protestant faiths, specifically the anti-Catholic rhetoric preached in their revelation seminars. I find myself stirring up such negative feelings when I remember the emotional prison I was in such as: always feeling unworthy of God like my name was in the "book of judgement", judged for wearing jewelry, constant worry of my salvation post death, etc. When I became Catholic, on the surface it appeared to melt away, but I still sometimes have anger towards the things I missed growing up like dressing up for Halloween, Easter dinner or even doing fun things during the "sabbath". How did you and your husband let these hurtful experiences go? 

Dear friend,

I think all former Adventists understand what you are going through--no matter where they go afterwards to find a spiritual community or if they just simply stall out and remain isolated outside of any church. One woman told me that even many years after leaving Adventism and having a wonderful relationship with God in her new Protestant community that she would experience nightmares and wake up with anxiety attacks about the Last Days.

So, believe me when I tell you that what you are going through is just part of the process. And it will eventually fade. Give it a decade--that's how long it took me.

I think you should be okay with being angry. When we are filled with lies, it is right to have a sense of horror and anger at the injustice of being raised with lies. We were created to hate injustice.

Let me tell you an incident that just befuddled me and again reminded me that Adventists are simply unable to see through the fog of anti-Catholic bigotry.

Recently, an Ohio priest had been approached and befriended by two Adventists. They began questioning him about the Catholic faith, so the priest took off time to go out to dinner with them several times and spend hours in discussion.

In fact, the priest was so eager to help these Adventists bridge the gap of misunderstanding that he offered to start a discussion group at his church each week in order to have the time to really talk about this. The two Adventists agreed.

So this priest began asking around for a Catholic convert from the SDA church so that he could ask questions about how to discuss theology with an Adventist. He was given my name, so we ended up having several discussions via phone.

(During this period, the SDAs gave the priest a Great Controversy as a gift. Which he didn't read at first.)

My family is always telling me that the SDA church is no longer anti-catholic and that they have moved on from taking Ellen White's prophecies so literally. So I thought I might ask them how this priest could approach a bridge of understanding with the SDA church.

My family reacted very differently than I expected since they so vehemently assured me time after time that I had left Adventism too early and that they were now enlightened.

Instead, they warned me that there was nothing the priest could say to the Adventist. They were not interested in unity and it would we wrong for the priest to try and force his opinions on the Adventists.

I was amazed, it was as if they didn't even recognize that the Adventists deliberately went out of the way to pretend to befriend the priest and they were proselytizing him into the SDA faith! My family turned the situation around to make it seem as if the priest was pushing when it was the Adventists.

When the priest found out the Great Controversy was not a kind Christmas gift, but a book of terrible slander and utter misunderstanding and lies about the priest's faith, he was stunned and hurt. He couldn't believe any group could be so arrogant and blinded as to give him hate speech for a gift. 

This priest was understandably very angry at this set up. And I assured him that the Adventists did not mean it to insult him that they are so utterly propagandized by a false prophetess that they simply are unable to see how insulting it was to give him that book. They actually thought they were doing something loving towards the priest. They were giving him "truth."

The priest was angry as he should have been. It is okay to be angry at lies.

After leaving Adventism, I tried to figure out who was intentionally lying to me among all those Adventists I grew up with. In the end, I knew that everyone truly believed the lies and even though some really had no excuse for not researching outside SDA sources for the truth, none actually meant to harm me with lies except Satan.

This is what my husband also added to this: He said that for him, because he was furious for years, eventually God showed him that he wasn't really angry with Adventists, per se. He discovered that he was angry at the Protestant divorce with the Catholic Church. Which led him into a very different way of looking at Adventism. They are just a little blip on the radar screen of schism. They are a schism of a schism of a schism.

And by the times you get several hundred years of indoctrination into the idea that we each have the right to decide what is truth for ourselves, you certainly can't blame the Adventists for seeing the mess of the Reformation and trying to correct it by making yet one more step down the road of schism. They knew something was wrong, they just turned the wrong direction because America had a history of incredible anti-Catholicism.

So my husband and I turned our hatred towards him--the Father of Lies. But that is impossible to do without God's grace. And as I read your letter, I feel you have already started if not gone down that road of grace a long way! You're Catholic!! That means you are very open to God. All heaven is rejoicing.

Not to say this will work for you, but I can suggest what I have done: I finally had to turn the anger towards the Devil for He is the one who is the puppet master of those who are telling lies.

Now... how to get on with ones' life after Adventism:

Being Catholic, one of the greatest healers for me was to go to mass and adoration and pour out my heart to Christ. I cannot tell you how many times I have sobbed and sobbed both with sadness and then with joy at leaving Adventism and finding the magnificence of the Catholic Church.

For me, I love the Catholic rituals, so I wear a veil (yes, it feels weird at first) but I do that because--for me--it is a symbol that God sees me as holy (for everything veiled in scripture is considered holy). And I needed that to move on from Adventism.... when I never could "feel" holy.

But if you can find some ritual you might go through occasionally--that helps you release all this anger--some little ceremony--a burning of a candle, a rosary for the SDA church, etc. That might help.

And by all means, enjoy making up for all those missed experiences! Make a huge deal of Christmas (I love going to midnight mass!), do up Easter and Halloween. Time to live it up in the Lord! 

My daughter and I went and got our ears pierced together. My children eventually converted and now we enjoy mulled wine together at Christmas. There is so much time before you to make up all those experiences you missed. And I don't know your age, but perhaps you can heal through watching your children and grandchildren as well as doing those great things with them.

Just grasp onto this thought--you will be seen as the great Moses of your children and grandchildren. You took them out of Egypt to the Promised Land. You will be on heaven's records as being a spiritual hero for your family's lineage.

Another thought:

I can go through times of great sadness, (perhaps its just the whole woman thing) and I can really get into the Lent and penitent times because I slide so easily into worry and anxiety about so much in life. But Christ has shown me that He gave His church times of rejoicing and the command is to rejoice.

I found that so strange and exhilarating. We are commanded each Sunday and each Christmas and Easter season to rejoice. And for people like me, who feel responsible to help out everyone who hurts and empathize with them, it has taken discipline to rejoice even through all the hurt I see. It is an exercise in faith that takes an act of God's grace and my will! But to discipline myself and resolve to look up and think of the joys of God has truly helped me personally. 

That of course may not be a problem with you. Thought I would throw it out just in case.

I have a book I wrote called, "It's Okay Not to be a Seventh-day Adventist" you can purchase through Kindle or get a hard copy at Amazon (dot) com. That may assist in in your PTSD and the deprogramming of some of the old tapes that go through your head.

It is a long, long process for all who leave Adventism. And many have and are making that journey. It gets better. And you are in the loving arms of Christ and His Church. And you have friends... my husband and myself. Write us anytime. 

Love and blessing to you and Merry Christmas.