Friday, March 2, 2012

Conversion and Love, Himself: Part II

Over the past two weeks I have been rerunning a guest blogger's post from last year. You may remember the story of the musician turned Navy man turned husband and father, Tim Ohmes, from his guest post here or again at Why I Am Catholic. It was a long post, as a life story can often be, so I am breaking it into more easily digestible chunks.

I am rerunning it because it is so timely right now. With the Health and Human Services Mandate regarding contraception and abortion, this man's journey keeps coming back to the forefront of my mind. Through his experience, you can intuit some of the reasoning, the rightness, behind the Church's teaching on contraception. Although he never practiced contraception in his marriage, the cultural concepts of contraception, what we Catholics call the Contraceptive Mentality, came between him and his wife in such a way that it nearly destroyed their marriage. I'm paraphrasing his own words here from some of our many conversations on this topic.

He prayed for many years, even in the years he barely believed, for God to show him how to love and be loved. Tim thought he'd found that love through his wife, but God taught him a truer and a more selfless love through his children and through his wife's sorrow over losing children through miscarriage.

With that in mind, I will once again let the power of this conversion speak for itself...

To read Part I

A Catholic Becomes Catholic
The Conversion of Tim Ohmes
Part II

But things were no longer going well.   My job was becoming more demanding of my time and energy.  Our house was too small and we could not save enough to buy a new one.  My wife could not get a job which would pay enough to even cover child care costs.  I had to remodel the old house we were living in and sell it for enough to make a larger home affordable.  I knew it would be hard but we could do it.  All my spare time and money were spent towards to finishing the house.

 Then we had our third baby.  Now work, church, and remodel consumed all of my time.  My wife and I only had two arguments, “You don’t spend enough time with the children”, and “Let’s have another one.”  I was starting to feel my life was out of control and my faith was too weak to know why.

I was discontented with life and my discontent drove me to search for answers.  I began doing spiritual reading.  I had trouble reading Scripture.  The terms and language were just incomprehensible to me.  But, I did begin to read commentaries and discussions about the Scriptures.  I began to feel a strange solidarity with St. Peter.  I mean, here was a professional fisherman who, unless Jesus was around, seemed unable to catch fish or keep his boat from sinking.  Jesus called him Satan.  He promised Jesus he would not abandon Him, pulled a sword to defend Him, and then denied he even knew Him all in the same night.  And yet, Jesus didn’t fire him.  In fact, He put Peter in charge.  I didn’t know what Peter had, but I wanted it.

Then, one night, in a dream, I was trapped in a room far from the door.  The floor was disintegrating.  Beneath the floor was a deep black pit, from which I felt a terrifying evil presence.  I had no where to go, the gap was far too wide to jump, and the piece I was standing on was getting smaller by the moment.  Then the door on the far side opened, and some men entered with bricks, mortar, and tools and began to repair the floor.  I wondered who they were and I heard a voice reply, “That is Jesus and the Apostles.”  I watched them and asked, “Which one is Peter?”   As soon as I said “Peter” one man’s head shot up.  He had the most ordinary, plain and unattractive face I had ever seen. His eyes met mine and he pinned me with a look of complete and utter contempt.  I was shocked. All the others finished their work, picked up their tools, and left the room while Peter glared at me.  Then, he silently turned, left the room and closed the door.  All I could ask was, “What was that about?”  The same voice as before kindly but sadly said, “You could have asked ‘Which one was Jesus’.”  I woke up crying and cried the rest of the night.

I realized my focus was not on Jesus and I decided it was time to start praying.  I still wasn’t sure about that “old” Catholic stuff but, at my wife’s suggestion, I decided to try to pray the rosary.  My job involved a lot of driving so I began praying the rosary as I drove between jobs.  I mostly just said the prayers without much thought, but I noticed occasionally, when I had a moment of understanding, I would get a little tingle at the base of my skull.  Sometimes it would travel down my spine to my shoulders.  I began to think of them as the Holy Spirit giving me feedback to let me know when I understood something correctly.

One evening, while I was reading, my wife (who I thought was sleeping) suddenly began crying.  I was worried that something was wrong because she was crying like I had never seen her cry.   It was several minutes before she could control herself enough to tell me what had happened.  She had been praying and she had asked God for a special glimpse of what Heaven was like, and received the lightest caress that filled her with the greatest love and “the peace that surpasses all understanding” that she had ever known.  She was unable to describe it but she said she would be willing to go through anything to feel it again.  It was very intense and intimate experience for both of us.   I have no doubt that God gave her this “touch of Heaven” to strengthen her for the hell I was about to put her through.

I had been making progress on the house nicely when one morning about a month later; my wife delightedly announced that she was pregnant with our fourth child.  I was devastated.  I blamed her for not tracking her fertility properly and wanting to get pregnant against my will.  MY ANGER against her was the opening for a spiritual attack.  This was the first Monday of Lent, and the start of the most significant week of my life.  I went to work angry.  All day, I argued internally about what I should do.  I seemed to have other voices in my head showing me how my anger was justified.  I came home seething but I said nothing.  I gave my wife the “silent treatment”.  She tried to talk but I would not respond.   I wanted her to know how unreasonable she was about wanting “so many children”.  I wanted to hold on to my anger to teach her a lesson.  Paul gives a warning about anger in his letter to the Ephesians (4: 26-27), “do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity for the devil.”  It would have been a good warning to heed but I wasn’t worried about devils.  I didn’t believe they existed.

Tuesday and Wednesday were much the same. Always the voices would twist incidents of our marriage to show how I was being manipulated and had been made a fool of by my wife and MY CHILDREN.  I could not pray.  The voices gave me no peace.  I still felt justified in my anger.

I had choir practice Wednesday evening and went early.  I was able to pray before the tabernacle in the chapel next to the choir room and for the first time in days the voices were silenced and choir practice went well.  I told my wife we needed to talk, but I got a late call out for work, got into a confrontation with a customer and by the time I got home I was in a rage.

Thursday was awful. I was chewed out by the boss, was threatened with being fired, and was handed several bad jobs.  My anger grew to unbelievable proportions.  The whole world seemed to be against me.  I hated everything and everyone.  I could hardly control my rage; everything set the “voices” off in my head.  I felt I was going insane.  What little sleep I got was filled with the nightmares of the voices.

Early Friday morning, my wife miscarried.  She was crushed and I could feel nothing.  She said, “Well, you ought to be happy now. I lost the baby.”  Now the voices were filled with total hatred.  I was now mad at God for punishing me for something that was not my fault.  Friday was pure living HELL.  I quit trying to think and just worked.  It was all I could do.  I could not have conversations.  I could barely speak.  I completely gave up trying to pray.   

After work, I was determined to continue with the remodel.  I needed to cut a hole in the floor of our bedroom closet to access the bathroom plumbing.  It was a quick job, with a tool called a Sawzall which, with the right blade, can cut through the floor, nails and all.  My wife wanted to go to the Stations of the Cross.  I told her to go but I had to work to do.  I got out my tools and sat down on our bed which was next to closet where I was going to cut the hole.
 Before she left, my wife asked me if I loved her anymore. All I could say was, “I don’t love anyone or anything right now.”  She walked away and gathered the kids to leave.  Just before leaving, my 20 month old daughter ran in gave me a hug and a kiss and ran back out.  Then they left, and I truly felt our marriage left with them.  

Look for the Conclusion this Wednesday
(if you can't wait, click here)

Tim will share his story live on the Garden of Holiness Podcast at Deeper Truth, March 7, 2012, 9 p.m Eastern/8 p.m. Central.

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