Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Trials & Tribulations (but Mostly Joys) of Being an Apologist

Jose Molina asked in BlogBack,

Dave, can I ask you a question? How are you able to do what you do?

By God's grace! "God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). I love this work, because God put that desire in me. This is what I am here on this earth to do. Everyone has a vocation. They just have to be willing to discover it and to pursue it for the sake of the Kingdom.

I'm Catholic and I love Jesus, the Bible, and the Church very much, but I cannot imagine doing apologetics or being a theologian. It seems like a tedious, nuanced, and perhaps frustrating vocation.

Sometimes, but most of the time it is very enjoyable. I have the freedom to pursue whatever motivates me at the time, and to follow my theological interests. There always seems to be something at any given time: doors or opportunities to do more apologetics. I simply walk through them. It's not like being a professor who has to do certain things, give lectures that maybe bore him, or write a paper he doesn't feel like doing. I do have that luxury, though, of course, I get relatively little remuneration.

You must peruse obscure books and chase ideas and beliefs down rabbit holes

Naw, I enjoy it. It's fun, because, like I said, I do whatever interests me at the time. If I am challenged, I get extremely motivated, because I love challenges.

and what do you get for all your hard work? You get people leveling insults like the following: [several examples given from my sidebar]

LOLOL. Every job has its frustrations. I'm sure all of you who have a boss looking over your shoulder, or boring work you don't enjoy, or weird co-workers, or who haven't been promoted or appreciated at work as they should be, or who are struggling with running your own business, have more frustrations than I do.

Opposition proves that I am hitting nerves and that I must be saying something that is effectively getting out my message. This is always the case (excepting those times when we really do screw up and cause people to get angry through our own fault). Virtually all the insults come from anti-Catholics. That's par for the course. They act that way with almost anyone who opposes (or exposes) their falsehoods about the Church or about people (personal attacks), and their false theology. I'm delighted about that, because it strongly indicates that I am doing something right.

Jesus told us we would have opposition, and would be hated (and to even rejoice when we are persecuted). The sad, tragic thing is that it so often comes from fellow Christians. This is how Satan divides the Body of Christ and conquers. I receive far less insults and ad hominem nonsense and slanderous bilge from atheists than I do from anti-Catholic Protestants.

I get a lot "back" from my work. I know I am helping people, because they are nice and considerate enough to let me know that. That's very rewarding and fulfilling because it is what I am trying to accomplish. It makes you feel good, and makes all the trials worth it. This is a "service" profession. I know that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, under God.

There's nothing like being right in the center of God's will. That's how life is supposed to work, and we aren't happy if we step outside of that "circle." I get to do what I enjoy doing (writing, dialoguing, research, sharing the gospel and the fullness of Catholic truth). I even get paid for it (something, anyway; I can always use more; the bills and debts seem to never end).

The personal attacks are more than made up for by kind folks like you and many others, who have encouraged me and said that they appreciate my labors. You can see those positive remarks on my sidebar and in my two papers, Catholic Accolades for This Website and Non-Catholic Accolades . . . That's enough for me. I know what is behind the personal attacks, so they are ultimately of little concern. Sometimes I get upset, because I am a human being and hate to be lied about and misunderstood, like anyone else, but mostly I consider them almost a joke; a source of humor. When I read the stuff I posted on my sidebar, I bust a gut laughing, it is so funny to me. My wife, of course, plays a crucial role in helping me deal with that junk, too, as I noted in my post about my 20th anniversary. I couldn't have done this without her.

It was much, much harder as a Protestant campus missionary from 1985-1989, because then I got virtually no positive feedback at all from anyone (except my wife Judy). I was doing all this work and only getting negative feedback, and was poor as a dog (at one point we even had to move in with my parents for a year, as a married couple). Two churches I was attending essentially did hardly anything to support me financially (though both gave me reason, initially, to believe that they would). I didn't seem to be accomplishing anything (this was before the Internet and I was confined to passing out paper materials).

It was a very difficult experience to go through. I never questioned God, but I sure didn't understand what was happening to me. It seemed absolutely absurd and ludicrous. I became quite cynical for a while; again, not about God, but about those who call themselves Christians, and who claim to "have a heart for missions." Now it is vastly different, because I have published books, and my website, and blog, and published articles in journals. Everyone needs to have that encouragement on the human level. I couldn't have done what I tried to do in the 80s very long (which is why I gave up in late 1989, thinking that I had been a total failure and not having any idea what I would do for a living).

But that was God's will. Everything is in God's Providence. We must rest in that, whether it is good or bad from our perspective. I think it is fairly obvious in retrospect that He was testing me to see how much I really was committed to my calling. This is how life and the Christian walk is. I had to go through that living hell to get to the fairly good place (humanly-speaking) where I am now. It's never "perfect." But if I pass whatever tests God has for me now, maybe it will be better in the future. Maybe not, too. I (like most of us) will probably have to endure many more trials before the end of my earthly sojourn. I want to accept whatever God has planned for me in the future. We all need to follow the light that He has revealed to us.

All in all, then, I am very happy doing this work. I love to get to my computer and do some more writing and sharing. I always loved ideas, long before I was ever serious about Christianity, and have an insatiable intellectual and theological (even historical) curiosity, so God used those desires (which were ultimately from Him, anyway) to lead me to the field of apologetics.Thanks for asking and for your encouragement! I appreciate it very much. And now I have another "paper"! LOL

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