It was past midnight in the adoration chapel on my tiny college campus. The brown, tiled floors made me feel physically cold, and the loneliness I was experiencing made that cold penetrate through to my soul. I wasn’t actually alone, and if I had taken stock of my life, I would have seen loving family and friends lifting me up in support and prayer. Needless to say, I did not look to them or to Jesus, but inward, and was afraid of the complete emptiness I found there. There was no substance in me. I didn’t even really know what I believed. I was a junior in college, graduating the next semester, and I felt like I had no identity, no future.
I felt like I was faking it to everyone who knew me as a devout, happy Catholic. No one knew the crisis of faith that I experienced during those long years.
I wasn’t actually alone, and if I had taken stock of my life, I would have seen loving family and friends lifting me up in support and prayer.
It started in high school. I was involved in sports and ASB, youth group, and dated two great guys during my high school years. It all looked perfectly fine from the outside, but sin had crept into my life in a serious way, had taken me by surprise, had shocked me. Up until that point, I thought that I was invincible. I didn’t go to confession for over two years. I couldn’t face the shame of my sin.
I felt that I had fallen so far that I couldn’t be redeemed. I had a strong pull to attend a Catholic university and there, the Spirit began to move me toward confession and reconciliation with God.
But, fast forward to my junior year of college, nearly 5 years later, and I was still drowning in sin. I couldn’t see an end in sight.
Now I see how prideful I really was in that dark moment. How could I, a mere human, be more powerful than God? How could I say that Christ’s death on the Cross could not redeem me?
These experiences are always clearer as we look back on them.
That night in adoration, I tortured myself with thoughts of my damnation and my inability to improve. Then, I had a moment of distinct peace. I have never heard the voice of the Lord out loud, never seen an angel messenger, but I have had thoughts enter my mind which carry more wisdom than I could ever supply on my own.
I had a moment of distinct peace.
I thought, “Either God is telling the truth in Scripture and through this Church and he has saved me, or He’s not real and I shouldn’t feel tortured over such a “small” thing in the eyes of the world.”
You see, somehow I had spectacularly avoided engaging with Christ on a personal level. I never spent more than a minute in personal prayer. I never truly reflected on who He says I am or who He says that He is. I read Scripture for classes, I heard it in Mass daily (thank goodness for the habits of youth), but I had never sat with the Word made Flesh and really just looked at Him.
Either I was the beloved daughter of the King (Gal. 3:26) or I was nothing. I could not keep living with one foot in the Church, one foot out, playing a part.
Over the month or so afterwards, I was faced with several non-Catholic, non-believing friends who posed challenges to this faith that I claimed to hold so dear. In those moments of defense of the Church, God made clear to me that He is real, loves me, and was calling me out of sin into something deeper and more wonderful with Him.
Over many more trips to the adoration chapel, many more Masses, the intercession of family and friends, the help of a therapist, and the faint beginnings of trust in Almighty God, I was finally freed from the sins that had plagued me for so long. I was and am nowhere near perfect, but Christ gave me the gift of finally seeing an improvement in my life toward holiness.
One mistake I made in my journey toward Christ was my expectation of dramatic feelings that would come when I had “made it.” Feelings often don’t tell us the real story. As a dear priest friend helped me later to see, it was in continuing to frequent the sacraments that I kept a lifeline between God and me. The things that we do daily matter very much and make us into who we are becoming.
It was in continuing to frequent the sacraments that I kept a lifeline between God and me.
People typically come to conversion through their heart or intellect. I was well-formed. I had the foundation needed, but my heart needed conversion. It was only in saying yes to God, opening myself up to the possibility of change, and then allowing Him to work in me that I was able to truly take my place as His child.
My life now is something that I never dreamed of having. I defend the Catholic Faith as my job, I am married to an amazing and holy man, and I feel free to love God and be loved by Him.
I hope someday you’ll have the same great love. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (Col. 3:15).
*Marie’s podcast, Pints With Chesterton, can be found on Apple podcast, Spotify, and any other good podcasting app.