I shared with my friend Kai that I had the difficult task of introducing myself to you today. I said, “How can I introduce myself and tell them who I am when I’m not sure who I am myself?” It occurred to me that this is the point of our ministry, isn’t it? We are all working towards discerning God’s will for us and ultimately becoming who He has intended us to be. So instead, I will share with you a brief synopsis of my journey.
Approximately 14 years ago, I had a major Saint Paul moment. The Lord knocked me off my horse, so to speak. My daughter and I had to be rushed to the hospital after a car accident that had left me unable to walk straight and even get out of bed. I was using a bedpan because I couldn’t bend my torso.
A friend sent me a plane ticket and paid for my hotel to attend a Christian Women’s conference as a birthday present. This angered me for several reasons. What heathen wants to attend Christian Conference as a gift? I couldn’t walk, much less get on a plane! Or sit for over an hour!
I could go on and on but as much as I didn’t want to go, I felt so guilty about letting my friend’s ticket go to waste. So, I made the effort to get on a plane and fly to San Antonio, Texas. Now you can imagine what it was like for a “lost” ex-Catholic to walk into the Alamo Dome full of crazy women filled with the Holy Spirit. Let’s just say that if I could have run out of there I would have! But the same grace that brought me there made me stay.
At this conference, I heard a woman witness to her life and struggles and I found myself crying for no reason. That was the first sign of God’s grace working within me. This conference became the first time I would praise God through song, the first time I would pray out loud and the first time I would allow others to pray for me. Now I know we do all of that in Mass but this was the first time that I was intentional about it, believed it and really opened myself up to the Holy Spirit.
They say that when you open yourself up to God you’d better hang on because something powerful is about to happen. Well, it happened for me. After intense prayer and a prophetic dream, I woke up completely free of pain, even as I walked and bent. The Lord healed me and He made it clear to me that it was Him who healed me. He said, “I have healed you, inside and out. In me, nothing negative will ever harm your body.” At the time, I had no idea that these words were also scriptural. More on that later.
After this experience, my life would change and take a totally different direction.
Prior to this, I was married for almost 10 years. I would love to tell you that the marriage failed because he was a horrible person and it was all his fault, but that would be completely wrong of me.
The longer that time passes since the divorce, the more I learn about my own shortcomings in that relationship. I consider it a blessing that the Lord continues to open my eyes to see my flaws and allows me to work on myself, to prepare me to be a more loving and understanding partner; if marriage is what the Lord calls me to in the future. Until I know for sure, I know that becoming a better person helps in every relationship in my life, romantic or not.
Just after my divorce, I felt so uncomfortable going to Mass. I felt like all eyes were on me and I felt very unwelcome. Now, I can tell you that this was likely my own imagination and sensitivity but the fact was that I didn’t feel like I belonged. I had been taught my whole life that Catholics did not divorce because it was a sin. If I was living in the state of sin, how would I feel welcome or like I belonged? These feelings made it very easy to turn away from the Church. It made me resentful and a little vengeful, to be honest. This drove me to years of struggle in finding happiness within myself.
When the Lord touched me in my Saint Paul moment, I remembered the words He spoke to me, “In me, nothing negative will ever enter your body.”
“Just as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. So abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you’ll abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I’ve told you this, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”John 15:9-11
It was clear to me that God wanted to give me His joy and peace and that this was possible by keeping His commandments and staying in a state of grace. I knew from my Catechism studies when I was a kid that when we failed God’s commandments we could get back on track by going to confession. I knew we gained this so-called “grace” by receiving Christ through the Eucharist.
As I realized more about what He was sharing with me, the more I felt the deep desire to reunite with Christ and His Church. I longed for the sacrament of reconciliation and communion. In my desire to take part in all the Church had to offer, I had to educate myself on the Church’s teaching on divorce. As I learned more, I found that I would be welcomed to take part in these sacraments so long as I was in a state of grace. So, I took the steps to unite myself to God. Through these sacraments, He showed me His great mercy and I was made new.
This great mercy touches me profoundly to this day. To whom much is given much is expected and only I know how much God has given me. This makes me eternally grateful and I am indebted, although it is a debt I could never fully pay. The only thing I can offer is my service.
Since that time, I have felt a desire to serve God in whichever way I could. One thing that kept nudging my heart was the pain that others around me experienced when they were going through a divorce. The death of a spouse can be very difficult, but somehow the death of a marriage (especially since the former spouse is still alive and present) can have deep physiologically damaging effects. Some of these effects stay with us and we take this baggage into our next relationship. And this is my Eureka! This is where I can serve! And it is this discovery that ultimately led to a divorce ministry that would bring healing and growth to my community and to myself. Praise be to God!
Since my conversion and renewal, God has been working on my restoration. Daily He reveals areas in my life and heart that He wants to heal to make me the person he intended me to be. To make me whole or “wholey” perhaps? 🙂 This remains to be seen but I am aboard this train and enjoying the journey. I welcome you to join me and share your struggles, blessings and more. May the Lord continue to touch us and restore us and may we be open and receptive to His goodness. God bless you, my friends!