Forewarning, this is a looooooong article, my friends. So grab some popcorn, sit back, relax, and enjoy my lenten testimony!
For a while now, I've been hearing this voice, God's spirit, deep within my soul telling me that something big is coming. I've seen signs on my Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and every other social media imaginable (examples below), saying that I have endured the storm that life has thrown my way, but not only that; I have grown through the storm. Of course, I was excited and curious about what God has in store for these big moments and blessings, but then I grew impatient about God's timing. I started noticing these signs last June, yet I wasn't seeing anything stereotypically grand or miraculous. In fact, a lot started to go quite wrong in my life. I grew increasingly frustrated with my mental illnesses, a family member went through some scary and life-threatening health issues, and I was losing friendships that meant the world to my left and right. I cried to Jesus at night, begging for any sort of understanding or sign on when these blessings were coming, but I didn't get anything.
I had a really rough patch when it comes to my relationship with Jesus. Once the school year started, I stopped going to mass. I blamed it on my RA (resident advisor) job and my class work, but I think I knew deep down that wasn't the reason I why I didn't go to mass. Looking back on it now, I was giving Jesus the silent treatment because that's what I felt like he was giving me. I felt lied to, isolated, and frustrated with God, and I felt empty inside. Yes, I continued to go through each day putting on this facade that my relationship with God was amazing, but that just wasn't true. Once I got the feeling that I needed to go talk to Jesus, I got scared. The weight of my sins just felt like too much to bear, so I once again continued to run away from Jesus.
So at this point in time, about nine months has passed since I started seeing these signs, and it's the second week of Lent. I felt so drained of life, so helpless and alone. One Monday night after my class from 6-9 p.m., I had this strong urge to go to St. Toms (Catholic University Perish on BGSU's campus) for worship night (adoration with music). Every song that played had something to do with either A) coming home to Jesus, or B) realizing that I'm not alone. With each song, I felt my heart slowly creak open the doors to welcome Jesus back in, but I knew that it would take more than that, so I went to confession the next day. It felt indescribably amazing to have the sins that were consciously weighing me down be forgiven, but yet I still knew that there was something more in store for me during Lent.
Now here we are... it's 8:55 p.m. on April 15th, and I once again get this familiar feeling that I need to rush over to St.Toms because Jesus needs to talk to me. I'm sat in the pews waiting for the mass of penance to start (mass of penance is basically an hour-long adoration, with confession available), wondering what it could possibly be that Jesus needs me to hear. At the mass of penance, there were five priests doing confessions. At this point, I didn't feel the need to go to confession because I didn't feel any sins consciously weighing on me. However, I saw this one priest (I, unfortunately, cannot remember his name), and I just knew that it was him that I needed to talk to.
About 10 minutes later, I walked over to him and sat down, not necessarily feeling nervous, but feeling slightly anxious about what God had to say to me. When I first talked to the priest, I told him the list of sins I had written in my notebook, which mainly dealt with my frustration with God and my mental illnesses. Then, we both just kind of sat there in silence. I think there was a mutual agreement between us that there was something more for this confession, but neither of us knew what exactly that was. After what seemed like a year's worth of silence and pondering, the priest says,
"This is a bit random, but do you have any possessions that you need to get rid of?"
I thought about it for a second, and I instinctively wanted to say no, but then I thought about how cluttered my actual room (and really my whole life) is, so I said yes. Then, this priest iconically brings up Marie Kondo and the KonMari method. I explained to the priest that I once tried to start doing the KonMari method, but I didn't like letting go of my possessions whatsoever. In fact, it genuinely upset me to even consider letting go of even one item.
"You have a hard time letting go in general, don't you?"
When the priest said this, I kind of just sat there dumbfounded, realizing that I 100 percent do. Of course, I knew I had trouble letting go of things to some extent, but then I thought about people in my life that I just can't seem to let go of despite their toxicity, situations that have happened to me, labels (especially surrounding mental illness), etc.
Softly, I replied, "Yeah, I really do."
I think he could see me begin to get overwhelmed, so then he said,
"Look at me, let's breathe together. Now, slowly breathe in, breathing in everything God, and exhale everything that is not."
After doing this a couple of times, I was finally good to continue, and he mentioned how people with mental illnesses tend to be some of the most spiritually gifted people. With this, I told him about my extreme and sensitive empathy, and I would even go as far as calling myself an empath. I feel the emotions of others so strongly and carry their burdens that definitely aren't mine to carry.
"Because you feel everyone else's emotions so strongly, you don't feel your own. Or when you do, you push them down until you're numb to the pain. You've helped everyone else deal with their emotions and grief that you haven't given yourself the chance to. You're emotionally constipated."
Once again, dumbfounded. He was 100 percent right, and I didn't understand how he knew all of this when this was literally my first time meeting him.
"You know, you keep pushing these emotions further and further down that you're creating extremely self-destructive energy within you, and you're trying to do everything you can to protect yourself from its explosion. I think that's why you have all this extra weight physically."
Reading that last sentence, you may think it's offensive, but it really wasn't and still isn't. Weight is something I've struggled with since I was about 12 years old, aka the first time I experienced grief and loss. I don't remember much from this time, but I do remember how deep that pain and sorrow truly was. Because of that, I turned to food to cope. I never realized that I was using it as a long-term protection mechanism though, so I was again left dumbfounded.
"I really hope that wasn't offensive, but I felt God pushing me to tell you that, and I think you needed to hear it."
I did, I really freaking did.
After talking over this (talking about eating healthy, exercising for and with God, etc.), I received my penances:
1. Breathe everything God in, and breathe out everything that is not.
2. Start seeing a counselor (if financially able).
3. Do the KonMari method.
First of all, literally the most amazing and unique penances I have ever received.
More importantly, though, I felt a glow in my heart. I could feel God in there, lighting a fire of change. This very moment was the beginning of my "BIG" moments, changes, and blessings. Heck, y'all, I even began going to the gym. That's right, you heard me correctly.
Overall, this season of Lent has brought so much joy, light, and answers, and I know that God has huge plans for me. He's making me into the woman that I'm meant to be, and I can't wait to see the work he does through my life.