Change Is Coming: My Catholic Lenten Testimony

Change Is Coming: My Catholic Lenten Testimony

This season of lent has brought so much joy, light, and answers, and I know that God has huge plans for me.

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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.

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17 Empowering Bible Verses For Women

You go, girl.
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We all have those days where we let the negative thoughts that we're "not good enough," "not pretty enough" or "not smart enough" invade our minds. It's easy to lose hope in these situations and to feel like it would be easier to just give up. However, the Bible reminds us that these things that we tell ourselves are not true and it gives us the affirmations that we need. Let these verses give you the power and motivation that you're lacking.

1. Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future."

2. Psalm 46:5

"God is within her, she will not fall."

3. Luke 1:45

"Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her."

4. Proverbs 31:17

"She is energetic and strong, a hard worker."

5. Psalm 28:7

"The Lord is my strength and my shield."

6. Proverbs 11:16

"A gracious woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth."

7. Joshua 1:9

"Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

8. Proverbs 31:30

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised."

9. 1 Corinthians 15:10

"By the grace of God, I am what I am."

10. Proverbs 31:26

"When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness."

11. Psalm 139:14

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

12. 1 Peter 3:3-4

"Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."

13. Colossians 2:10

"And in Christ you have been brought to fullness."

14. 2 Timothy 1:7

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."

15. Jeremiah 29:11

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'"

16. Exodus 14:14

"The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm."

17. Song of Songs 4:7

"You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way."

Next time you're feeling discouraged or weak, come back to these verses and use them to give you the strength and power that you need to conquer your battles.

Cover Image Credit: Julia Waterbury

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My Experience With Guardian Angels

They help you get through life.

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I vividly remember the day in Sunday school where our teacher talked to us about guardian angels.

"They help you through life," she said. "They want you to go to heaven."

I can remember thinking how cool it was that there was an angel just for me. Someone to help me through life and be there for me when I was hurt. We were given guardian angel coloring sheets and I happily colored mine all sorts of different colors, then proudly hung it up in my room where it stayed for years until I put it in a keepsake box where it is to this day.

That day in Sunday school made me much more aware of the symbolic representations of angels in our culture. I would walk around in the stores and find the little statues of angels that you put in your garden and show them to my mom or dad. I would look at the stained glass windows at Church that had angels all over them and trace them with my fingers. My favorite time of the year has always been Christmas because of all of the angel decorations that would be displayed across yards and the ornaments that would be all over our tree.

Another reason I loved Christmas so much was because we would go to my grandma's house and she would have a plethora of angels all over her house.

This newfound obsession with guardian angels made me believe that I could see mine. I was a very shy, quiet kid so many of my friends were imaginary friends who I would play with. One of my imaginary friends was my guardian angel, who I pictured as a little girl around the same age as me with blonde hair and bright blue eyes.

She was with me through many of my childhood adventures. If I was on the swing set, she'd be in the swing next to me. If I was playing with toys, I'd always leave her one. If I had a glass of juice, she'd have one too.

As I got older, I came out of my shell more and my guardian angel began to appear less and less. When I reached high school I had basically forgotten about her, even though I still wholeheartedly believed in guardian angels.

Until one day when I was coming back from a swim team practice. My brother was driving me and my younger brother home. I was in the passenger seat, barely paying attention to the road in front of me because I was reading a text message on my phone. Somehow, I decided to look up just in time to see that my brother had been distracted and started to drift into the oncoming lane of traffic where a truck was heading straight towards us. I panicked and grabbed the wheel just in time to serve back onto the correct lane.

And somehow, in my state of panic, I noticed in the corner of my eye the same little girl with blonde hair, blue eyes that I had always pictured as my guardian angel was standing on the sidewalk next to the road. When I looked back there was no one there.

While I can't confirm that this little girl was my guardian angel, it was still a crazy experience. I've thought a lot about what happened that day and found comfort in the fact that there may be an angel looking out for me.

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