For the longest time, I carried the weight of my sins around with me. Some of them worn proudly like a badge on a scout vest, others hidden away where no one could see. Shame would hide in the shadows of a horrible existence I had created for myself, yet not a single soul even noticed that I was in agony.
My life had become one cataclysmic episode after another; it seemed almost foreseeable that something crappy was going to happen, and it did. My mismanagement of myself and my moral judgments put me in a place so dark and brooding I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror.
Until one day, an old friend found me in my pit of despair and asked me a very simple question. One I hadn’t even thought of. “But are you happy with this being the rest of your life?” I was dumbfounded. I’d never even thought about the rest of my life because I just assumed I wouldn’t make it past thirty!
This happened when I was twenty-three years old. I’d thought certainly I was way past saving. No one was going to swoop in and help. And no one really did, except for me. That question played in my head on repeat for days until I suddenly realized that I had to make a choice and choose myself. This decision was going to hurt people. This decision was going to hurt, but the closer and closer I got to making it the easier it all became. I broke free of a life of torture and set out to find a happier me.
Ten years ago this July I changed my life. I set a path in motion to be better and began to take steps toward that betterment. I didn’t do it right all the time and I certainly wasn’t an angel. I fell down on my face a lot more trying to get better than I had when I was a living train wreck. But then I would get up and try again. And again. And again. Two years into the discovery of Natalie, I found God, or maybe He found me….the order isn’t important but the result is. I started on the path towards baptism.
Why I chose Catholicism I will never fully understand. Some days I think it’s because Catholic people need to see more people like me to know we aren’t all cradled into our faith. I’ve been thinking about one day in particular when the leader spoke to the group of people who would become Catholic on Easter. I remember being so weighed down by my sins and feeling just dirty about it all. He spoke to us about confessing our sins before the Easter Vigil. I was terrified. Surely if I confess they will not let me be baptized! I raised my hand and expressed my fears, but they were quickly dispelled. “Oh dear one, not you. If you’re being baptized for the first time then all your sins will be in washed away in the blood of Jesus.”
At the Easter Vigil, when it was time to be baptized, there was no order for some reason. This was strange because everything up until that point was very organized. So when Fr. Hoyer stood waiting for the first soul to be washed, no one knew what to do. I stepped out and went first. Folks, as the water washed over, I felt years of sin fall off of me. I saw all of it just fade from the forefront of my mind. No longer punished by myself but instead loved unconditionally for everything I was and wasn’t.
I’m still no saint. I still fall and get back up. But I know I can do all things through He who has strengthened me. I can’t imagine my life without God even though I know what that life looks like. I refer to the time before my baptism as the fire. “Oh, I lost that in the fire.” For a long time I had stood mack dab in the middle of a raging fire and poured gasoline on it. But that night, God came to me like a firefighter in a red truck and hosed away the flames that engulfed my soul. He broke down the door and let the oxygen in and extinguished my burning heart.
Now the thirst I have inside for God feels like I’m not on fire but I am the fire! I crave God's Word and Spirit in my daily life and feel almost dry without it. It’s never been a better time to be a better you. You are never too far gone for God. Ever. Period. Don’t dance in the fire, BE the fire.
Be safe, be great, be you!
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. Describe a moment in your life (in the past or future) that signifies the death of an old way for the life of a new.
Q2. Can you honestly look back on all the years of your life and see true meaning? If not, how can you change that starting today?
Q3. How might you extinguish the self-destructive flames you ignite in your own life?