For longer than I’d like to admit, I was really angry with God. At the age of eight, I suffered my first assault, and it seemed to break my spirit. My assailant told me that I was a “bad person,” that’s why he was doing what he did. I remember looking up at the Crucifix in my classroom in the following weeks and sobbing, begging Jesus to explain to me what I had done to be hurt like that. I told him that I was willing to trade places with him on the Cross, I knew he had done nothing wrong and didn’t deserve to be up there. But me on the other hand? I had come to believe that “I was bad and deserved it, to die in order to save him.” After years of therapy, I came to realize that I didn’t deserve to be assaulted or to die, but it didn’t explain why. Why would God want me to hurt so badly if He loved me? And so, at the tender age of ten, I decided that either God didn’t exist or, if He did, He certainly did not love me.
"I was politely distant from God and was happy to be that way for the rest of my life."
So I spent the remainder of my time at my Catholic school going to Mass in spiritual silence. I went through the motions, I recited the prayers, I even volunteered to help with the service as a cantor or server. I did it all in silent defiance of Him. I certainly had nothing nice to say and my mother did teach me manners. I was politely distant from God and was happy to be that way for the rest of my life. God, on the other hand, desperately longed to speak with me and to be close once again. It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that He would get the opportunity.
My high school required all students to attend a weekend spiritual retreat. We were to bring no phones, mp3 players, or any secular reading materials. To me, it sounded like a personalized hell. I begged my parents to let me stay home, I would hate it there and only call every night until they came to get me. My protest fell on deaf ears and I went up to the retreat in my friend’s huge van. It was then I decided that if I couldn’t avoid the retreat, I would make sure they never allowed me to attend another. I was rude and defiant and such a fourteen-year-old that I cringe recalling those unsavory interactions. As I lay on the gym floor that first night of the retreat, I plotted my sure-fire plan of getting sent home early. During Eucharistic Adoration, I would walk out to show how little I thought of the whole affair. I remember falling asleep chuckling to myself, no one would be expecting it.
The next day came and I woke up giddy to get up to no good. Over breakfast, however, I met a really cool girl who liked the same music I did. Then later in the afternoon, I heard a pretty good talk from a kinda cool priest. By dinner time, I was second-guessing my scheme to be sent home. I guess I could go to Adoration, but only because my friends were going to be there too and it was sort of mandatory. So I knelt down in the hazy, incensed gym and looked upon the monstrance. It was pretty, but I felt a pang of guilt as a small voice spoke in my mind. You don’t even believe in this, why are you wasting your Saturday for this? I was inclined to agree with the voice, I didn’t belong here because I didn’t believe in all this. But then my heart spoke instead.
It took far less than my allotted ten seconds for Him to fill up my broken heart. The overwhelming sense of love, acceptance, joy, and peace that came over me was like a bolt of lightning. To quote Hebrews 4:12 “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” I fell on my face and wept for joy because I was finally home, I knew that I belonged. After all the terrible things I said to Him, God still wanted me.
"No matter how broken or stained or any amount of shame that I harbored, He wanted all of it. And He wants all of you, too. "