Embraced by God, Part 3
It Takes Honesty to Receive Mercy
“Repentance—how ‘cool’ it is!” That’s one lady’s response to salvation.
“Judy” is a woman who knows the great gift of mercy. She also knows the freedom and joy of changing her life, of finding the healing balm of repentance.
She calls her story, “Hanging by a Thread.”
Judy’s story is one of gradual separation from God—without even realizing it—and God’s loving mercy in receiving her back. It is about the importance of prayer, even when your prayer life is minimal. It is about the need for direction and correction as we mature. It’s also about patiently and gently guiding young people toward God’s truth about faith and morals.
She says “I was born into a large Catholic family. We faithfully attended Mass every Sunday.
“Growing up in the 60s and 70s, catechesis was weak. I don’t remember being taught about the beauty of the Church or the Mass. I don’t recall being encouraged to have a relationship with God. My faith was a Sunday thing, not a part of my whole life.”
Coming of Age
She came of age in the 70s, and although relatively sheltered from what was going on among her peers, things changed when she went to college. At first, she attended Mass regularly. She had strong Catholic influences in the families with whom she was associated. But faith was “a Sunday thing.”
She got her own apartment and “with that freedom I could experiment. And I did. I do ’t remember being taught about the value of purity and chastity. My parents never had the talk about the “birds and the bees”. And the culture at the time encouraged sexual promiscuity. Even older women, who loved me like a mother, were very supportive when I shared my plans with them for exploring things with my boyfriend. Oh, how I wish they would have corrected me rather than affirmed me.
And so there began a time of promiscuity that lasted about two years. Along with promiscuity came contraception.
“During that time I stopped attending Mass. I don’t think I realized what was happening. We can so gradually move away from God, and by the time we realize how far away we are, we can be truly lost.”
Judy says she “went from a naïve young woman to a foul-mouthed ‘woman of the world.’ I thought I was liberated, grown-up, cool. But now I see how foolish and lost I was. I ended up moving in with my boyfriend, who would later become my husband. He, too, was a non-practicing Catholic.”
Judy became pregnant. The doctor suggested a legal abortion. She and her boyfriend chose that option. “So I chose abortion and ended the life of my child.”
“I attended church only when I was home with my parents. Still, I remember praying every night. It was just the simple, memorized prayers of a child—Our Father, Hail Mary—but I know they were the lifeline to God that kept me connected throughout that time away.
Hanging by a Thread
“There is a saying, ‘hanging by a thread.’” Judy said. “That’s what I envision with me and God. When I was baptized, there was a thick, strong rope connecting me to God. Each time I sinned, a thread from that rope was cut. Eventually, all that was left was a thin string between me and God. That string was prayer.”
After about ten years, she became pregnant again, but the baby was lost in miscarriage. Later, she conceived again—about one year after she began her journey back into the Church.
Judy says that in August of 2000, she “went to confession for the first time in more than twenty years, confessed the sin of abortion (and many others, of course), and began to make it to Sunday Mass on a regular basis. About a year later, in September, 2001, my son was born. And I knew, throughout my pregnancy, that he would be fine. I had no fear of miscarriage or anything else.”
Slowly, God was calling her back.
She began to explore her Catholic faith. She attended “Why Catholic?” She began going to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. “I don’t think I ‘got it’ but I was there. I began reading and learning. And once that began, I had a hunger and couldn’t get enough.”
Three Levels of Conversion
Judy refers to her conversion as having three levels.
“My first conversion was of repentance—recognizing my sins and confessing them. Then, it was an intellectual conversion—learning my faith. Now, the third conversion is one of heart—falling in love with God. This is the best part!”
Judy’s story concludes with this:
“I know that God loves me as only our Father can love. I feel like Molly Ringwold at the end of the movie ‘Sixteen Candles.’ She has a crush on a popular, rich boy and has no hope of him even thinking about her.
“But at the end of the movie, she comes out of church after her sister’s wedding and there he is, sitting on his fancy car. He waves at her and she looks around to see who he’s waving at, but she’s alone.
“She points to herself and says, ‘Me?’ He replies, ‘Yeah – you.’
“That’s how I feel about God and me. He sees me, some nobody who has offended him in so many ways. And he waves to me. I look around to see who he’s waving at because surely it isn’t me! But it is.
God wants me!
How cool is that!”
Judy discovered that healing and spiritual growth are found in the Church, its sacraments, and in the embraces of those who also believe.