I want to share a bit of my story with you today.
I grew up with a very nominal & cultural Catholic faith – one which introduced me to the external practices of the Catholic faith and religion. Regrettably, it didn’t accompany me into experiencing and developing a personal relationship with God. So, I had some intellectual /head beliefs in God, but it didn’t make any difference in my life.
As I got into my teenage years and started encountering some of the deeper questions of life, this nominal faith was not enough to help me. ‘God’ – at least the god I knew – felt very distant and far removed from the day-to-day challenges of my life. In those years, I was exposed to atheism – through philosophers like Voltaire – who explained that we make up beliefs in a God as a psychological crutch, to help us face the challenges of life. This made sense to me at that point and I could relate that to my life, because I had no experiential knowledge of God i.e. I had no relationship with Him. I was still active in the church community, even though I didn’t believe God existed any more, because it gave me an outlet for my gifts and interests – public speaking, singing and girls!
But I began to get more and more desperate as my teenage years progressed. For a long time, I tried self-help books and pop-psychology courses to help me overcome my personal problems, but to no avail. I became especially aware of my brokenness in my relationships & sexuality, but couldn’t find paths to freedom from the hold these problems had on my life. I was miserable and envious of others who seemed to have joy in their lives. Then when I was 20, a group of Catholics and a Catholic priest came to our parish and shared their experiences of how they had encountered God and the change he had brought in their lives. I was especially drawn by testimonies of those who had experienced transformation in the very areas that had brought me to a point of desperation.
So when an invitation was given at the end of the week, for those who wanted to experience that personal relationship with Jesus as Saviour and Lord, my heart was open to that possibility. I still didn’t have my own experience with God of course, and I still had some doubts, because of my intellectual forays into atheism. I remember saying in my heart: ‘God, I don’t know if you exist and if all I’m hearing is true. But if it is, I want the kind of relationship with you and transformation in my life, that these people are talking about.’ That day, as someone prayed with me, I had a dramatic encounter with God that convinced me beyond the shadow of any doubt, that he existed. I experienced deep forgiveness and healing and joy. And it became the beginning of a life-long journey of transformation that still continues till this day.
That day I began to experience the amazing reality that God is not far away in the clouds, or just a fiction of my imagination. But that he has drawn near to me in Jesus, to show me that he is real and that he cares enough to be incarnated into the mess of our world and my life, in order to save me from those deepest slaveries and addictions of the heart, from which I could not free myself. More than that, he desires an intimate relationship of love with me, which empowers me to live out my greatest potential and to flourish.