Hail Mary, Full of Grace

Years ago, I went from God-hater to God-lover. In what can only be miraculous, I went from a lifetime of dipping my foot in a pool I thought didn’t exist to jumping into a dark pit that is religion and faith in God. Am I right?

I joined the Catholic Church when I was 30 years old, so I’d grown accustomed to not being religious at all. Actually, it kind of made sense to me back then that there probably was no God or meaning to life. We were all just specks that turned into nothing and got replaced by more specks. Riveting stuff. My life was bland and meaningless, but I still had a good time. Maybe too good a time, at times. To my chagrin, I was saved and found in 2015, and I haven’t looked back.

But my journey wasn’t just odd for me—it was odd especially for those around me. I mean, I’d gone from complete nonbeliever to a practicing Catholic. These two things are very different. I can still vividly see the faces of others when I expressed this newfound thirst that overwhelmed me, the comments of, “Okay, I get that, but why Catholic?”

On one such occasion, I had one of these conversations with a dear, dear, dear friend. A conversation that cemented for me that finding faith even after so long was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. Her and I. We. We’ve known each other longer than we haven’t. Practically related. I’ve spent so much time with this person, it’s a miracle she still likes me after 30 years.

Her family lived directly across from mine growing up. On a cul-de-sac. If you’ve ever lived on a cul-de-sac in suburbia, you know those bonds run deep. We’ve been through it all, and so this, we had to go through too. I called her one day and told her that I now loved Jesus, was becoming Catholic, and wanted her to know and attend my baptism. I talked on and on about God and faith and blah blah blah Jesus blah.

She didn’t talk much. I remember finding that extraordinarily strange, because she’s the one I’d sit next to in church on Sundays years and years ago when we were young. She always tried to get me baptized or “saved,” as it were. And I always goffed her off. So when I finally shut up long enough to let her talk, her response wasn’t at all what I expected. Her tone wasn’t excited or happy. She seemed kind of upset. The words don’t matter, because perspective gets lost in translation. I don’t really remember the conversation as it happened. It was that feeling. It wasn’t the words I heard, it was the hurt I felt that she wasn’t being positive about this. That she wasn’t jumping for joy, or jovial at all, for that matter. She seemed, in fact, angry at me.

Our talk ended shortly after that, and I hung up feeling very, very confused. Maybe a little hurt. But mostly confused. Then I brushed it off and moved on. Not too long later, the phone rang. It was her. I answered to hear what sounded a little like faint crying. “Natalie. I’m sorry for how I just responded to you telling me that. I’m so happy for you that you found God. Of course I will be there at your baptism. I love you.” And I said thank you and cried a little, and we hung up without much more being said.

Standing in my shoes, six years saved, I can say that she is and always was the initial dip in the ocean of my faith.

That one phone call was absolute and utter confirmation that I was right where I was supposed to be. That I was on a good path if just by telling someone I found the Lord, their dry bones shook. Years later, she told me she felt jealous—almost left out—that I was going on this journey without her; or perhaps, it was instead of with her when we were young. Many people—she especially—felt confused by my choice to be a Catholic.

And standing in my shoes, six years saved, I can say that she is and always was the initial dip in the ocean of my faith. She, her mother, and her sister always included me, not only in their church life, but their home life too. They ministered to a lost child, which far exceeded where any church could have found me back then. I wasn’t ready to glorify God then. To be holy or hold the responsibility of what faith in God means.

But I get it now. I accept that duty as a believer. I feel honored every day to have the faith I have. Even when no one believes, I still do. And maybe that’s why I believe in the first place. To help other lost souls feel found too. 

Reality Changing Observations:

1. How have people responded when you’ve told them you have faith? Do you have any stories of uncomfortable or unexpectedly joyful conversations?

2. Why do we need to be in faith communities? What happens when we’re separate from other believers?

3. How does God get your attention, usually?

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3 years ago

Awesome read. Love you Natalie, so proud of everything you do and everything you’ve become!