This year marks one year since my conversion.
One year ago, at the Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) annual conference Rise Up, I experienced God in a new and profound way.
To better explain, I will share my testimony, which I wrote and shared at the CCO Founder’s Dinner in Vancouver, which took place in November of this year:
There was a time when I thought that being loved by God meant having every aspect of my life figured out.
I grew up Catholic and spent 13 years in Catholic school, hearing anecdotes such as “Jesus loves me” and “Jesus died for our sins”. But I never understood what this meant.
While I tried to accept these words, there were many aspects in my life that led me to believe otherwise. I had been bullied throughout elementary and high school, and towards the end of grade 11 I had come out of an abusive relationship. All throughout these moments, I questioned where God was in my life and whether or not I was truly loved.
I filled the void of feeling unloved with a number of extracurriculars, trying to win people’s approval. But despite my sense of accomplishment, my heart still felt empty. I felt as if my life had no purpose.
By senior year, I was having panic attacks almost daily, and anxiety plagued my every day life. I had attempted to end my life twice. Though I resented it, I was only at church because my parents made me. I had no prayer life and no community to talk to.
Once I got to SFU, I felt a tug to go seek out a Catholic club, which was how I met CCO. But for three years, I kept CCO at arm’s length. I did three faith studies and nodded my way through discussions, but I would never pursue Jesus further.
This all changed when I was invited to Rise Up, CCO’s annual national conference. I decided to go and thought that it would have been a good way to meet new people. But in the time leading up to the conference, I felt myself spiraling out of control. I had fallen incredibly ill in the days leading up to it, and the day before the conference, my family had left for a vacation. In my loneliness, I thought that I was given the opportunity to end my life once and for all. But in between my despair and conviction to follow through, I heard a voice telling me to wait.
Though I entered the conference with a hardened heart, I felt myself change. I found myself crying through every single talk. One night, I felt a strong desire to go to confession. I found myself running to join the line, and waited my turn until I found myself face to face with a priest – for the first time in nearly a year.
I shared with the priest everything that I had been going through before coming to Rise Up. When I stopped to catch my breath, I saw that he was looking back at me with a loving gaze. He told me that God doesn’t need for us to have it all together, but He will meet us where we’re at. And if we let Him, He can bring us through everything.
The priest also gave me the Litany of Humility to pray with him. As I prayed the prayer, it further confirmed for me the idea that true humility is letting God work, because He knows what is good for us. In that moment, I made my decision to put Christ in the center of my life, and to surrender all of my anxieties to Him.
Though my conversion was only ten months ago, I have seen God’s power work in incredible ways. I started to take counselling more seriously and I really opened up to my counsellor about my struggles. All of my physical symptoms – my inability to sleep, my migraines, my constant shaking – had disappeared over time. I found greater joy in going to mass and listening to God’s word and applying it to my life. I became more involved in CCO on campus, and now I share my faith with others through leading faith studies and serving as a member of the Executive Team for this academic year.
But above all, putting Christ at the center of my life has freed me from the chains of constant external approval and putting greater trust in Him. Jesus has saved my life, both spiritually and physically. When I look back on who I was a year ago, I cannot believe how far I have come. But I do believe it, because I know that my life is filled with purpose because Jesus is in it.
To close, I wanted to share a verse that was shared with me shortly after my conversion, from 1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you”. The use of the word anxiety struck me. God knew all along that this was the devil’s way of leading me to believe that no one cared for me. In this verse, I am reminded always that in my times of trouble and stress, all I need to do is to hang my burdens on the cross, because I am His daughter, and He loves me.
As the new year approaches, I thank God for allowing me this year of growth and change. While I know that I still have a long way to go, I take heart knowing that God is here for me and that I have a purpose in life.