Sorry this is long but I felt like the details I've put are important to my story. So thank you for reading!
My story isn’t exactly unique but I felt compelled to tell it so I hope it touches someone’s heart.
I was born and raised in the Roman Catholic Church. My mom sang in the choir when we were kids and in later years my Dad became a lector. I was baptized, received first communion and confirmed. I went to CCD classes and was an altar server. I attended a youth group not tied to the church we were attending as a teenager. Even with all of this, however, I had a shallow understanding of God and the sacrifice He made for is. To me, the crucifixion of Jesus wasn't connected to my life. It was something that had happened long before I was born or my parents were born, my grandparents, great grandparents etc. Horrible and sad yes, but something that didn’t really affect me as a person living 2000 years after the fact. I did believe God existed but I couldn’t connect with Him. And because of this I didn’t really appreciate God and the teachings of Jesus. Church was just another thing I had to go to because my parents made me, like school.
Speaking of school I wasn’t exactly popular. In fact I think I was probably the most unpopular kid in school. Everyone thought I was weird. My mother was a teacher so getting bad grades was just simply not acceptable in our house, so I studied hard, always handed in homework on time, took school seriously etc. I’m also an introvert and the other kids just didn’t understand me. so I was bullied quite a bit. I think the worst of it was between 5th and 8th grades. It died down a little in high school but the damage was done.
I saw college as a way to reinvent myself. I no longer had to be the weird studious quiet kid. I could be me. I refused to apply to any of the instate schools and ended up going to a school in a different state that was a 3 ½ hour drive from home. Despite my new beginning I was still held back by my past and I didn’t want to be uncool I wanted these new classmates to like me. Church was an “uncool” thing to me at the time so even though there was a Catholic church literally right across the street from campus I opted to just sleep in on Sunday mornings. I left church and the extracurricular activities tied to it behind. I only attended mass when I went home on school breaks. I still believed in God and that Jesus died on the cross for us but I still didn’t have a true understanding of what exactly that meant. Also having been raised in the Catholic Church, I became aware of all the controversies and scandals surrounded by that denomination. I still believed in God but felt the Church had been corrupted and I could no longer follow it’s teachings.
While in college I met and fell in love with a man. It sounds silly but he was my first love and first long-term boyfriend and I was absolutely smitten. No smitten isn’t a strong enough word I was head over heels madly in love with this man. I would have died for him if I had to. I would have sacrificed everything for him. And I did sacrifice things for the sake of our relationship. I actually never told him this but there was an opportunity for me to have studied abroad for a semester and I turned it down. We were going through a rough patch and I was absolutely terrified over what would happen if I was in another country for an entire semester. I regret that decision.
We ended up being one of those “on-again off-again” couples throughout our 4 years at school. When graduation came we were “off-again” for good this time and I was just completely and utterly destroyed. Because I had invested so much time and energy into a doomed relationship I had pretty much no clue what I was going to do after graduation. Despite the back and forth nonsense between us I still had hope that we would work it out and end up getting an apartment together when school finished.
I had chosen a major that needed a lot of time and devotion but instead of spending my time building a possible career I spent it on a relationship that ended up crumbling at my feet. I had no job, no apartment, no boyfriend. Just a broken heart that actually physically ached inside.
With no future plans lined up I ended up back home with my parents. In my 20s.
I think I will refer to the next several years of my life as my “lost years”. I ended up getting a low paying job (not in my field), too low to get a place of my own and the few friends I had in high school did not remain in the area and living with a stranger never seemed like a good idea to me (especially as a woman in her early 20s) so finding roommates was not an option. So I remained living with my parents. I spent any free time I had wallowing in self-pity. I only attended church at holidays, my parents recognized that I was an adult now and could make my own choices. If you had asked me at the time if I was angry at God I probably would have said “no”. And from an outside perspective I seemed ok. Sure I had some things to work on but I didn’t seem angry or bitter. Inside though was a different story. Looking back at those years I was incredibly angry with God, my parents, my ex, at the world. The school I went to was actually my second choice, I didn’t get in my first choice school. It was the only school my ex even applied to and he waited a few years after high school before attending. So I thought it was meant to be. I thought the reason I didn’t get in my first choice he only applied to one school and only after a few years of the “real world” was so that I could meet him and he could meet me I thought God had brought me my soulmate. And when that was gone I thought I was being punished or that there was cruel joke being played on me. Wasn't I a good person? I didn't kill, cheat, and mostly not lie. Why didn't God reward me? Why did He leave me with this shattered heart? I felt like God was like the kids that had bullied me all those years ago, pointing and laughing at me for my complete and utter failure at life.
Those years are actually a bit of a blur to me now. I didn’t do much with myself. Went to work, came home, binge watched some DVDs and went to bed. I tried to basically force a friendship with my ex via the Internet which of course only delayed healing and ended up blowing up in my face. I did end up reconnecting with some friends after they gravitated back to the area. But I really didn’t do much to try to better my situation. I didn’t see the point in trying. I committed some serious sins in those years that I am not proud of what so ever. I was in a dark place and didn’t care what I was doing or who I hurt in the process. All I cared about was feeling something other than pain and hopelessness.
I may have been angry with God and sinned without remorse (at the time) but He was still with me. He never abandoned me. Close to 6 years after college graduation I had been stuck in the same job still living with my parents and I think depression had a real hold on me. I was never diagnosed but I think I was depressed. There were mornings I had to say out loud to myself “Ruth, get up” before I found motivation to get out of bed. Something had to change. My friend had heard of a job opening and passed it along to me. It was still low paying but my current job wasn’t doing me any favors with the mental health so I went for it and got it. My new bosses were complete opposite of my old one. They were caring and willing to work around any scheduling conflicts. They were warm people that got to know me and I them. We formed a great relationship. It was a family run business and I became part of the family. Unfortunately, as I said, it was still low paying and after another 2 years I realized I couldn’t live life like this anymore. My mental health was improving but there was a lot more work to be done.
I realized I hadn’t done a thing in years to further a career in the field I had gotten a degree in. I decided that maybe it was time to explore other options. I took several career tests online and got many lists of possible careers that would fit me but there was one that jumped out at me. I didn’t realize it at the time but God was leading the way.
I ended up enrolling in a post baccalaureate certificate program. Instead of focusing on a boy I really focused on my studies and building myself up. I graduated and 6 months later found a pretty decent paying job with an awesome boss. 5 months later I moved out of my parents house.
Things were finally looking up! My relationship with God was non-existent at this point but he was still by my side working in ways that I hadn't even begun to realize.
There was another guy from college that had had some feelings for me. I had only thought of him as a friend. We had kept in touch through social media so every so often we would chat and catch up with each other. One not so very special day I was thinking about him a lot and realized I had feelings for this guy. He was actually supposed to come visit me in the next few months to see my new place. But it never happened. He backed out at the last minute and any future attempts I made at trying to find another time for a visit he avoided the conversation. It never went anywhere with him and I found some of the old feelings of loneliness and pain creeping back up. I tried my best to keep them at bay but there were some tough nights. Reflecting on this I realized it wasn’t so much about the guy but about the rejection.
Just a few years later I had reconnected with an old high school classmate, a guy. It was weird the way we connected. We were Facebook friends and I was babysitting my niece. I had taken a cute picture of her and wanted to share it on my timeline. Now I know how to use Facebook. I was in college when it was created. I joined when you still needed a .edu email address in order to open an account! But somehow what was supposed to be a timeline post ended up being a private message to this old high school friend. We got to talking and catching up. A couple of days later he asked if we could meet up and I said yes. It ended up being a date! And it went very well. We continued seeing each other.
In the coming months I started to fall for him. Unfortunately, due to certain circumstances on his end we had to split up after 4 months. We liked each other a lot, even said 'I love you' a few times but it wasn’t going to work. I was heartbroken once again. To my surprise it hit me harder than I thought.
At this point I had stopped going to church even on holidays. This guy from high school is a Christian and had asked me to come with him to church. Wanting to impress him, I did. It wasn’t A Catholic Church but a more modern/casual one and it was unlike anything I experienced. I liked it and attended with him when I could. After we split I obviously couldn’t keep going to his Church.
Just before we split I had a moment of clarity about my own life. God was speaking to me. I had been reflecting on my past when it dawned on me the pain inflicted upon Jesus, those horrible acts were done for my sins. It wasn’t just done by those long long ago the pain Jesus endured was because of me. My brokenness. My sins inflicted horrific pain on another human being. It was then that I broke down crying begging for forgiveness of my sins. It was then that I really started to understand.
At Christmas I ended up going to midnight mass with my parents in the Church I grew up in and I realized something. This isn’t where I belong. I also realized another thing. I wanted to go back to church. I was ready to welcome God back into my life…but I still had some reservations. I wasn’t quite there yet.
I searched for church’s in my area that may have be similar to the one I attended with my old friend. I found one and started listening to some of their old sermons they had in their website. The more I listened the more I liked it. I was listening to a sermon everyday. I was still hesitant to actually go though.
Life got busy and I stopped listening to the sermons for awhile. Then one not so special (or maybe very special) Sunday I decided to just go. Wow! I felt like I was home!
I have been going every Sunday since and am starting a membership class next week! I have prayed more in the last 2 months than I have in a very very long time. Most people can’t wait for the weekend to start. I can’t wait for Sunday mornings. The messages being preached are really speaking to my soul.
Now I’m still struggling with feelings of loneliness and there are still some sins that have a hold on me but I’m working on it. My story isn’t over yet. He’s still working inside me and always will be.
Reflecting on all of this has made me realize that even when my back had turned on Him He was still there for me. He blessed me with a family that took me in when I needed them. He showed me the way to a career that would advance my life. He was the one that built me back up when I was so broken I couldn’t even see straight. He has brought quality romantic love into my life twice now. I have to trust Him. I do trust Him. I owe everything to Him and I’m amazed that He chose me. He chose me.