Everyone’s journey through life is different and unique, God has a specific plan for you and for me, and I have come to realize that his plan is always bigger and better than what we can do on our own.
When I was year or two out of high school I was at a party with friends and met a beautiful girl, who caught my eye. Apparently, I caught her eye too. We started hanging out more and eventually started dating. We went to a lot of parties together and party we did, we stayed out late and drank….A LOT, which is what I was very comfortable doing. At this point in my life, you could definitely say I was living for the weekend, going out with friends, getting hammered, go to work and school and repeat the cycle.
I almost always did go to church on Sunday, even if it meant going extremely hungover, you know how it is….didn’t want to disappoint Mom. And besides I wanted to go to church because whenever I die I want to go to heaven, and I thought that as long as I made it to church I was doing my end of the deal.
My thought process about God was pretty simple: “If I Show up for church, I get to heaven when I die, because after all, that’s when you meet God”, looking back I’m not sure if I could’ve been more ignorant about God.
My girlfriend, on the other hand liked to party but she also like to go church and pray A LOT, I thought this was a good thing, there is nothing wrong with prayer. However, she liked church and God and prayer so much that she wanted me to try to have a little deeper relationship and understanding about God than what I had. She was always talking to me about Monday night prayer group and the bible and what I thought about scripture, and I was always like….I dunno and was always thinking …… church … death … heaven…..I think I’m good, right? What was about to happen over the next few months would change my life forever.
It became pretty clear to me that if I didn’t at least give this prayer group thing a chance, her and I wouldn’t last. I really liked her and FINALLY, I decided to go and give it a shot… WOW, that was completely different than anything I have ever experienced. I remember going down there literally sweating because I was so nervous, but I ended up staying the whole night. At the end of the night I felt my eyes watering up, I had no idea why but I did my absolute best to make sure no one else around me saw tears building up, I remember thinking “there’s no way I’m going to sit here and cry, I’m not in pain there’s no reason to cry” I continued to hide the few tears that manage to come forth and when I walked out, everyone was saying goodbye to each other and I was thinking “Cya later, this will be the last time I ever see you down here, this is clearly not for me.” The fact that I went made my girlfriend happy and after prayer group was over we began to talk about what how the night went. I told her that I didn’t really feel much, then she asked if I had tears in my eyes and I said “Absolutely not, I must’ve gotten something in my eye” She explained to me that tears are a gift from the Holy Spirit, and that was just God’s way of showing his presence to me.
That made me feel a ton better about the night and prayer group in general. I did end up going back to prayer group, periodically, and only when she would go with me. Slowly I became more comfortable with my prayer life and praying in tongues even but still felt like I wasn’t receiving as much as everyone else that was going and it became frustrating. Time went on and I really grew a lot spiritually. After a few months it was time for my first Life in the Spirit seminar.
I remember the beginning of that retreat like it was yesterday, Father Trick was dousing everyone in the room with holy water and began laying hands on some of us participants. And when he came to me, to pray over me, I rested in the Spirit 10x deeper than I ever had before. During Saturday night prayer, with praise and worship I finally surrendered 110%. I felt God through the Holy Spirit like I never felt before, I experienced the Holy Spirit on a deeper and stronger level than I even knew was possible, and I began to pray in tongues effortlessly.
After that weekend at the retreat, I was completely all in. When I got home from the retreat my mom asked me how it went, I sat and talked to her for at least an hour and shared what I experienced, and what other people had said they experienced as well. I even began to cry when sharing some of this. You should’ve seen the look on her face; she could tell right away that something major happened to me that weekend. I had new life in Jesus and couldn’t help but share it with those around me, conversations seemed to just turn to faith when I talked and listened to my family and co-workers, I couldn’t help but share with them my Faith with them. When the conversation turned to God with one guy I was talking to, (who actually happened to be somewhat atheist), He said “This universe is so big, that you and I are hardly even a bug on the windshield, don’t let yourself think God is big enough to care about us”, I told him that I agreed that we are just a bug on the windshield in the scheme of how big the universe is, but that makes God even greater, because he knows and cares about me, someone who is so small in the scheme of things, and that makes him a pretty awesome God.” The other guy didn’t really know what to say, he shook his head and walked away.
When I went out on the weekends and partied, I went out with a different attitude, I wasn’t perfect but I didn’t go out to purposely get drunk. I had few great conversations with a co-worker who was eager to hear about my experiences, after we talked a while, he told me that I had incredible faith, but I was young, he said just wait until life knocks you down a few times, then you’ll know if you are for real. I told him that understand what he was trying to get at. I knew I had a lot of changes coming in life but I’m not afraid of life’s challenges, I know they will come, as long as I kept my faith up, I’ll be just fine.
The last few years have been full of blessings and change for me. This September we will be married for 5 years, and wow did they go fast. We’ve experienced a lot of change in those 5 years: our marriage, 2 new jobs, a major house renovation, and 3 amazing kids. All of these changes have been blessings, but every change has brought its own different and unique set of challenges and stressful times.
The only constant and non-changing thing in the last 5 years has been God’s Love. When I had the opportunity to change jobs, I used the gifts of the Spirit and spent a lot of time in prayer about it. I wasn’t terribly unhappy with where I was working, they treated me well and I really liked the people I worked with and my boss, the issue I had was some of the decisions that was coming from the top management, it became clear to me that the place I enjoyed working at was about to change in a way I didn’t feel benefited the business overall. So I began looking around elsewhere, it didn’t take long and I got an interview and a job offer at a thriving business, now I had to make up my mind. It was easy to think or talk about leaving but when it came down to it, it was an extremely hard thing to do, I was working at the same place for 8 years and was being treated very well, but I didn’t have peace about the future. I began praying that God would show me the where he called me to be, I was hoping for a clear and definite answer, and naturally, I wanted my answer to come quickly. Deep down when I prayed about it I felt the urge to take the leap and move on to the new place, but I struggled with discerning if that was God nudging me or if it was my own personal desire. I called the place up and told them I needed more time to make a decision. I looked at things on paper and weighed out the pros and cons and basically chickened out, it was basically a wash on paper and I didn’t want to leave my comfort zone. I had to give them my decision the following Monday, I planned on telling them thanks, but no thanks, hoping not to burn any bridges for the future in case I would want to go there later on. That weekend, before I gave them my final decision, I went to mass and lifted up the situation and God spoke to me clearly, he asked me why I wasn’t trusting him. He has been guiding me to make the move to the new company the whole time but I wasn’t trusting him. I came home from mass and felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, there was going to be a lot of change coming up but I had confidence in God’s plan so wasn’t worried about it. I called the new company up on Monday and told them I accepted. Some people supported me, but more than a few thought I was making a big mistake, but honestly, I didn’t really care what anyone thought, I felt called to change jobs and that’s what I set out to do. Looking back it was a great decision, I’m happier there than I ever thought I would be, I definitely made the right choice for me. Every time life gets stressful or I don’t know which way to turn, I know I need to go back to the upper room, like the disciples and spend some more time with the Lord in prayer, because when I am operating in the realm of the Holy Spirit, there is no stress, whatever the situation, there is only solution.
My wife loved Jesus before she loved me, and I fell in love with Jesus before I could truly fall in love with her and because of our mutual love for God, it makes the problems that come up in life and in our marriage much easier to deal with and work through, we have both seen God work miracles so we are on the same page with how to deal with problems. Having mutual love for God before each other has taught us how important a personal relationship is with Jesus. We share with our kids the importance of knowing Jesus, not just believing or knowing WHO Jesus is, but truly KNOWING Jesus. And even though our kids are young and at times extremely ornery and get into more than their fair share of trouble, they point out Jesus every time they see a new crucifix or a church steeple. Which helps me to know that they are already developing a relationship with Him, it’s my goal that they come to know and love him at a young age, so they can experience the benefits of our Catholic faith as soon as possible.
I feel so blessed to have had my wife come into my life, she is the only reason I had any interest in seeking out God on a more personal level, God has blessed us with each other and he continues to mold each other into more perfect gifts to one another. As we go through high school and college, it’s important to remember that our friends and the people we date can help us become interested in getting to know the Lord, but it’s solely up to each and every individual person to develop a relationship with Jesus, we can’t make other people’s decisions for them. In other words, just because you want your boyfriend or girlfriend to take their faith seriously, or have a relationship with Jesus, you can’t force them into it.
I can’t even begin to imagine where I would be in life I didn’t come to know Jesus, there was a time where I had no real interest in having kids or settling down. All I was really interested in was partying, and everything that surrounded that type of lifestyle. Saying yes to God, is more than just growing up and maturing, it’s about trusting in God, and receiving his blessings. I’ve come to know firsthand just how much greater Gods plan is that what I had planned before I experienced New Life in him.
In 2nd Corinthians it says: If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature;the old things passed away;behold new things have come.
In the book of Matthew it says: Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.