Rising from the Ashes

Growing up a Catholic, I’d say I’ve always had a pretty strong faith. I’ve been baptized, confirmed, and receive Holy Communion every Sunday. Although I can’t say I’ve read the Bible completely, I can say that I’ve read the New Testament in Spanish. While studying abroad in Spain, away from my parents, is where I first tested my second hand faith. I found out that my desire to go to Holy Mass and be part of a prayer/bible study group increased. When I came home, I thought I’d fermented my faith, moving from second hand to first hand. Little did I know what was to come ahead the following summer.

I found myself in the toughest time of my life. I was going through a type of depression that I thought would surely never happen to me. Yet, there I was in the house of my parents, having my faith put to the test once again. I would love to say that I never lost faith during this time, but I’d be lying if I said so. I started to question my belief as a Catholic, and ultimately the existence of God. I went into some deep soul searching, even to the point where I did not believe in anything! This was truly the lowest point of my life because in addition to having depression, I had now lost all hope of getting back to normal.

After a few weeks in this state, I told myself, I couldn’t go on like this anymore. I wondered, “I’ve found all these reasons not to believe in God, and proof that he doesn’t exist. However, does that make me feel any better?” I came to the conclusion, that even though I might not see God, and maybe not even feel him with my senses, there’s plenty of evidence that he exists. That’s where I took a leap of faith and said, “I might not ever be able to concretely prove his existence, but the hope and faith of knowing that there’s someone out there that loves me, are more important than my desire to have complete certainty.” After this personal commitment, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulder.

Now after my newly found faith, I still went through a summer of incredible psychological turmoil due to my depression. And yes, there where many times where I asked, “Why is God letting me go through this and not healing me?” As low as I felt, I never felt that loneliness I had when I gave up on God completely. As quickly as my sickness came, it left, and I started make it back to normal state. A key point that I came to realize – one that helped immensely in my recovery – is the fact that my Heavenly Father has a place for me in heaven. That was something I struggled with during the summer, thinking that I was constantly tiptoeing on the line between heaven and hell, depending on my own actions for salvation. While it is true that without Christ, one small sin would cause death, thanks to his suffering for us, we do not have to die. Instead we get to go to heaven! All we need to do is believe in him. I used to think, “This must be some kind of trick. There must be something more to this because it seems too simple.” However, this is the beauty of our faith. It is a religion that is meant for a child to comprehend. And so, because of this new thought-process, I am much less dependent on my own actions now, and am not afraid of messing up.

I learned that one of the best ways to move forward in life is to mess up. Yes, you can learn from positive experiences, but the fact is that errors are a lot better teachers of life than successes. The valley that I passed through has taught me so much more than any other period in my life. One of my personality traits is perfectionism. Now while this trait taken to the extreme can have a negative impact, a lot of the time it’s a good thing. It drives me to want to do the right thing. Fortunately this trait carries over to my faith. I have the desire to be the best person I can be, a Saint. Thanks to this tough time of my life, I’ve now inherited a toolbox of new ways to strive to become that Saint.

Thanks be to God, I am now preparing for my next journey in life. That is my journey to Puebla, a town in Mexico. I have signed up to be a missionary to college students there. We’ll be helping them move along in their college careers as well as in their journey of faith. We’ll also be doing a lot of volunteer service; visiting orphanages, bringing drinkable water to those that don’t have it, and building houses for those that need a home. This will be a great opportunity to deepen my own faith as well.

Now you might have heard a lot of gut-wrenching news coming from Mexico, regarding the killing 40 college protesters, and other such horrible events. Does this make me think twice about my trip there? Not at all. Thanks to my new connection with my heavenly Father, I know that he’ll protect me where ever I go, and that he won’t put me in a situation I can’t handle (granted I do my best to try to stay safe!) I embrace the risks of going because I know I’m serving God, and that deed never goes to waste. Money in the bank of Heaven!