My Journey in Faith: Making My Life Look More Like Christ

Thursday, February 19, 2015

“I want my life and my marriage to look less like the world and more like Christ.”  
- Marquis Clarke (What Matters Most in Marriage)

This is such a simple quote, but I love it because it really speaks to my life. I have lived both a life that looks like the world and am now trying to live one that looks more like Christ.  And I have seen the glaring difference between them.  
I grew up as a cradle Catholic and my family went to church every Sunday. I received the sacraments, I went to CCD every week, and went on retreats.  But throughout my youth, in college, and into my early twenties, God was neatly compartmentalized in my life. He was for Sunday mornings (sometimes), and when I needed help, I threw up a prayer to Him (you know after crying about it or trying to solve it myself).  I didn't really consider God in my day-to-day life.  My life “looked like this world”.  

I had bought into what our culture sells that as women we should be attractive and stylish, have nice things, and be adored by others.  And I had to be perfect at everything, or I wasn't good enough -- sports, school, my personality, everything.  I saw my worth in what people thought of me.  I tried every beauty product, buying new clothes, different workout routines.  I was constantly trying to be prettier.  I remember thinking, I will feel and look good if my hair is more blond.  So at 22 on a whim, I bought some do-it-yourself blond hair dye, went back to my apartment and had my roommate bleach my hair.  You can probably guess how that turned out….  But even after the emergency hair appointment to fix it and my hair was looking pretty good, I still did not feel good enough.   I was trying to find fulfillment in the things of this world.  

I was generally happy, but not content.  I was successful, but not fulfilled.

Shortly before the hair bleaching incident, I got engaged to my now husband, Matt.  Both being Catholic, we were drawn to being married in the Church and so we had to take marriage preparation classes.  The program was led by a priest and 6 lead couples.  Each week there was a new topic, like communication, the marriage vows, attentiveness, sexuality, finances.  And each week, no matter the topic, there was a clear message: put God at the center.  

At first this sounded a little impractical.  You know, I was looking for easy answers on how to be happily married and they’re telling me the answer is to change the whole way I live my life.  But these couples were so joyful and passionate and they seemed to have exactly what we were looking for in marriage.  And that was their big word of advice:  Put God first.

It was then that Matt and I started growing in our relationship with God. -- It was nothing momentous but it was the beginning of my spiritual conversion.

We started with attending weekly mass and praying more regularly.  

We started praying together, which was a suggestion from the married couples, and hearing Matt’s innermost thoughts, worries, and dreams helped me grow closer to him and put God at the center of our marriage.

I bought a Women’s Devotional bible and eventually we joined a small group bible study.  I was learning about God through scripture and the Church’s teaching, and I was started to realize how much I had been missing.  I began to understand God’s love for me, that I wished I had known all along.  I prayed my first rosary.  I went back to confession for the first time in about fifteen years, which was scary but so worth it.  I started filtering out the music and TV shows and pop culture influences that were leading me away from God.  Slowly but surely, I started to see the fruits.  Life was starting to look more like Christ.

Our  marriage was stronger and much happier.  I was becoming less self-centered, which made me a better wife and a better person.  

Now up to a certain point in our marriage, Matt and I were still resistant to the church’s teaching on contraception.  But we were having issues that stemmed from using contraception and following the world’s teaching on sex.   It seemed like God was telling us to trust Him and start using Natural Family Planning.  Both Matt and I will tell you that this change transformed our marriage in ways we never would have dreamed. (Maybe that's for a future post...)

Shortly after becoming pregnant with our first daughter, I developed severe morning sickness.  For those of you have had this, you know how debilitating it is.  My two pregnancies were the hardest times of my life, and it was through prayer and trying to offer up my suffering that I got through it.

After we had a few years of marriage under our belts, we got involved in the same marriage prep program that we had gone through, only this time as a lead couple.  Getting involved in our parish helped us grow in our faith tremendously and we made lifelong friends with others who share our values.  

So when we moved to our new home and joined our new church last year, we knew that to continue growing in our faith, we needed to become a part of parish life.  On our second time coming to mass, I was invited to join a women’s bible study group starting up called Walking With Purpose.  It was exactly what I needed, and I certainly don't believe it in coincidences.  Being a part of a program that brings women together to learn about our faith has been such an incredible blessing for me. And my family. And pretty much anyone who has to interact with me.  It helps keep me focused, learning, praying, and building relationships with other women on the same path.  It’s through studying God's word that I finally understood that my dignity and worth rests in simply being a daughter of God.  

I have seen firsthand the truth in what Jesus says in John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”

Looking back it’s these small steps of pushing away worldly things and bringing God closer that have led to enormous changes in my life -- I feel an inner peace that comes from knowing God’s love and forgiveness, no matter what I have done in the past.  He has given me greater clarity and I feel driven to do His will each day.  

I know that I still have a long way to go in becoming like Christ, but I have seen how seemingly small changes can have a big impact.

Lent is the perfect time to reduce the many worldly distractions and focus on growing in our relationship with Christ. He is inviting us. All we have to do is accept His invitation. And remember, we are all on our own faith journeys. Don't ever be discouraged.

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