Today as I was putting something away in my closet, and old journal of mine fell at my feet. I noticed that it covered the period during which I began my journey into the Catholic Church, so I sat reading for awhile. Of course, I have many memories of those days, but it was very interesting to read my first-hand experiences as I was living through them. The first year I waded through was before any inkling of where God was leading me had occurred to me. It was sometimes hard to read, because it was so evident to me that I kept ramming head first into the same wall again and again. Why could I not see it at the time, I wondered? I was so full of "God's hope" one day, when circumstances were happy, but the next day, or sometimes later that same day when circumstances changed, I figured God had changed, too.
It was interesting that I did not record some of the major internal conversations I remember, the catalysts. I realize that I was not very much in tune with what was truly significant and what wasn't. But there were some details that I recorded that I had truly forgotten about. One was about the neighbor downstairs. At one point I wrote about how he had come to talk with me. He was very sweet on me, and frankly he scared me because I didn't know how to make him leave me alone. He was a good 10 years older than myself, and a very soft-spoken, passionate, intense type. Now, at the time I was very much like a functionally-broken appliance -- you know, the kind whose knob only works if you jiggle it just the right way or apply a certain pressure in a certain direction on it. This conversation, which cost poor Randy significantly (I learned he, well, had a wagon and fell off it after I brushed him off), was like that kind of a patch-job courage boost for me. It emboldened me enough to have a conversation a few days later with my friend Keith about his new-found Catholic faith. Without Randy's expressed interest in me, I might not have had the courage to air my questions that opened me to reading about the Church. Seems perhaps I owe Randy some retroactive prayers, huh.
I was also amazed at how concrete and tangible grace became to me as I was drawn to the Church. Old patterns dried up and died off. I found myself experiencing security in my relationship with God like never before. God's direction to me as I gleaned from Scripture was consistent, insistent, filling me with courage and peace. And most significantly I began to see the importance of my humanity. I knew that this was a key theme that has stayed with me since those days, but it was interesting to see that I was aware of it and wrote about it in those terms.
I know that I was not without problems (at that time and later), but it was also clear to me to see that problems became excruciatingly more difficult for me the more isolated I felt from others. And that sense does not come to me simply from being alone, but from blockages in me making it difficult for me to open my heart. Even when it seemed to lead me nowhere in particular, Jesus was always impressing upon me to go with my heart.
My most overwhelming sense after reading that journal is sheer gratitude for what God has done for me. I've changed tremendously, mostly for the better, since those days. I'm glad a friend recommended journaling to me back in my late teens, because it has truly become my own record of God's wonderful works, a testimony to his faithfulness and my recurring needs.