Nearly two years ago, I began a journey toward faith. After almost a decade of not believing in God, I decided that I needed to explore my faith, or lack thereof. I started to think that maybe there really was a God, and so I had better take a deeper look and figure out what I believed and didn’t. I said to my husband, “Okay, so maybe there’s a God, but I don’t believe in all that Jesus stuff. That’s all just ridiculous.” He said something like, “You never know. . .”
Well. Now I am a confirmed and practicing Catholic. I pray daily, usually multiple times per day. I try to read the Bible. I do a daily devotional most days. I go to weekly Mass. I pray the rosary (not as often as I should!). I believe fully and absolutely in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
I’m not mentioning any of those things to suggest that I’m anything special or deserving of praise, but just to illustrate the transformation I’ve undergone in the past two years. I’m still amazed by the whole thing.
I’ve come a long way, and what I have discovered in all of my struggles and joys is simply this: God is here. God is here in every moment. How do I know? I could list the rational points that I believe confirm the presence of God. But lots of people have written plenty about those, better than I could do anyway (like say, C.S. Lewis, for example?).
So instead, I’m going to share a few of my own experiences to illustrate how I know that there is a God, beyond all the reading I did about the subject. How I know that Jesus is the Son of God, and wasn’t just a man who lived 2000 years ago and then got killed for saying He was the Son of God (that’s what I used to think).
So. Three examples from my life:
1. Adoration. I wrote once about a wonderful experience I had in the Adoration Chapel, which to my mind was, in itself, evidence of God’s grace. But I’ve never written about what it’s like just to go into the chapel. What it’s really like. I’ve mentioned that it’s beautiful and peaceful. But that isn’t even the half of it.
When I go into adoration and kneel before Jesus in the monstrance, I get this unusual, sort of surreal feeling. It’s kind of like a tightness in my chest and a lightness, at the same time. It becomes hard to breathe normally, but in not in a bad way (I know saying “hard to breathe. . . but not in a bad way” doesn’t make any sense, but that’s what it’s like!). I feel at peace (not just peaceful, but at peace) and experience a clarity of thought.
I can spend weeks stressing out about something, wondering what I should do, and then if I take that worry to Jesus in adoration, I immediately feel a sense of calm and understanding about the solution or answer to my question. It’s very hard to describe, and I’ve never felt this in any other type of situation (but see below for a similar one). In that place, with Jesus, I experience a real physical and emotional sense of His presence. I just know He is there.
2. When I went for my first pregnancy ultrasound in July, the doctor basically just said, “There is no baby. This is not a viable pregnancy. I’m sorry.” And he walked out of the room.
I had to call my husband and tell him this news, and then drive myself two hours home. I was sobbing, and trying to pray, but all I could put together was, “Help me. Help me. Jesus, please help me” or something like that.
After a while I managed to pull myself together enough that I thought I could drive home. On the way, I ran into a detour in the route I would usually have taken, which forced me to drive right past a big church. I remember coming closer to it, seeing that it looked kind of Catholic from outside, but then seeing that the sign out front said “________ Baptist.” I was pretty bummed until I got a little closer and made out what the first part of the sign said: “St. John the.” It might as well have been a billboard. I quickly pulled into the lot and went right inside.
The red candle was burning up front (indicating there were consecrated hosts, or Jesus, in the tabernacle). I knelt down and continued my barely coherent prayer from before. “Help me. What do I do now? I don’t know what to do. I can’t do this. Jesus, help me.” I repeated these same few things over and over as I wept. And then I got an answer. He told me, “Don’t give up.” I didn’t hear it with my ears, but with my heart, and I felt truly comforted. I was still devastated. I was still weeping. But I knew I was not alone. Right then and there, I felt His presence. He was going to help me carry my burden.
3. This last example is more about Mary, but it makes sense to share it. Because of course if there was no God, and Jesus wasn’t divine, then Mary was just a lady, and not Our Lady.
Not too far from my town there is a Marian shrine. It is the first (and only) approved Marian apparition site in the U.S. I went there in July. I only had my babysitter for a few hours, and I had two hours of just driving time, so I couldn’t stay there long. But I had been wanting to go for quite some time, and in the midst of my failed pregnancy and multiple ultrasounds, I went.
The shrine was just wonderful. I wanted to spend more time there. It was surreal to sit in the dark basement room, which stands at the actual site of the apparitions, and see the statue of Our Lady of Good Help.
The part that stays with me though, is the moment that I first stepped from my car. I was parked quite a distance from any of the buildings or statues of the site. There was nothing around me except asphalt and cars, and yet the first thing I noticed when I got out of my car was the strong scent of roses. It was powerful, and I immediately began looking around for the flowers. There weren’t any.
As I walked closer, this ^^ is the first area I came to where I saw any flowers, but none of them were roses. In fact, I didn’t see a single rose anywhere on the grounds, and yet the distinct fragrance of roses was the first thing to greet me upon my arrival. It let me know immediately – this is a holy place. I was in the presence of Mary.
God is real. Jesus really died for us. In addition to the three experiences I mentioned here, I notice it every day now. I experience God in my children, in my marriage, in the beauty of the world He created. I feel it. It’s not something that can be measured or tested. But it’s absolutely real.
So. That’s how I know.