How Finding God in My Darkest Hour Changed My Life and Brought Me Back to the Catholic Faith
Even though I was baptized as a baby and grew up in a Catholic home, I still strayed far away from the faith. I explored Wicca, atheism, agnosticism, shamanism, and new age spiritualism before finding my way back to the Catholic faith.
A Catholic Beginning
I was baptized when I was a 2-month old baby. A French priest who spoke Hmong and lived among the Hmong in Laos baptized me at St. Catherine’s of Siena Parish in Colorado.
In elementary school, when I was about 5 years old, my parents put me in Wednesday night religious education.
I remember feeling incredibly enlightened when I learned about God. I felt like I suddenly knew so much more about the world. I couldn’t believe that no one had told me about God before.
I loved learning about God and took to believing in Him very quickly.
But I had a very immature view of God. Many of the characteristics of God such as omnipresence and omnipotence were easy enough to understand. But I couldn’t quite grasp His personhood. Instead, I had the typical idea that God was an actual physical human being; an old but powerful man, that lived in a castle in the clouds.
At night, I would leave a spot beside me in bed and ask him to come down from heaven and lay down next to me. In the morning, if I had accidentally rolled into his spot, I would quickly roll over and apologize.
Because of this immature view, as I grew older, God became a Santa Claus-like figure. Which is, he was a make-believe person that adults used to teach kids about being a good person.
An Incomplete Initiation
I received two of the three sacraments of initiation (First Reconciliation and First Communion), but shortly after, my dad took us out of religious classes because he couldn’t afford the tuition. I’m certain that the church would’ve let us continue even if we couldn’t afford it (we do this at our church currently), but for whatever reason, my dad decided not to pursue asking for a waiver.
This meant I wouldn’t be receiving Confirmation and thus, I wouldn’t be completing all of the initiation rites. For me, I thought this meant that I wasn’t really meant to be Catholic.
Drifting Away in My Teenage Years
In middle school, my friends and I started ditching school on a regular basis. One of our favorite places to go was to the local library.
At the library, we would spend hours reading and exploring different books.
Inspired by the movie, The Craft, my friends and I decided to learn more about witchcraft. There were only a few books on the subject but I checked them out and pored over them.
Soon, we started using Wiccan lingo, saying Wiccan blessings, and practicing seances.
This led us to learn about and practice Tarot reading, palm reading, and other psychic and magical type activities.
Even though we were exploring the metaphysical world, I still believed in God and prayed to God daily.
The Moment I Stopped Believing
I didn’t turn my back on God until I was 14 years old.
Because of difficulties that one of my closest friends was having with her mom, my friends and I decided to runaway from home. During this time, I met and had my first boyfriend, who I’ll call Tommy.
I was a runaway for about one month and for most of that time, I lived with Tommy and his family.
I was only 14 years old, but I had it in my mind that we were going to get married. Part of what led to that idea was naivete, but another part was due to Hmong culture and the normalcy of marrying young.
Many of my older sister’s friends got married when they were 13 and 14 years old. My bestfriend got married when she was 15 years old.
I remember often being told by elders that I needed to get married before I turned 18. After 18, I would be considered an old maid and no one would marry me.
Luckily, my parents didn’t follow Hmong traditions too closely, so they never pressured me to get married young.
Still, I thought that Tommy and I would definitely get married.
When I returned home from being a runaway and started putting my life back together, I waited for Tommy’s proposal.
It never came. Instead, he invited me over to his house one night and left to hang out with his friends while I waited for him in his room. When he returned, he broke up with me.
I was completely crushed. I felt like he was the center of my universe and suddenly I was left with nothing.
This break-up along with all the changes of trying to move on from bad influences put me into a deep depression that lasted most of high school.
The Unanswered Prayer
After our breakup, I still held onto the hope that Tommy and I would get back together. I would pray many times a day that Tommy would realize his mistake and ask for me to go back to him.
I pleaded with God over and over.
Then one day, several months later, I visited with a group of friends, some of whom were close friends of Tommy. I told them about how much I still loved Tommy.
I even told them about baby names that I had picked out that were derivatives of Tommy’s names.
One of his friends looked at me sadly and told me in the nicest way that I needed to move on.
I went home that day and decided that God didn’t exist.
I prayed so many times for God to bring Tommy back to me and nothing happened. God hadn’t listened to me because there was no God.
Even though a little voice inside my head told me that maybe God had other plans for me and maybe I wasn’t meant to be with Tommy anyway, I still shut the door.
I didn’t care. I was angry and I wasn’t going to believe anymore.
From that day on, I stopped talking and praying to God.
Anarchy & Atheism
Three years later, when I was about 17, I started to feel a few small bursts of joy. It was like small blades of grass piercing through snow. I was finally starting to get out of my depression.
It wasn’t long before life seemed fun again and I felt playful.
In school, I became friends with a German exchange student. She had burgundy red hair and seemed so eclectic and worldly. She invited me out to my first rock show. I had never been out to a show before and I loved the experience.
My favorite bands at the show were the punk bands. So I started looking for more punk music to listen to.
It just so happened that I met a boy, whom I’ll call Dustin, at a grocery store. Dustin was well versed in punk music. We started dating and he educated me all about punk music, culture, and lifestyle.
I remember, on one of our first dates, I told Dustin that I liked the idea of being a conformist. This likely came from having parents that were first-generation refugees who were trying their best to conform and assimilate into American society.
Nevertheless, Dustin immediately challenged my idea and told me about how punk culture was about being a non-conformist. He told me punks were anti-establishment, anti-religion, and typically anarchists.
At the end of our 1.5-year relationship, I had become an atheist. Religion was just a tool to control the masses and I wanted to be as anti-Christ as possible.
Other beliefs I had were that monogamy was unrealistic and marriage was an outdated institution. I also felt that being non-traditional was important for the sake of challenging established beliefs.
The Mess I was In
I was 19 years old when Dustin and I broke up. After saying our final goodbye, I very quickly moved on to having multiple lovers to fulfill the belief that monogamy was unrealistic.
It was during this time that I met Frank. Frank had just moved to the state for a job opportunity but he had a girlfriend back in California. Because of this and his faithfulness toward her, we started a platonic friendship.
But, because of the challenges of being long-distance, their relationship didn’t last very long.
Additionally, I had started using drugs to help me sleep at night because of the misery I was in. My mind would chatter non-stop over the emptiness of all my shallow relationships.
So, one night, Frank took me out for a late dinner and gave me an ultimatum. He told me that he wanted me to end all of my romantic relationships with other men and be with him only.
He also told me that he never wanted me to do drugs again. Basically, he said “If you do drugs again, or if I hear about it, or find anything, I don’t ever want to see you again.”
I was amazed at how passionate he was and how much he seemed to care about me, so I agreed to both requests.
Starting With A Broken Relationship
Because one of my lovers was a coworker of Frank’s, I didn’t want to let anyone know that Frank and I had become a couple. Thus, we decided to keep our romance a secret.
But doing so was very hard on us. Frank’s friends would set him up on dates with other women and I continued to have an affair behind his back.
We started to resent each other and we became very cruel and condescending to each other.
We were constantly bad mouthing each other both in front of other people and behind each other’s backs.
Over the years, I tried to get us to a place where we were less dysfunctional.
For example, I ended my affair and I got Frank to agree that we would make our relationship known. But, we still couldn’t get past our resentment and some of our bad behavior toward each other.
I often threatened to break-up, but each time I wanted to break up I would find an excuse to stay with him instead. It was either I didn’t want to lose our friends, I couldn’t afford to live on my own, or maybe he would change and things would get better if I just waited a little longer.
The Turning Point
There are three things that got me on the path to being open to God.
The first was a girl in my speech class in college. In our first class, she declared that she was a devout Christian. I was immediately turned off and whenever she spoke I would roll my eyes.
But later in the semester, she opened up about the struggle of being a Christian. She spoke about the immediate bias and prejudice that people had that she was close-minded and ignorant. She expressed how she wished that she would get the same tolerance and open-mindedness that other people of other cultures and beliefs got.
I realized then that I had been unfair to her. It was true that I listened with an open mind to everyone but her.
The second thing was a different girl in my business class. She was a very smart and assertive student. She participated and engaged in discussions in every class and I had come to respect her opinions. At the end of the semester, her team did a project on the qualities of a good leader and I was surprised that she chose to speak about Jesus.
The third thing was the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I randomly picked up the book from the grocery store one day.
In the book, Stephen Covey mentions that highly effective people tend to have a belief in a higher supernatural power.
These three things turned me from being an atheist to being agnostic. I decided that God could be a possibility.
That Fateful Day
Frank and I had moved into a house together with other roommates.
I had started to make dinner for Frank and myself every night after work. I would think about dinner plans throughout the whole day and carefully prepare it every night.
It was an attempt to get us to a better place in our relationship.
Unfortunately, Frank often stayed out late with his friends after work and wouldn’t make it home for dinner. Many nights, my efforts resulted in tearfully eating dinner alone.
One particular evening, I waited for over five hours for him to come home. He kept saying he was on his way but he never made it.
I started sobbing uncontrollably as I was washing the dishes that night. Just as I was finishing up the dishes, I looked out the kitchen window through my tears. On the balcony of the house behind ours stood a girl who looked right around my age. She too was weeping sorrowfully.
The first thought that came to my mind when I saw her was “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
I realized then that these words were relevant to my own self. I realized that, just like that girl across the way, I wasn’t doing myself any good by wallowing in my self-pity.
I wiped away my tears and headed to bed.
The Night It Happened
Frank returned after midnight. As he crawled into bed, I sat up and started questioning him.
“Where were you? Why did you lie to me? How could you do this to me? You know I’ve been making dinner for us everyday now. How could you be so mean?”
But he grunted, turned away from me and simply said “I don’t want to talk about it.”
He had brushed me off this way many times, but tonight was different because I was done feeling helpless and sorry for myself.
I was so angry and frustrated that I wanted to get up and turn on all the lights in the house. I wanted to scream and yell and cry. I imagined throwing the lamps on the floor and breaking dishes.
I felt like I had hit the bottom of my misery and I didn’t care anymore. I wanted to do something crazy and I wanted the world to hear me.
I was ready to wake up our roommates and neighbors with my hysteria. I wanted them to see how mad I was and I wanted them to call the cops on me.
But…before doing all of that, I was going to try just one thing.
I made the sign of the cross and prayed.
I said “God, I know I haven’t prayed to you in a long time, but if you’re out there please help me. I don’t know what else to do.”
Then I quieted my thoughts and listened.
These words came to my mind: “I have always been here with you. I am the strength here in your heart. Whenever you need me, I will be here.”
Immediately, I felt calm and strong.
I wasn’t angry or frustrated anymore, so I turned away from Frank without saying another word and fell asleep.
The next day, I continued to focus on the strength inside my heart. I also started to talk to God.
I realized that I might just be crazy. That it all might just be my own thoughts and voices in my head, but then, what did I have to lose?
I couldn’t imagine that my life could be any worse. I was completely unhappy.
I figured that the worse that could happen was that my life would stay the same. I would still be here, in this house, in this miserable relationship with Frank.
The best would be that my life might change.
Boy, I had no idea how much it would.
The Set Up
A couple of days later, I came home from work and got ready to go to a farewell party. One of our friends was an exchange student who was returning to Japan.
Frank came home as I was getting ready and he quickly informed me that he didn’t want me to go to the party. He had some excuse that it wasn’t really a party but that he was going to help our friend finish cleaning her apartment. I was suspicious but Frank was closer to her than I was and as I focused on my newfound strength, I decided to just go with it.
He didn’t expect to be out too late anyway since it wasn’t a party.
As the night wore on, I called him to check in before midnight. He said they were wrapping up and he would be home soon.
I watched the hours pass slowly with no sign of him. Finally, after 5 am, he snuck into the house.
When he crawled into bed, I didn’t ask any questions. I just stayed focused on the strength inside my heart.
The First Major Change
I would have usually fussed over the details of what happened. Tormenting myself over who said and did what.
But instead, the next day at work, I realized that I didn’t need to know the details. I had all the information I needed.
I thought about the situation and simply asked myself: What is the message here for me? And what am I going to do about it?
The fact was that I was unhappy as I had been for 4 years since the day we got together. What happened last night continued to make it clear that I was unhappy.
So, I called the apartment complex where a friend was renting and I took a long lunch from work to sign a lease for my own apartment. After work, I visited our landlord and broke my lease from the house I had been living in with Frank and our roommates.
When Frank arrived home that night, I told him plainly that I was breaking up with him.
He laughed and ridiculed me, asking me where I was going to go. He didn’t believe that I could possibly leave him.
I informed him that I already got an apartment and broke my lease.
I would be moving out in the upcoming weekend.
And just like that, in less than a week of finding God, I ended a bad relationship that I hadn’t been able to end for four years.
As I sat alone in my new apartment that weekend, I realized that God was real.
I knew then that I was going to follow God and that I would never be able turn away from him.
What Happened After Finding God
Even though I had a taste of God’s power, I was far from being a good person and far from being truly happy.
Nonetheless, finding God felt like a light had been switched on in my life. I had understanding, clarity, and an ability to find positive solutions to my own problems like I’d never had before.
Yet, I still had a lot of work to do to undo all of my incorrect beliefs.
I often imagined myself being bent and crooked in so many ways.
As I talked to God, I realized that even though I’d done so many bad things, deep down inside of me, I was good. And I wanted to unbend myself so that the good inside of me could flow freely out of me.
To this end, I spent a lot of time talking to God and asking for guidance on how to be a better person.
Who is God?
Since God helped me get out of a hurtful relationship that I hadn’t been able to do until I found Him, I felt that I needed to find out more about who God was.
There were two places I decided to start with. One was Catholicism. Since my family was Catholic, I could easily start going back to church to learn what the church had to say about God.
The second was modern or new age spiritualism. I had a group of friends who were reading and exploring books such as The Alchemist, The Celestine Prophecy, The Secret and authors Eckhart Tolle and Dr. Wayne Dyer. I enthusiastically jumped in and attended guided meditations, yoga, and self-help seminars.
I also read Carlos Castaneda books on Toltec shamanism and tried to incorporate shamanism philosophy into how I lived my life.
However, I felt like all this new age spiritualism had very little to say about who God was. New age spiritualism didn’t really talk about God. Sometimes references were made to a supernatural power called the Source, the Universe, or the Creator.
But the actual name God had such a negative connotation in new-age spiritualism that the word God, was rarely if ever used. However, for me, because I had called out to God and He changed my life, the name God was important.
So new age spiritualism, although helpful for self-growth, left me aching to know God even more.
Surely, God had made himself known to others besides me. Surely, there was more to Him.
An Endless Source of God’s Revelations
On the other hand, the church had vast amounts of stories and information about God.
Much of what I heard at Mass and read from the bible was aligned with my own experience of God and thus, rang true to me.
For example, when I called out to God, He gave me the strength to do what seemed impossible. So verses such as Psalm 138:3 amazed me.
“On the day I called, You answered me;
You made me bold with strength in my soul.” (Psalm 138:3 NASB)
Also, when I found God, I felt like a light had been switched on in my life. I felt like I could see through a world made dark by all the voices telling us so many different things.
Thus, when I heard numerous verses that described God as a light in the darkness, I moved just a little closer toward the church:
“For You light my lamp;
The Lord my God illumines my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28 NASB)
Another example was John the Baptists’ words “Make straight the way of the Lord.” (see John 1:23 NASB). When I heard these words, I was reminded of how I had felt like I was bent out of shape and that I needed to straighten my beliefs to be aligned with being a good person. This way the goodness that I felt deep inside me could come out.
These are just a few of the many examples that led me to trust and believe in what the church and Bible had to say about God.
Even still, I had the remnants of being anti-Christ within me. For the first couple of years that I started going back to church, I would ignore anything that was said about Jesus.
Opening the Door
Then one day, I was sitting at Mass staring at Jesus on the cross when these thoughts came into my mind:
“This is my beloved Son. Open your heart to him.”
To which I said, “No, thank you. God, you are good enough for me.”
But then as I continued to stare at Jesus on the cross, I realized that I knew nothing about Him.
Maybe, I thought, I should at least learn about Jesus before I judge him.
Thus began my journey of getting to know Jesus.
Loving Jesus and devoting myself to Him though, didn’t happen until I went through romantic turmoil with a man I met in college.
Completing the Initiation Started So Many Years Ago
Once I was committed to Jesus, I wanted to leave all of the new age spiritualism behind. I wanted to truly be a part of the church.
In addition, I had started teaching Sunday school catechism and I wanted it to be clear that I was aligned with what the church teaches.
Thus, on April 19th, 2008, I received the Sacrament of Confirmation, completing my initiation. It took me 5 years from finding God to becoming fully-initiated as a Catholic.
How My Life Has Changed Since Finding God
I can see how God placed certain people, books, and situations in my path to lead me to Him and I am blown away.
God saved me. Jesus is truly a savior.
I’m also amazed at how God has changed my life since finding and following Him.
The changes that directly followed after finding God and ending a bad relationship were:
- I went from being penniless and struggling with debt to paying off all my credit cards and saving just under $10,000 within a year and a half after finding God.
- I left a job that I hated to live the dream I had of being a full-time college student.
- I rebuilt my relationships with both of my parents to one of mutual trust, respect, and appreciation.
- After smoking for 7 years, I quit cold turkey.
Yet, my life after finding God has not been without hardship, suffering, mistakes, and tears. But, one of the biggest differences is that, with God, I have strength, clarity, God’s comfort, and grace that help me get through the struggles. Additionally, from the trials, I feel that I am able to grow exponentially into a better person instead of falling into a darker place.
Year after year since finding God, my happiness and joy has continued to grow.
God has answered so many prayers for me. I’m filled with awe when I reflect on how he’s answered prayer requests and performed miracles for my uncle, my dad, my own health, my brothers and sisters, my cousins, and my friends.
On top of all this, I have been blessed with a wonderful husband –who makes me feel as lucky as though I had I won the lottery. Furthermore, God has entrusted me with four beautiful children and I get to stay home with them, which is a dream come true.
Yet, the biggest blessing of all is the deep and overwhelming joy in knowing that God loves me.
The Path Forward
To write my conversion story, I reviewed my old journals to refresh my memory. Consequently, I was surprised at how much I’ve learned about the faith and being a good person since those early days of finding God.
Also, the tone of my journal writing changed dramatically after I was confirmed. After my Confirmation, my writings were filled with much more hope, patience, and love.
And it’s been 17 years since I found God, but even in just the last year, I have learned many new things about God and my faith.
From all this, I know that I am still far from being the best I can be and that I still have more to grow.
Thus, I continue to look to God for guidance and trust that he will lead me where I need to go. Additionally, my hope is to continue to stay close to Jesus, to live for and serve him, and to do His will as best as I can.
Thank You for Reading My Conversion Story.
I hope my story helps you to reflect on your own spiritual journey.
Whether you are still searching for God, just found God, or already knew God long ago, I wish you continuing conversion and all the best on your journey.