by Paul Joseph
Hi everyone, I’m Paul and I’ll be sharing with you here how Jesus has transformed my life. I am 26 years old this year and am a cradle Catholic with two younger sisters and a family that is very loving, but not active in faith. Before coming into SOW, I had already encountered the Lord back in university five years ago and in my mind, Jesus and I were on good terms. I knew Him and He knew me, and all I needed to do was more work for Him, and all would be alright.
However, my identity was controlled by so many other things and it was never really firmly set on the Lord. If something that I planned went wrong, I would automatically blame myself and beat myself up for it, always feeling like I couldn’t match up to the many expectations that I had placed on myself. My years of growing up had taught me that I was never that great, or special and my only way of receiving love from others, was to do well, and always be nice so that I’d get a good name for being the good boy, the best older brother and eldest son. I struggled a lot in my relationship with my earthly father. Although he loved me so much and I knew that, there were lots of arguments that left me feeling like I was never good enough, and that maybe someone else could have been a better son to my dad. Although these things were in my heart, I didn’t know how I could begin to allow the Lord to enter into these areas of my life.
On the first day of SOW, we were told to write a word or phrase that would summarise our hopes for the school. I wrote the word ‘renewal’ without much thought to what it actually meant or implied, but it was the first word that came into my mind. Little did I know that this would be the perfect word to sum up my SOW encounter. During a session, the Lord brought up many areas in my life that needed His healing hand and part of me was confused because I never really felt like I actually needed healing; For so long, I’ve convinced myself that forgiving and forgetting is the best way to move forward. The effects of forgiving and forgetting left me a lot more broken than I imagined and this was the first step to my healing – recognising that I am also broken, not perfect, and that I needed the healing work of the Lord.
The Lord surfaced a wound from when I was 9 years old. For so long, I had hidden behind the pretense that I was unaffected by what happened, and that I could just forgive the person and forget about the incident. I carried the shame from that incident in my heart and I told myself it was ok, that no one had to know about it, for fear of being judged. Although I had already released forgiveness to the person in another retreat 2 years back, Jesus revealed to me at this session that I needed to release forgiveness to myself, that I was not responsible; and that it wasn’t my fault. Healing came in the most unexpected way when I was prompted to go for confession during one of the night sessions. In my shame, I expected condemnation, but in that moment of grace, father told me that I had no reason to blame myself for the other person’s actions. At that point I broke down crying because I felt the overwhelming love of God for me, that I was seen by the Lord as His beloved, made whole and pure by the immense love that Jesus had for me.
Slowly, more walls in my heart began to come down and Jesus went deeper. He began to heal my relationship with my family and especially with my dad. I have spent the last few years trying my best to love my dad but the Lord revealed to me that I am only limited in my love. He reaffirmed me of my identity and gave me a new Spirit to love my father for who he is and not who I wanted him to be. Jesus continues to teach me how to love my sisters, my mum and especially my dad through the lens of love that He sees me in. During one of the longer breaks during the school, I was a lot more patient with my family, and I was even prompted to do something that I had never done before – to pray for my sister, which was a new yet powerful and grace-filled moment. The Lord reminds me that although I can’t love perfectly, He who is my perfect lover will teach me how to love like He has first loved me.
And so as I leave SOW, I can say with certainty that Jesus is my renewer, my Healer. He makes all things new and He continues to surprise and amaze me with what He can do if I only allow Him to work in my life. I came into SOW with only one expectation, that I would grow closer to the Lord in this time. But Jesus had so much more to give me, so much healing that He wanted to do, beyond what I could imagine. If any of you feel that there are areas of your life that need healing, I want to encourage you to bring it to the Lord, because He desires us to experience fullness of life through Him. Today, Jesus tells each one of us here, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you ‘give me a drink’; you would have asked Him, and He would give you living water.” My brothers and sisters, I claim with confidence that this living water that Jesus speaks of is not only meant for that Samaritan woman whom He met, but for you and I. Are you willing to take one step towards the Lord today, so that He can take the 99 steps towards you? Amen.