Prepare to be transformed as Kim Zember recounts how she freed herself from a homosexual lifestyle
I was born and raised in a devout Catholic family with two older brothers in Southern California. I grew up knowing God and His love.
Until eighth grade I went to a Catholic school where I was protected by God’s grace, but I struggled against it. I wanted to be like everybody else. Unfortunately, my parents heeded my pleas to transfer to a public high school where I treated people badly so I could get the attention I craved. I knew that the Lord had created me for greater things—to help others, but I was bored and I kept my eyes on myself.
In my senior year, I felt an attraction to a girl at school. I still don’t know where that desire came from. I didn’t have any sexual abuse in my life or any bitterness towards men. I started pursuing her ardently in a conniving, self-seeking way, wooing her into a romantic relationship. One night, when we were both drunk, I succeeded in breaking through to achieve the physical relationship that I thought I wanted. If only someone had stopped me in that moment before we connected in a way we were never meant to, and told me where this would take me.
I hungered for more, just like when I eat a brownie, I want more, even though it’s not good for me and leaves me feeling sick. But she knew there was something wrong about what we’d done, felt riddled with guilt and didn’t even want to talk about it. I also knew that it was wrong, so I hid my relationships with women by dating guys, not because the Church said it was wrong, or because I cared about what people would say, but because a still, small voice within me was crying out to be heard, “I have better for you Kim.”
Sadly, I suppressed that inner voice, drowning it out by chasing women and money as my career in real estate took off. On the surface, it looked like I was doing well, making lots of money and dating a series of guys. But it was all built on lies. I dated a girl for almost two years, but nobody knew. I lied to everyone. I was becoming another person. I was one person with my girlfriend and another person with them. I was a chameleon with whoever I was around.
The biggest draw for me was the emotional intimacy I experienced with women, not the physical relationship. They understood me; I understood them. I had always felt a desire to help people, especially if something was broken inside them. I never knew until later that it was a gift. But Satan wants to twist your special gift for his own purposes because he creates nothing.
He twists and distorts everything, especially the goodness and gifts of God. That affection that God gave me for women was meant to be used to build healthy friendships, to support each other. But Satan twisted that when I crossed a line and expressed that affection in an inappropriate physical way. Every relationship that I was in became twisted and unhealthy. Although they were amazing people and I was able to help them in some important ways, like getting off drugs, I was hurting them in much deeper ways.
I went to see a Catholic counselor, shared everything with him and he affirmed that I was gay. I could never accept that, but he told me that I didn’t understand Scripture. My ears loved hearing it, but I never had peace with that because I knew that wasn’t true, although I accepted it because it meant that I could do whatever I wanted.
At 23, I was dating a wonderful Christian guy. My heart was drawn to him and his love for the Lord, so when he told me that he loved me, I should have been ecstatic. Instead, I got furiously angry, because I knew what was going on inside me and my secret relationship with this girl. How could a guy who was so connected with God love me? How could someone who was so spiritually motivated, love someone who was so materially motivated? When I questioned him, he simply said, “I love your heart, but if you want to know your heart, you need to ask God to show you.” I was dumbstruck. I went into my room and cried out from the depth of my heart, “God show me my heart”. I didn’t expect God to answer right away, but I felt myself lifted up into a scene from my life that I had totally forgotten. I saw myself in 7th grade, listening, enthralled, to a priest speak about his mission in Africa. I grabbed my mother’s arm and told her, “I want to go to Africa.” Although she reminded me of how much I hated dirt and flies and discomfort, I wouldn’t quit, so we went up to see the priest afterwards. He listened attentively, then hugged me, saying, “If the Lord ever wants you in Africa, He will take you, just keep praying”. Although l had no memory of this, my mother later confirmed it.
I felt my heart exploding inside. I called my boyfriend and announced, “I’m going to Africa!” The Lord spoke and I ran. He showed me what I was created for. All that passion could be poured out and have a massive effect on other people. I saw kids who had lost their parents, who weren’t eating. When you hug that kid, and you get lice from that kid or contract their skin rashes—those are truly gifts. These children truly transformed me and opened my heart.
The Lord says that if you want to find me, look among the destitute, the widow, the orphan, the poor, the imprisoned. I came back from Ethiopia with my heart alive and beating. I gave up my career earning $200,000 per year, sold my house, my car and everything I had. I moved back to Ethiopia with the guy who had opened my heart to all this. Before we got married, I confessed everything I’d done and he said, “If you want to be with women then you could choose that, but if you want to be with me, then choose me” and I chose him.
On the night of my wedding I got on my knees and said “Lord I will never cheat on this man with a woman” and I meant it with everything I had. What I didn’t understand was that I didn’t have the strength to do that on my own. I needed my Savior’s help. I wasn’t immersed in His Word. I was just going through the motions. It’s good to develop good habits by going through the motions like brushing your teeth and saying your prayers, or dragging yourself or your children to Mass because you’re engraining good things, but it’s just a beginning.
Just a year after we married, when we returned from Africa, I cheated on my husband with a married woman. We both left our husbands and ended up divorced. This started a rapid downward spiral in my life. Things began to get worse when she wanted to have a baby. That’s where I drew the line because I knew that a baby needed a father and I didn’t want to play God, so we broke up. For another two years, I had a series of relationships with women, but I felt more broken with everyone. I was breaking my own heart and breaking other people.
My family loved me through all this, but they never condoned my actions. They always affirmed what God has made me to be and called me to higher things. It wasn’t hateful. It’s what I needed. They always reminded me that I was made and created for more. When they realized that inviting my girlfriends to join in family functions was affirming my lifestyle, they made the hard decision to say they couldn’t do that anymore, I felt angry, accusing them of being judgmental, and withdrew for a while, but they were the ones who were still there for me no matter what.
When my latest girlfriend cheated on me and I felt at my lowest ebb, I turned back to God in tears, praying, “Lord, I surrender. I trust that You are God and I am NOT. If You show me that You have better plans than me, then I will serve You for the rest of my days.”
That night, my friend, Daniel took me to a prayer meeting with an African preacher, but when I noticed how beautiful the pianist was, I had to cover my eyes to avoid temptation because I didn’t want to see anything but God. When they called people forth for prayer, I went up with my friends, but kept my eyes tightly shut. As we reached the head of the line, I was stunned to hear the preacher blasting Daniel as if he knew all his faults. I had never experienced prophecy and I was afraid of what he would say about me for everyone to hear.
Next moment, the preacher started declaring victory over my life in the name of Jesus Christ. He declared, “You have surrendered your life to Him and finally you have given it all. You will live for Him in everything.” He spoke the words that I had cried out to God in offering my surrender, the redirection that I had begged from Him. I knew that it was God Almighty speaking to me through him.
All these years I have been able to sustain in God’s grace and my spiritual life has completely transformed. The key to walking in freedom is to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Having a deeper intimacy with Him through Daily Mass in Holy Communion, daily time with Scriptures, frequent confession, Adoration, Praise and Worship music, going to Catholic conferences and being in Christian community have all helped in my walk with Christ. As I began to do more and more of all these, I found myself doing less and less of the other things, which helped me to grow in the Spirit and out of my flesh. For me everything fell in place as I grew in personal relationship with Jesus. Surely He leads us all out of darkness and into His perfect light!
I hope that my brokenness can bring hope to anyone who needs encouragement to stand in the truth of God because what God has said will always be better than our own opinion. Let God continue to be God. Listen to Him when He speaks of His plans for males and females and relationships. He showed us what love is on the Cross. Love is sacrifice. My life is not my own. He is calling me into a deeper relationship with Him every day.
Kim Zember is the founder of Overcome Ministries. She is a dynamic speaker and mentor for young adults and adults struggling with same-sex attraction. Through her book, "Restless Hearts: My Struggle with Life & Sexuality" Kim offers encouragement to those seeking peace and joy for their own restless hearts.
The world’s greatest treasure is within the reach of every person! The reality of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist is something great and marvelous. I know that Jesus is really and truly present in the Eucharist from my own experience not just because the Church teaches this truth. The First Touch One of the experiences I had that helped increase my faith in the Lord was after I was baptized in the Holy Spirit in my early days in the Catholic Charismatic renewal. I was still not a priest at that time. I was leading a prayer meeting and during this meeting, we were praying over people. We had the Eucharist exposed for Adoration and then people would come one by one to be prayed over. A woman came asking me to pray over her with folded hands and I thought she was praying. She asked me to pray for her husband who had a problem with his foot. But as I was praying, I felt in my heart that the Lord wanted to heal her. So I asked her if she needed any kind of physical healing. She told me, “My hands are like this because I have frozen shoulder.” She had a problem of mobility with her hands. As we were praying for her healing she said that a great heat came out from the Eucharist, descended on her frozen shoulder and she was healed then and there. That was the first time I actually saw such healing taking place through the power of the Eucharist. It’s exactly as we have in the Gospels—people touched Jesus and power came out of Him and healed them. Unforgettable Moment I have had another powerful experience of the Eucharist in my life. Once I was praying with somebody who was involved in the occult, and she needed a deliverance. We were praying as a group and there was a priest with us. But this woman, who was on the floor couldn’t see the priest who was bringing the Eucharist inside the church to the sacristy. The exact moment the priest brought the Eucharist, from her mouth, a male violent voice said these words: “Remove Him whom you’ve got in your hands!” It choked me because the demon did not say ‘it’- a piece of bread, but “Him”. Satan recognizes the living presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I will never forget that moment of my life. When I became a priest later, I kept those two incidences in my heart to really believe and preach the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Unspeakable Joy As a priest I had one another experience which I will not forget. I attend prison ministry when I am not preaching around. Once I was giving communion to a particular division in the prison and had the Eucharist with me. Suddenly I felt in my heart the joy of Jesus in giving himself to the prisoners. This is something I cannot explain to you. If you could only experience and know the joy Jesus has in the Eucharist to come into each and every one of us! Another experience I have had of the Blessed Sacrament was a personal, emotional healing for myself. Once somebody who was in the church really hurt me with his words. It wasn’t easy and I was starting to get angry. Although I am not aggressive by nature, this hurt stirred up a lot of feelings and bad thoughts against this person. I fled to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and just cried. In that moment I felt His love, for that person who hurt me, radiating out from the Eucharist and entering into my heart. Jesus in the Eucharist healed me, but more than that, as a priest it helped me to realize where the real source of love and healing is in our lives. Not only for me as a priest, but for married persons and young people - who can really give the love that we are looking for? Where can we find love that is greater than sin and hatred? It’s in Him, present in the Eucharist. The Lord gave me so much love for the person who hurt me. On the eve of the day I was going to make my first vows, a sudden darkness entered into my heart. I went straight to the tabernacle instead of finding my new room in the community. Then from the depths of the heart I heard the Lord telling me, “Hayden, you are coming here for me.” And suddenly all the joy came back. In the Eucharist Jesus taught me one very important thing about my life as a Franciscan priest—He has called me for Him, I exist for Him. The Eucharist teaches every one of us that we can do nothing apart from Jesus—it’s not about us, it’s JUST ABOUT HIM. We are in the Church to be with Him! As a priest, celebrating the Eucharist is the most wonderful moment I have with the Lord and it also brings me closer to the Christian community. It is Jesus in the Eucharist who is the source of communion between us. As a priest, I cannot live without the Eucharist. What is the greatest thing we can ask Jesus when we receive Him in our hearts? It is asking Him to fill us with His Holy Spirit once again. When Jesus was resurrected, He breathed the Holy Spirit into the Apostles. When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, He gives us once again the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Ask Him to fill you with the gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit. Broken for you Once when I was lifting up the Host and breaking it, I got this deep conviction regarding the priesthood. We look at the people through the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, which is a broken body. A priest should be like that. He breaks his life so that he can give it to the community and the rest of world. One can also discover this beauty in the married life. Love is like the Eucharist. You have to break yourself in order to give yourself. The Eucharist has taught me how to live a celibate life, how to be Jesus for the community, giving my whole life for them. The same thing has to happen in married life. Finally, I can tell you that whenever I have felt lonely or down, just going near him—is enough to receive all the strength that I need, even if I am tired or sleepy. I can’t count the number of times I have experienced this in my travels and in my preaching. The best rest is to get closer to Him. I can assure you; He can renew us physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Because in the Eucharist Jesus is ALIVE—He is there for us!
Today if you clearly hear what God wants you to do...dare to do it! “Become a monk first.” Those were the words I received from God when I was 21 years old; 21 years old with the sort of plans and interests that would be expected of an average 21-year-old. I had plans to graduate from college within a year. Plans to serve in youth ministry, while working as a stuntman in Hollywood. I fancied I might move to the Philippines one day, and spend some time living among tribes on a remote island. And of course, marriage and children had a very strong appeal. These aspirations among others were arrested swiftly when God spoke those four unmistakable words. Some enthusiastic Christians express envy when I tell them about how God made His will explicit for my life. They often say, “I wish God would speak to me that way.” In response to this, I wish to offer some clarification on God’s pattern of speech based on my personal experience. God does not speak until we are ready to hear and receive what He has to say. What He has to say may determine how long it takes before we are ready. Until we can hear and receive God’s word, He will simply wait; and God can wait a very long time, as illustrated in the parable of the Prodigal Son. More importantly, those who wait on Him are esteemed throughout Scripture. I should preface my calling to become a monk with details about how my vocation really began, when I started reading the Church Fathers as an adolescent, or more accurately, when I started reading the Bible daily. Factoring in these details shows that it took seven years of discernment before I could receive just four words from God. Digging into Books I hated reading as a child. Sitting in a stuffy room with a book for hours on end made no sense when endless adventures were lying just outside my door. However, the imperative to read my Bible daily posed an unresolvable dilemma. Every Evangelical knows that any Christian who allows dust to collect on the Good Book is not much of a Christian. But how could I study Sacred Scripture as someone who hated reading? By the influence and example of a youth pastor, I gritted my teeth and set myself to the task of laboring over God’s Word one book at a time. The more I read, the more I began to ask questions. More questions led me to reading more books for more answers. Teenagers are intense by nature. Subtlety is something they learn later in life, which is why the Church Fathers left me so enamored as a young man. Ignatius was not subtle. Origen was not refined. The Church Fathers were extreme in every sense, renouncing earthly goods, residing in the desert, and often sacrificing their lives for the Lord. As an adolescent with proclivities toward the extreme, I found no one who could rival the Church Fathers. No MMA fighter could compare with Perpetua. No surfer was gnarlier than the Shepherd of Hermas. And yet, what these early radicals cared about was nothing other than imitating the life of Christ as modeled in the Bible. Furthermore, all were in consensus on leading a life of celibacy and contemplation. The paradox was striking to me. Being extreme like the Church Fathers entailed a lifestyle that, on the surface, appeared rather mundane. More questions to ponder. Talking Back With graduation on the horizon, I was torn by a couple job offers that would determine denominational affiliation, as well as prospective institutions for further education after college. At the time, my Anglican priest advised me to bring the matter to God in prayer. How I should serve Him was ultimately His decision, not mine. And what better place to discern the will of God in prayer than a monastery? On Easter Sunday, a woman I had never met approached me at St. Andrew’s Abbey, saying “I am praying for you, and I love you.” After asking for my name, she advised me to read the first chapter of Luke, saying “this will help you determine your vocation.” I kindly thanked her, and did as she instructed. As I sat on the chapel lawn reading about John the Baptist’s origin story, I noticed several parallels between our lives. I will not stray into all the details here. All I will say is that it was the most intimate experience I ever had with God’s Word. It felt like the passage was written for me in that very moment. I continued to pray and wait for God’s direction on the grassy lawn. Would He direct me to accepting a position in Newport Beach, or back home in San Pedro? Hours passed by as I patiently listened. Suddenly, an unexpected voice popped in my mind; “Become a monk first.” This was startling, as it was not the answer I was looking for. Entering a monastery after graduation was the last thing on my mind. Besides, I had a vibrant and colorful life to live. I stubbornly pushed God’s voice aside, attributing it to be some wild idea that rose from my subconsciousness. Returning to prayer, I listened for God to make His will evident to me. Next, an image captured my mind; three dry river beds appeared. Somehow, I knew that one represented San Pedro my hometown, another represented Newport, but the river bed in the middle signified becoming a monk. Against my will, the riverbed in the middle began overflowing with white water. What I saw was completely out of my control; I couldn’t not see it. At this point I became afraid. Either I was going mad, or God was calling me to something unexpected. Undeniable The bell tolled as tears trickled down my cheeks. It was time for Vespers. I shuffled into the chapel along with the monks. As we chanted the Psalms, my weeping grew uncontrollable. I could no longer keep up with the chanting. I remember feeling embarrassed about the mess I must have looked like. As the brethren filed out one by one, I remained in the chapel. Lying prostrate in front of the altar, I began to weep harder than I ever have in my entire life. What felt strange was the complete lack of emotion to accompany the weeping. There was neither sorrow nor anger, just sobs. The only explanation I could attribute to the downpour of tears and snot, was the touch of the Holy Spirit. It was undeniable that God was calling me to the monastic life. I went to bed that night with eyes swollen but peace knowing God’s path for me. The next morning I promised God I would follow His bidding, seeking to become a monk first and foremost. I am Not Done Yet? Although God is punctual at times, as with Moses on Mt. Sinai or Elijah on Mt. Carmel, more often than not, His words are inopportune. We can’t presume that by putting our lives on hold, God will be forced to speak up. He is not manipulatable in the slightest. Thus, we are left with no choice but to carry on with our humdrum tasks until we nearly forget about Him—this is when He shows up. Young Samuel heard God’s voice precisely when Samuel was attending to his daily (mundane) duties, i.e., ensuring the tabernacle candle remain lit. There are vocations within vocations; callings within callings. Thus, a student may very well hear God speak in the middle of attending to her algebra problem. A single mother may receive a word from God while quietly sitting in traffic on the 405 freeway. The point is to watch and wait always, for we do not know when the Master will appear. This gives rise to a question; Why is a word from God so infrequent and ambiguous? God gives us just the amount of clarity we need to follow Him; no more. The Mother of God received a word without much clarification. The prophets, who constantly received revelations from Him, were often perplexed. John the Baptist, who was the first to recognize the Messiah, second guessed himself later on. Even the disciples, Jesus’ closest kin, were constantly confused by the words of our Lord. Those who hear God speak are left with more questions, not answers. God told me to become a monk, but He did not say how or where. Much of my own vocation He left up to me to figure out. It would take four years before my calling was realized; four years (within which I visited eighteen other monasteries) before I was granted entry to St. Andrew’s. Confusion, doubt, and second guessing, are all part of the lengthy process of discernment. Moreover, God does not speak in a vacuum. His words are preceded and followed by the words of others. A youth pastor, an Anglican priest, an oblate of St. Andrew’s—these acted as God’s vassals. Hearing their words was essential before I could receive God’s. My vocation remains incomplete. It is still being discovered, still being realized every day. I’ve been a monk for six years now. Just this year I professed solemn vows. One might say I’ve done what God told me to do. Be that as it may, God is not done speaking. He did not stop speaking after the first day of Creation, and He will not stop until His magnum opus is complete. Who knows what He will say or when He will speak next? God has a history of having very strange things to say. Our part is to watch and wait for whatever He has in store.
“Have mercy on me, O Lord, a sinner.” These words have been the battle cry of my life. Even in my earliest years, they were my motto, when I didn’t even realize. Mercy. If God had a middle name, it would be “Mercy”. Mercy held my hand every time I walked into the confessional. Mercy saved me time and time again, while enveloping my soul and pardoning me. My faith journey began decades ago when my parents chose for me what I couldn’t yet choose for myself—baptism into the Catholic Church. I was raised to know right from wrong. And I suffered the consequences when I veered off track. My parents took their roles seriously and took pride in teaching me about Jesus and the Church. They were God’s hands in my life, forming my conscience through His grace. As I grew, I hungered and thirsted for more of Him. Yet, the world and my own struggles with fear and anxiety got in the way. Vacillation between good and bad plagued my life for years. I called it “walking a tightrope between heaven and hell.” During college, I recall standing drunk at 1 AM in a bar bathroom, downing my drink while I prayed the Rosary, afraid that I would miss even a day of praying it. As I look back on moments like this that illustrated my internal tug of war, I am reminded of Mercy. I knew who I belonged to, but I was tempted to wander. An innate struggle caused by original sin permeates our lives whether we can name it or not: Our deepest desire for Christ is opposed by the allurements of the world and the evil one. Yet Mercy has pulled me out of the gutter of sin, cleaned me of the muck and washed me anew. Mercy has waited for my call, sitting by the phone at all hours of the night until I was ready to be picked up and brought home. Mercy has pulled me from going under, supporting me like a life vest. Mercy has listened to the screaming, the tears, the angry words, and held me close as I settled. Mercy has held me patiently as I fought back again and again. Mercy is the end. The beginning. My everything in between. The God of Mercy has waited for me, pursued me, and forgiven me for as long as I have known him. And by His grace, He has assured me that He is always there, arms outstretched, loving and forgiving again and again.
When troubles come, how quick are we to think that nobody understands what we are going through? In almost every church, we find a crucifix hanging above the altar. This image of our Savior does not present Him crowned with jewels sitting on a throne, nor descending on a cloud carried by angels, but rather as a man, wounded, stripped of basic human dignity, and enduring the most humiliating and painful form of execution. We see a person who has loved and lost, who has been hurt and betrayed. We see a person just like us. And yet, in the face of this evidence, when we ourselves suffer, how quick we are to lament that nobody understands us, nobody knows what we’re going through? We make quick assumptions and sink into a place of isolation bound by inconsolable sorrow. A Change of Course A few years ago my life changed forever. I had always been a healthy child, a ballet dancer with dreams I had already begun to realize by the time I turned twelve. I had regularly attended Sunday school and felt drawn to God but had never done much about it, so I went on enjoying my life, my time with friends, and dancing lead roles at top ballet schools. I was content with my life. I knew God was there, but He was always over there. I trusted Him, but never thought very much about Him. Yet in eighth grade, at the peak of my childhood dance career, my health started to plummet, and four years later I still have not recovered. It all began just one week after performing in a ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House, the day after I received the sacrament of Confirmation, and two weeks before I was to attend a summer intensive at the second most prestigious dance school in the United States. A bad strain of ligaments in my foot aggravated a previously undiscovered break in my ankle bone which now required surgery. Then I developed appendicitis, requiring another surgery. The two surgeries in close succession caused severe damage to my neurological and immune systems and weakened me to a point that no doctor could treat or even fully understand my situation. As I continued to push my body to continue ballet, my body pushed back and I ended up fracturing my spine, ending my ballet career.” Throughout the year leading up to my Confirmation, I experienced Jesus in ways I never had before. I saw His love and mercy magnified through study of the Gospels and discussions of His ministry. I started going to church every Sunday and experienced the power of the Eucharist. Before the confirmation classes with my parish priest, no one had ever taught me so clearly about Jesus’ love for me. His instruction clarified my growing understanding of who God truly is. Jesus, who I’d always known to be my Savior, was now my dearest friend and becoming my greatest love. He wasn’t just a statue hanging in the church, a character in stories; He was real, and He was the embodiment of Truth, Truth I had never known I was seeking. Through that year of study I made the decision to fully live my life for Jesus. I wanted nothing more than to become more like Him. Since my injury, as my health bounced up and down and took me off the path I expected to be on forever, I struggled to remain hopeful. I lost ballet and even some friends. I could barely get out of bed to go to school, and when I did make it, I couldn’t stay the entire day. The life I had always known was crumbling and I needed to understand why. Why did I have to suffer so much and lose so much? Did I do something wrong? Would it lead to something good? Each time I started to heal, some new health issue arose and knocked me down again. Yet even at my lowest points, Jesus always pulled me back to my feet, and back to Him. Finding Purpose I learned to offer my suffering to God for the sake of others and watched it change their lives for the better. As things were taken away, space was made for better opportunities. For instance, not being able to dance ballet gave me the space to photograph the dancers at my ballet school and showcase their talent. I finally had spare time to attend my brother’s football games and started taking photos of him in action. I soon ended up photographing the whole team, including boys who never had anyone come out to watch them play, let alone capture their skills in a photograph. When I could hardly walk, I would sit and make rosaries to give to others. As I began to feel worse physically, my heart grew lighter because I was given the chance not merely to live for myself, but to live for God and see His love and compassion at work in others and in my own heart. Listening to Jesus Yet it is not always easy for me to find the good in suffering. I often find myself wishing the pain would be taken away, wishing I could live a normal life without physical agony. Yet one evening last March I received clear insight into my eternal questions. I was in adoration, sitting on the hard wood of the church pew, gazing at the crucifix in the dull candlelight and for the first time I wasn’t just looking at the crucifix—I was truly seeing it. My body ached all over. My wrists and ankles throbbed painfully, my back hurt from the latest injury, my head was tender from a chronic migraine, and every so often, a sharp pain pierced my ribs and knocked me to the ground. Before me, Jesus hung from the cross with nails through His wrists and ankles, wounds from the whips lacerating His back, a crown of thorns painfully thrust upon His head, and a gash between His ribs where the spear had pierced His side–a spear that was meant to ensure He was dead. A thought struck me so forcefully, that I nearly fell over in the pew. Every pain I felt, even the smallest suffering, my Savior felt as well. My back pain and headaches, even my conviction that nobody else could understand, He understands it all because He experienced it too, and continues to bear it with us. Suffering is not a punishment, but a gift we can use to grow closer to God and to shape our character. While physically I have lost a lot, spiritually I have gained. When all that we think is so important gets stripped away, then we can see what truly matters. That night in adoration as I looked at Jesus’ wounds so similar to my own, I realized that if He bore it all for me, then I can bear it all for Him. If we want to be more like Jesus, we’re going to have to walk the same journey He did, Cross and all. But He will never leave us to walk alone. We need only to look at the Cross and remember He is right there walking beside us through it all.
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