Jul 27, 2019 850 0 Jessica Braun

Love Will Show You the Way

My name is Jessica Braun. Today, I am sharing my faith story to give you hope that it doesn’t matter whether you are a cradle Catholic or have no faith at all—God is revealing Himself to you, through your very life lived.

The Wake-up Call

I come from a nonreligious, loving family. We were raised very morally, following the golden rule, but I never felt that religion was for me nor had the faith that there was a God. I grew up in San Francisco as one of the three children. I remember we rarely went to church; but when we did go it was for a celebration. We would get dressed up and celebrate the holidays or weddings, but it was never a spiritual event.

When I was in high school, we had a family friend who was an Indian. Upon retirement he began to facilitate a small village school in India by taking graduate students from Europe, specifically England, to help teach English in that school. One day he asked my parents whether I would be interested in going. My parents were very supportive but the only condition they had was that I had to earn the money to pay for the trip, or get admitted into college. I didn’t have to think twice when I deferred to the college admission. I was so excited to go to India, but I really had no concept of what was involved in being 18 and away from home for the first time. It was really a wake-up call to how bizarre life is.

A Sea of Humanity

In India I experienced the gravity of poverty, suffering and beauty. It hit me like a tidal wave to the sense of what I had. I felt lost while I was there. The experience I had at the village school was quiet and serene; but I was really puzzled when I traveled to other parts of the country. I was lost in the swing of things when faced with how many people there were and how crazy everything seemed. Finally I settled into the notion that my little life did not matter at all—I could not comprehend that there was an individual soul, much less an individual relationship to be had with God.

After we had traveled for a long time, my friends moved back to the United Kingdom. I had time remaining on my visa, but I did not know what to do. Rishikesh Ashram was said to be a safe and quiet place, so I spent my time there until my flight home. It was a silent ashram, where we focused on doing service and meditating. I went along and somehow I began to feel that maybe there was someone. I had an inkling that God watched over me. Unfortunately, I did not have a community of people to help foster what I felt deep in my heart.

A Confident Comeback

When I came back from India I felt as if I had a grip on things. I went to college and when it came to meeting Christian groups on campus, I thought, “You must be kidding me! These people haven’t seen what I have seen. So they don’t understand.” I could not see then that my life was just unfurling; it was still growing. I now realize that the real danger exists when people think that they have arrived in life, and draw to a conclusion. The truth is that life is all a journey in which we never know how things will work out.

After two years in college, I felt disconnected and wanted to be back out in the world. I received a small scholarship opportunity to study in Madrid, Spain. There I met other college kids who were travelers and adventurers. We lived it up while in Madrid and I felt that everything was great. One morning while I was walking home, I thought about how I was in Madrid, travelling on my own and feeling very confident. All of a sudden, a man who had run out from the bushes assaulted me.

Wreak Havoc

Lying on the path with a broken collarbone, all alone—I was thinking to myself, and a sort of anger surged in me. Even though I did not believe in God, a part of me did think that perhaps someone was looking out for me. That moment when I was so helpless and lonely, I felt the world telling me “No, you are alone. There’s nobody looking out for you. You are responsible for yourself.”

Often one battles such thoughts while going through bad events. I had a broken collarbone, of which I told my roommate but no one else, not even to my parents. I felt that this was the only way to cope. I thought my strength was my ability to carry on despite bad things happening. I did not believe then that I need God or that there was anything greater than me.

It was a dark time in my life. I was dating someone who was not right for me. When that relationship ended, I was again feeling very lonely. So I decided to move home to California. And shortly before going home, I met my future husband! Sadly I had to tell him that I was moving in three weeks. We still had a long-distance relationship. Eventually, he proposed, and we were talking about our wedding. Even though we had been to church together, it was important to him that we were married in the Catholic Church, just like others in his family had been.

A Beautiful Beginning

It was a beautiful Catholic church, and there was a beautiful priest who knew our story and married us. I was not planning to become a Catholic, but I was certain that I would raise a Catholic family. It was important to my husband that our children be raised Catholic. I also wanted that for my children. I have witnessed faith in my Jewish friends. In India I saw tremendous faith—Buddhist faith, Hindu faith. It was a beautiful thing, but I felt it was not for me because of who I was, the way I thought and my life events. I felt that faith was a beautiful thing given at birth, so I thought that when my kids are born, I would raise them Catholic.

Ten years later we had three beautiful children, and my oldest daughter was a precocious child. She never believed in Santa Claus, Easter bunnies, the tooth fairy and so on. It was all about “I need proof.” This made it a lot more difficult raising her in the Catholic faith and getting her to believe in God, especially when she was not listening to these messages from me. Thus, we enrolled her in religious education at Saint James Church.

Nothing’s a Coincidence

I never believed in God, and I did not know how to steerher toward a belief. I asked my mother- in-law for advice, but she would say, “Oh, I don’t really know… the Catholic teaching has changed’. Then one day she put it under my nose that Saint James had an RCIA program to teach adults about the Catholic faith. I went for it, but did not know what to expect. I was blown away. I remember our RCIA leader saying on the first day that all of us were not there by accident. We were called there. In a nutshell, he made it clear that we were all here because of love.

Someone had loved us enough to bring us here to be with each other. For me, it was my mother-in-law, my husband and my children’s love that had brought me there, along with the love of Jesus Christ, which was already in my life. If you open your heart, then you open yourself to this experience and let love show you the way.

As the weeks went on, we continued attending church, participating in ministries, and for my kids, going to religious education. Things started to change in my life, like the song “Amazing Grace.” You hear it a million times and suddenly you feel that the song is
about you. You begin to see God reflected in everything, more than ever before.

I was hesitant to share this experience. Sometimes you hear stories where it all lines up perfectly. I am not sure which pieces of my past led me to this point. I do believe that every day prepares you for the next and that God was speaking to me through all those experiences, whether or not I was listening. I hope others can recognize God’s presence by being open to the possibility that whatever they are going through in life, all these pieces are God’s way of preparing them for today,
and today is preparing them for tomorrow.

In essence, you can live out a faithful life and be the light of the world. Every time I receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, I feel like I am walking through a door that is taking me closer to God. Most of my life was anonymous, but I feel all those experiences helped in sculpting the way to accept Jesus as my Savior. Since becoming a Catholic, the world is open to an entirely new dimension, a life that feels much more real.

Jessica Braun

©Article is based on the Shalom World TV program “My Jesus My Savior” featuring Jessica Braun. To watch the episode visit: https://www.shalomworldtv.org/videos/index/1897


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