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Three Roads to Damascus

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Mathew 19:26

Do you remember the old Hope and Crosby road movie, “Road to Damascus?” I have had my own experience on the “road to Damascus.” Like Hope and Crosby, it was the result of a life of misadventure. Like Saint Paul, it was to prove a conversion experience…

Give it up for God…

The faith of a mustard seed can move a mountain. As I found in my life, God can change us in an instant…Julie on the Road to Damascus. Truly I was like Saul. It important to never limit what God Can do in our lives. It is also important to remember a lesson that Mother Mary teaches us at the Wedding Feast at Canna; that is to truly trust Jesus. When the wedding runs out of wine, she tells her Son, Jesus. He tells her His time has not yet come. In reply she simply tells the servants to “Do what he tells you.” She trusts him explicitly. It is this trust that allowed God to change my life in an instant. It is what allowed me to give my life to God. When the angel of The Lord announced to Mary that she would be them other of Our Lord, she simply answered, “yes.” She accepted the path God set before her without knowing the outcome. She gave her life to God with no reservations whatsoever. Trusting in Jesus as Mary did allows us to become who God wants us to be.

Remember however, that accepting God in our life is not always a matter of a miraculous conversion experience as I had. Learning to trust God and accepting the change in our life can be very gradual. Giving everything to God can take place in an instant or over a lifetime.

A bad connection…

No matter how spiritual we become in our lives, it is easy to reach a point when we feel we have become separated from God. That lack of a connection is only a matter of perspective…this is because God never actually leaves us at all…it is we who walk away from Him. What is important is learning how to re-establish the connection. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…the journey back to God begins with a single prayer. I was once told to begin and end each day with a prayer…to begin each day with determination and end it with appreciation. Part of this is understanding the God sends good experiences and allows negative experiences with equal love. If there is nothing to try our faith it will never be strong. It is the knowledge that we gain from these trying times that leads to wisdom. Wisdom is not knowledge…it is the application in our every day lives of the knowledge that God teaches us that brings wisdom. The wisdom we gain this way can change things we never thought could change…like ourselves. Remember, as Henri Nouen once said, “If we don’t shape ourselves the world will shape us in its image

Julie on the Road to Damascus…

People who knew me prior to the summer of 2002 see me now and are amazed at the changes. Prior to what is nothing more than a miracle, I was literally “ms. big bad bitch from the north side of Chicago.”

Where it not for the fact that I have been told, by many different people, in almost identical terms, how I appeared to the world back then, I would scarcely have believed it myself. One day a co-worker I had never spoken to before, let alone noticed, asked me out to lunch. She knew me by name despite my failing to ever even have the common decency to introduce myself. When I asked her how she knew who I was, I learned of the all too common impression I used to leave with people, before my conversion. She told me that she simply asked who the woman was that stomped around all day long, with an angry look on her face, refusing to ever take off her red beret as is she were some female Che Guevara. “There just didn’t seem to be a reason to get to know you back then” I was told. Yet this same friend did approach me not just because of a completely changed outward appearance, but what I have also been told of by so many people…because of the changes inside. Modern medicine corrected what was outside, God corrected all that was inside…the real me. I have been told more than once of the peace that has replaced the constant rage.

The True power of words…

The changes in my life where truly lightning fast. As I have found, God does not need years to accomplish his changes, when He needs a tool to use glorify His Name. This is reflected in the words of St. Therese of Lisieux…

"The good God does not need years to accomplish His work of love in a soul; one ray from His heart can, in an instant, make His flower bloom for eternity."
St. Therese of Lisieux as quoted in “Thoughts of St. Therese”

After a lifetime of abuse from so many people I fell into a common trap…I over compensated. I overcame oppression by returning evil for evil and hatred for hatred. As Tevya says in Fiddler on the Roof, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and the whole world will soon be blind and toothless.” I spent over four decades of my life, determined that I could that I could overcome all of the miseries that hermaphrodism had brought me all on my own. I blamed God for my condition. Now that I have come to understand all that I have learned as a result of being a hermaphrodite…as well as all of the many people that understanding will allow me to help…I see that God is truly responsible for the way I was born. The difference is, now I have come to praise him for the way I was born.

In the end, it was not until I learned to give my life to God, unconditionally, that I received my life back. Even after my sister had brought me back to God, I would only offer my life to God and my self as his wife with conditions. How arrogant I was to believe I could bargain with the same being that said “and let there be light.” Would anyone who truly loved someone else give that love with conditions? Or would they give that love unconditionally. Even my dog gives me love unconditionally. Couldn’t I treat my creator any better than my dog treats me? When I finally gave my life and my love to my God completely, even if that meant giving up my dear sister, it was only then that miracles began to happen in my life…

"As blood is to the body, so prayer is to the soul."
Blessed Mother Theresa

Give a little…get a lot…

When I look back on my past life, I see an individual who was so arrogant that I am surprised that the Almighty didn’t simply get fed up with me, kick me to the curb and yell “next.” Yet God has infinite love, mercy and patience. Like the father of a prodigal daughter He was all too willing and anxious to take me back. When I was not busy blaming God for making me a hermaphrodite, and feeling worthless because of it, I was busy being angry at the entire world because it saw me as worthless. Yet Jesus did not see what was outside. He did not see who I was…instead he saw His beautiful wife I could become because of His love.

"I believe that if a little flower could speak, it would tell very simply and fully all that God had done for it. It would not say that it was ungraceful and had no scent, that the sun had spoilt its freshness, or that a storm had snapped its stem – not when it knew the exact opposite was true."
St. Therese of Lisieux “The Story of a Soul”

Jesus keeps his end of the bargain…

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
Matthew 25:20-22

When I finally gave my life and my love to Jesus unconditionally, and bid him to whatever he wished with both, he kept his end of the bargain above, and “in spades” as grandmother used to say…

It was the late summer evening of 2002. I lay awake in the room next to my sisters staring at the ceiling as a cooling breeze blew the curtains across the bed. There is an old expression that says, the best laid plans of mice and men, often go astray. I realized that no matter how hard I tried to plan my life and make some sense of it, I seem to have failed at every turn.

“Alright, I said to the night air, no deals God. I give my life and my love to you without condition. I give my life to you to do with as you choose. Show me your will and your way. Show me the path and I will walk it…”

The second I was done praying, an incredible wave of love filled my body. I felt in love with a man but did not know who (I now understand it was Jesus’ love that had filled my soul). I felt a burning desire to be a mother. It was a feeling of bliss that I had never known before. It was a moment and a prayer that changed my life. The next morning was like none other. Even now I can feel the joy as I think back on that day. The sun seemed brighter than it had ever been as its rays scattered across the floor of my sister’s kitchen. I came down to breakfast with a burning desire in my heart…a burning desire to lead a religious life as a nun.

My countenance was so hostile looking on a daily basis, that few were willing to approach me. While it made for a good protective mechanism in a large city, it made for a very slow social life. This was only the beginning however. I had become so vehemently anti-Christian that I am surprised God could even tolerate my presence let alone be willing to take the prodigal daughter back… I was truly Saul who had prosecuted the Christians in the book of Acts.

Yet here I was, explaining to my sister just how it is that I had had a need to be a nun. It was not just something I wanted to do with my time or my life. It was far from being on the level of asking someone what their ideal vocation was…it was something I had to do…must do. There were many aspects of the answer to my prayer, that had I known then, what I know now, I might have reconsidered my actions.

I found out that morning, after my confession to my sister that she too, had always wanted to found a health center/convent. Someplace where people of all faiths would be welcome and could come to be healed. A place of true embracement. As she spoke the words I knew that this was the direction I was meant to go. In the ensuing months I would be told by both priests and God himself that I was to help my sister found the convent. Time and again it was pointed out to me that together, we would help many people.

“How can I help anyone else when I can’t even help myself,” I would ask the Lord. “How can someone that society thinks is the bottom of the ladder help anyone when she is a wreck herself?” It was not long after, that a co-worker reminded me of the following scripture:

God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise, and he chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful. He chose what the world looks down on and despises and thinks is nothing, in order to destroy what the world thinks is important. - 1 Corinthians 1:27 and 28

Grandmother always used to say, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. I asked the Lord to take my life, to guide it, to use me as a carpenter uses a tool…Jesus took me up on it.

This article is based on an excerpt from a book written by one of our nuns entitled, “Congratulations, your baby is a boy and a girl.”

Peace be with you.

Sister Juliemarie
of the Sisters of Embracement

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