Jesus Christ And The Transformation Of WomenA couple of friends asked me to write about my transformation. At the outset, I must say it was not something I consciously set out to achieve, but it happened nevertheless. Over the past month I have given this much thought. And I must say that the transformation I experienced began with the day I committed myself to Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour.
At the age of 17, I was acutely aware of my need for a Saviour. I was being tormented by an evil presence that terrified me. I could see no way of escaping it. I was involved in a manipulative and psychologically damaging association with a girl who was a pathological liar. Breaking off this liason was the first step.
What was I like as a person in those days? Well, I had a gigantic chip on my shoulder. Girls in families like mine often do. My family is very dear to me, I want to make that clear. But in my youth, suffice it to say, I was profoundly let down by some of the significant males in my life. May I also add that I love all of them sincerely, have forgiven them completely, just as I hope to be forgiven, and never stop hoping for the degree of closeness with them I always longed for.
I was intelligent and hypercritical. I was resentful. Although this was not a consciously thought out thing, I was especially resentful of men. By 17, I had lost most of my pugilistic tendency but I was given to spiteful, vindictive, verbal diatribes, especially towards men, and especially towards men who were strong, decent, kind, gentle and altogether wonderful. My Grade 10 Science teacher in particular was one of my victims. He had gone out of his way to be kind to me and help me. Another was a Catholic politician, now retired, who received an aggressive and vituperative letter from me. I cringe to recall it, but am happy to say that in later years we held each other in high regard.
At 17, I was a mess.
Thankfully, a girlfriend, seeing the trouble I was in, spent some time with me and told me that Jesus Christ defeated evil on the Cross.
Of course! Now I got it! There was my answer! I made the commitment to Jesus and claimed His victory and power over my life.
The first result was the evil presence left. I was no longer troubled or tormented by it.
As a new Christian, at 17, I was eager to see what God would do for me. I very quickly grew to love prayer and study of the Bible.
As for the transformation, it wasn't a sudden thing (although there were, at times, dramatic divine interventions) but rather, something that happened gradually over time. Looking back, I can see that Jesus brought about my healing and transformation through significant men in my life. That is hardly to be wondered at. And yet, it has been wonderful.
Not long after my initial conversion I met my husband. Yes, at 17! I started treating myself with respect. I started wanting to be pleasing to this man. I changed the way I looked and dressed and began to be more aware of my speech patterns.
At 19, I met a Catholic priest, our university chaplain, who wasted no time getting me to read good spiritual books and become actively involved in apostolic works. My intellect was being transormed; my energy was being used to help others.
How does one stop being a hateful, spiteful person and become a sensitive, kind and loving person? The Catechism gave me the answer: Acts of love increase love in the soul.
At the age of 23, another man, an elderly genius, entered my life, the first of my best friends as an adult. (He passed away in 2000.) He saw through the rough exterior to the diamond underneath. He gently but firmly rebuked me for some of my attitudes. He encouraged me to channel my critical tendency to worthy causes. He taught me to write well. He gave me more excellent books to read. He taught me to respond to the controversies of our time in the light of the gospel. But I still had that self-righteous chip on my shoulder which was reflected in the tone of indignation that characterized much of my writing in those days.
At the age of 25, another elderly gent entered my life, a retired Principal, a widower. (He passed away in 1999.) He too was a Catholic, a man of prayer and a controversialist. He too supplied me with excellent books. But he was lonely. He needed the balm of friendship on a more personal level. By now I was seeing and understanding in ways I never did before. Love was calling me, challenging me, drawing from me and transforming me.
In my early 30s I met another Catholic priest who wasted no time in applying himself to the salvation of my soul. By that time, I was proud to be a woman. I was a woman who wanted to be a woman. The chip was off my shoulder. My attitude toward men was not longer there.
I thought I was feminine in my dress. Well, in a pointed manner this gentleman conveyed his opinion that I looked like a ****. I was mortified. My clothes were clingy, my skirt had a slit. I raised the standard of modesty in my attire as of that moment.
When I told him one day about my treatment at the hands of a certain prominent doctor he told me I had committed a mortal sin for disclosing someone else's seriously sinful behaviour. To disclose another's serious sin is tantamount to social murder. I was so full of thinking of myself as a victim that I was totally failing to see the evil of my own actions in the way I chose to respond.
That priest has been part of my journey now for 16 years and is my current employer. Nowadays we hold each other in high esteem and have a happy working relationship.
Ten years ago when I was 39 going on 40 and nursing my third child he rolled up one day and asked me to teach Latin. "Teach Latin?" I exclaimed. "I don't even know Latin!" I wanted to be a stay at home mum. I wanted a l;arge family. But God was calling me to a different aspiration. "What better way to learn Latin than to teach it?" was his reply. He promptly arranged childcare and I went back to teaching.
After my fourth child was born both my husband and Father expressed the wish that I take on a primary school class, at least part-time. It all worked out just fine. But my desperately homesick husband was wanting to move back to Australia but had received no job offers.
One night, while we were marking work together an inspiration came to me like a gentle, gentle breeze that said my husband was not going to get an offer until I applied for full-time work as well.
So I wrote to the Principal in Australia expressing my thoughts about it from the heart, my misgivings about working full-time with young toddlers, and could he please advise me as to what I should do? Six days later he phoned me and said, "There are full-time jobs here for both you and your husband. When can you start?"
The reason I've gone into the employment history is as follows. We teach in a traditional Catholic school. We are very strict. Our worship is largely in Latin. Our standards are very high in every respect. As a teacher in this school I have a moral responsibility to embody all these values.
Above all, at our school, we are concerned with forming Jesus christ in the souls of the children. We are conscious of the virtues. We pray often. We show respect and we respect ourselves. In my first story in this group I wrote about what I think it means to be a lady. In this story, I want to say that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, loves each one of us personally and wants to enter our souls and transform them into the image of God so that we can enjoy Him for all eternity.
The Gospels have several amazing stories of encounters of women with Jesus Christ. My favourite is the encounter of Jesus with the woman at the well in Sychar. This woman had come to draw water at a different time to the other women. She was an outcast. Her problem was men. Who knows why? Suffice it to say that up until her meeting with Jesus she had not yet found the intimacy she was longing for.
Jesus knew that. He knew everything about her. He was not wanting to judge or criticize her. He was on her side, loving her. He just wanted to fill her heart.
He began His conversation with where she was at. With water. "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, Give me to drink; you would have asked of him, and he would have given you 'living' water." She knew exactly what He was offering. Not demanding or imposing, but offering, the perfect Gentleman, the Poet. He was offering to heal her heart. To heal it with the truth that liberates, with grace, with doctrine, with divine fellowship.
This Samaritan woman spoke to Jesus with respect, addressing Him as "Sir." She knew she was a sinner. She knew that He knew that. She knew that she was a victim. She knew she needed a Saviour. She was humble, and God loves a humble heart.
In the whole of the Gospels there are only two unlovely, unladylike women. They are the ones who asked for the head of John the Baptist on a plate. They were obstinate in sin, callous, vain wretches. Jesus knew them and loved them too. But their hearts were not humble and needy like that of the woman at the well. Jesus refrained from direct communication with them. Instead, He sent them a prophet. They did not like what the prophet was saying and had him murdered.
If God had not sent into my life a series of excellent men I might have ended up like those two women - a man murderer.
I thank God for all the wonderful, Christian men God has sent me, including the latest one, my new best friend. Little did I realize, at the age of 49, how much healing was yet to be done in my heart. My life has undergone a wonderful transformation up until now, and is still in the process of being transformed. Such is the continuing power of love. Ad majorem Dei gloriam.