My name is Anna Zacharias, and I am a proud Catholic. I grew up in an environment where I was introduced to Jesus and the Church at a young age, and was rooted there. I was blessed to have gotten the chance to go to Catholic preschool/grade school for thirteen years and now high school. Getting the chance to grow up in a community such as the one I feel so grateful to get to be a part of of, has allowed to me grow so much and realize how much more I need God than I thought I ever did.
The other day I was talking to one of my best friends, and the topic of the Eucharist came up. We went on to talk about First Holy Communion, which we received in second grade. If I know my second grade self, filled with a love for the soccer game to come at recess, drinking chocolate milk at lunch, and my longing to beat the boys in knock-out, I think the last thing on my mind was God. Sure we had Religion class and prep for the Sacrament of Holy Communion, but I only remember one thing. I remember practicing receiving the “Eucharist” which was usually a single Goldfish or if we were lucky a skittle! And like any other second grader, the only thing I cared about was getting the Goldfish that still had a head or a green skittle (my favorite). I had no idea as to what I was actually doing… this sacrament was something so much greater than what I ever believed it to be. But how would my little nine year old self possibly have comprehended that?
Before I even received First Communion, I worked on starting to take part in the Sacrament of Confession. And to be honest, I do not actually remember a thing from that except for the fact that I probably did not tell the priest all my sins. Doing so because I feared so much of what he would think of me when it came out of my mouth. Again, something that may seem so simple, but actually more complex and hard for me to grasp at that age.
Six years passed by and I grew a lot. I grew as a person, as a teammate, as a singer, and as a daughter of the King…. but I still was not as close to God as I could have been or chose to be.
I definitely remember Confirmation way more vividly than all the other sacraments due to how recent it was. I had obviously been through more at this point in my life so my mind could think deeper, but I never seemed to test it out. We did prep work which was actually kind of fun getting to go down to the youth room with our little groups. I enjoyed our times together learning and tried to actively engage myself in our conversations, but looking back something was not right. Did I know what I was doing? Well I did fail my Confirmation test in Religion. Actually. I take that back. I failed TWO of my Confirmation tests in Religion. Yes, I failed the retake too… ask me what was going on and I still cannot tell you. Something was way off, and truly it has taken me so long to realize that something…
I think it was this past August when I had a “come to Jesus meeting” (as my mom would say) with myself. I had just gone through an amazing summer of PANDA (Prayer and Action) and Camp Tekakwitha. Camp was the last real hurrah. I guess you could say for my summer and it kind of crashed and burned at the end, but in a way not so much. When I got back I just sort of was thinking through everything that had happened in the past 24 hours and the whole summer too. I had been given so many opportunities to grow through and in Christ. And I had chosen to completely blow off a lot of those chances I had to go deeper…
I specifically remember being somewhere that summer and one of my greatest mentors telling me that she wished I would have opened up more to our group. No, not that I would have opened up more. Actually that I would have opened up at all. And when she said that, that was kind of my first insight to only a part of this problem I had slumped into.
You see, I had talked myself up in my head so much. For the longest time when someone asked a question relating to where we struggled in our faith, I could never think of anything. Maybe it was not that I could never think of anything, it is that I was too ashamed to dive deeper and actually be real with who I was, and how I was viewing myself. I simply thought that I had a perfect faith. Looking at my relationship with Jesus, I chose to not let myself see the flaws, the imperfections, the lies I had been telling myself. In thinking that I had this perfect faith, I saw I was never vulnerable or real with myself. And a part of why that was, was due to the fact that I feared so much of what others would think. My second grade self feared saying sins to a priest because I thought he would see me as a horrible person. My almost freshman self feared that people would look down upon my brokenness so I hid it. I hid it inside me for so long and completely let it take control of my life. I believed that every move I made, I had to do to please those around me. In an effort to only live up to the person they saw me as. And truly that was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made.
I decided to hide a part of who I was because fear took over me. That fear completely overtook myself for several years, and realizing what I had done was kind of heart-wrenching. Honestly, I had literally watched myself hide a big part of me down inside for the fear of what other people thought. My decision to live a life for the pleasure of those around me and not for Him broke me. It changed the way I decided to go about my everyday living and impacted me so much. I cannot even begin to express that enough. It was horrible figuring this all out. I mean here I was with this life ahead of me, and I had just spent like three years trapped behind walls. I chose to block off my heart to certain people, and never shared anything in small groups due to the fact of that same fear. That fear made me cringe back into an abyss that I honestly never thought I may come out of. But since that August day, I have made it sort of my mission I guess you could say to break down the walls of my hearts and leave it open. To break down the fears of those around me and trust in the Lord. And that trust is still hard. Even though I have been blessed with an abundant about of crazy amazing experiences in the past two months in particular, I still lack that trust. Like I know certain things, but whether I know I truly believe them or not is a different story… but I still strive my best to grow through Him and in Him, gaining a trust.
Since, I have been trying to live out my best life of doing what I know is best and sharing what I know for His glory only. Not for the recognition or attention of a certain person, and yes sometimes I for sure find myself sort of slipping back into that abyss, but now that I know what that looks and feel like. I have sort of been able to pull back out of it. Honestly, it is all a process. Our relationship with Christ is not a smooth path. There are rocks and sticks and branches on the path that will distract and deter us from what we wanted to accomplish. But ultimately it is His plan. It is what He wants to accomplish for us in this life. He is the master writer and has a specific story for each of us. When I came to understand my own brokenness, I feel that that lead me to understanding this way more than I did before. I may be broken, but in Him I am made anew and He is there every step of the way.
Yes, I still struggle. No, I am not that perfect person with the perfect faith I once thought I was. I am a daughter of the King, and I should constantly seek to find my worth in that alone. My worth is not found in that of what others think of the way I am living my life. If it is all for His glory, it is worth it. Everything is worth it for His name’s sake and everything. Because during that time where I did not want to face my own brokenness, He was constantly seeking me and longing to let me give Him another chance… not for Him to let me have another chance. Did you catch that? Literally all He wants is for us to draw nearer to us, and to just let Him love us. That love was blind to me for so long and still sort of is because there are definitely times when I do not know how to receive that. But when all I have got to do is sit in the silence and feel His presence… I guess this is what I am trying to say. Do not be afraid to spend a life with Christ. Do not be afraid to be real with yourself and what you are truly struggling with. Do not be afraid of what others around you think of you. Do not seek your worth in things of this world. Instead allow yourself to open up, though it is hard, and see the wonders and things He wants to willingly give you to happen and help you through life. He never leaves us astray.
I am still learning everyday. I will never have that perfect faith I once thought I had. And quite honestly I am glad because it makes our journey with Christ an adventure. It gives us the opportunity to grow in ways we never thought possible and to bring the love and hope of this broken world into the light of Jesus Christ of Lord. Sure there are things still hard for me to comprehend, but like I said it just makes the journey more interesting and an actual journey. It is not a journey without bumps, highs, and lows. I may not understand everything now, but I am ready to go all in and live a fulfilling life spent with Christ our Lord.