Joy Stories: Amazing Grace

by Diane Roe

We all know the touching song, “Amazing Grace.” Instead of trying to sing that without crying, now I sing it smiling. The words “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see,” speak volumes to me.

I became lost at an early age through a circumstance that I had no control over but it set me on the wrong path. I grew up in New York in a family of 8. My Mom was Catholic and my Dad was Lutheran. Every Sunday he stayed home while she took us to church.

When I was 8 years old a drunk driver killed my 16-year-old brother, Donald. I remember most that Donald was the good boy in the family. After his death, I was told, “Because he was a good boy, he is with God in heaven.”  Well, that’s how my 8-year-old mind interpreted his death, and that’s how I got off on the wrong path.

As a young teenager I thought it would be safer not to be too good; I didn’t want to die. Besides I wanted to have fun, “I might die when I’m 16,” I thought. When I was 18, my brother Paul, who was 27, died in a car accident. Paul was like me — a bit rebellious not a saint like Donnie. My 18-year-old mind told me there couldn’t be a God. Why would he do this to my parents? Or if there was a God he was one I didn’t want to know! So I figured it must be fate that controls life—wrong place at the wrong time.  I had questions but I didn’t ask them. The singer and songwriter, Billy Joel, grew up not far from my hometown on Long Island so the song, “Only the Good Die Young,” became my song.

That year my extended family lost an 18-yr-old, two 27-year-olds and a 33-year old.  I was convinced I was on the right path. So I went to college and enjoyed myself. I really lived it up. I did well, studied hard and, oh yes, I still went to church.  I got married in college—too young. It didn’t last.

A dangerous type of 'lost'

I was 31, still lost and still blind when I remarried. It was a dangerous type of “lost,” a dangerous type of “blindness.” I say that because everything I was doing, most everyone else was doing too. It was a secular “lost,” a secular “blindness.” I was into me. I was thinking of me.

I justified everything I did on the fact that “everyone else is doing it.” I justified my actions and decisions on what pleased me. My choices definitely were not pleasing to God. I was blind to him, and I figured he was blind to me. But I still went to church! I thought somehow that if I went to church God would not count my sins against me.

I now realize that Jesus, my Shepherd, was searching for me. With the sight I have now, I can see (as if in a rear view mirror) back into my life and see almost exactly when he started calling me out of the woods. But I had to go through the thorns, the darkness and several storms first. Let me tell you about the thorns:

In June of 1994 I lost my job, which I loved, in North Carolina after being there for 12 years. It was a period of backstabbing and betrayal and I lost trust in the people I thought were my friends. I sought legal advice for my forced resignation. The thorns of unforgiveness and resentment took hold in my heart and these thorns caused deep physical and emotional scars that still prick from time to time. My husband carried thorns of anger and guilt also and the stress was evident as he tried to plan and focus on our future.

The darkness came in September.  My Dad was diagnosed with metastatic liver cancer and with very little time to live. My mother suffered from severe depression. She survived two attempted suicides.

 So, in October, as my husband left for Europe on sabbatical, I went to Florida to take care of my Dad and Mom. At the time, those three months seemed like the worst period of my life. I was close to my Dad, and I had to watch him die.

No idea who God was

The worst part about it was, I had no idea who God was, or where he was, or if he was. I was lost! I was angry, I was mad at life. I didn't understand why this was happening to me, to us! My parents had seen enough heartache. I was with my Dad when he died two days after Christmas. I watched in agony because I feared death; it had been a big part of my life.

We got back to North Carolina in January and started planning to move from there. Where would we go?  I started getting sick; ulcer pains I thought. Made sense after what I have been through, right? I went to the doctor and that night he called me to tell me I was pregnant! I was scared!  I was not in control!

A month later we received a terrific job opportunity in Dallas. I was not happy. I came to Texas kicking and moaning. We moved to TX, on June 1 and 6 weeks later came my premature daughter.  I don’t think I adjusted very well to my new life as a Mom. I was definitely not in control and it definitely was not easy.

Than came the storms. My husband and I started having serious marital problems.  I was losing it!! Angry, mean, nasty.  I was stressed, depressed — you name it.  Were we headed for divorce?

Ready to do whatever it takes

Jesus found me in the middle of the storm sometime in February of 1998. One night, crying my eyes out in agony, I knelt down and turned to God, if he was there, for help.  I acknowledged all my past sins and asked him to do whatever it takes. I said, “Perhaps this marriage was not your plan for me, God? If you want this marriage dissolved then I will trust you. If you want it to stay intact please show me the way.”

That night I had an awesome experience. I felt a big comforting hug engulfing me as I slept. The storm ceased. The next morning I found my way to a support group and everything just started falling into place. As I look back, it was like a dam bursting open filled with life jackets.

I learned to “let go and let God.”  I was smiling again. I had found new friends to share my experiences with and who cared. I wanted new life; I could feel it. Of course I was going to church. I had always gone to church; I was a good Catholic! Now I was really going to church and listening and I was hearing for the first time. The deacon at our parish started preaching things that my ears and heart were suddenly open to. It all made sense, everything made sense, God is in control of my life!

A spiritual mentor

A wonderful woman sat next to me in church one day. She saw the tears in my eyes as I struggled to sing. That angel was the deacon’s wife. She held out a hand to me and became my spiritual mentor.

But most of all I began reading the Bible and feeling that thirst for the Word, for Truth. I discovered that God will feed us if we are open. I learned that he calls to us if we will just listen. All the answers are in God’s Word. All the answers are with Jesus!

I have learned to love my church because God is there; God is in every church because God is in all people. God is Love. It doesn't matter what parish.

He places us where we are needed and where we can help others. Once Jesus touches your heart like this you are called and you respond. You don’t respond out of duty or guilt. I respond out of pure gratitude and thanksgiving because I was lost and have been found; was blind but now I see.

I know I can see now, not with 20/20 vision but I can see! I know I can see because my perspective has turned 180 degrees. I once thought divorce, abortion, capital punishment, violent movies, etc were acceptable. Now I see the exact opposite. I see God has a plan. He has a need for every situation because every situation brings about the opportunity for sight, for renewal, for rebirth, for transformation, for life — spiritual life through a personal relationship with Jesus!

I was lost, but I have been found; I was blind but now I see. It is all due to my personal relationship with Jesus.

(Diane is a wife, mother and a former researcher in biochemical genetics) 
(© 2013 Diane Roe)
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About Nancy Ward

Nancy HC Ward is a journalist, author, and speaker who blogs about Catholicism, her conversion, and Christian community at JoyAlive.net,
 7 websites and 7 magazines. She loves to share her faith story and help others share theirs through her Sharing Your Faith Stories seminars, also available on DVD. She contributed four chapters to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. She facilitates the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers and a critique group for the Catholic Writers Guild, where she serves as a board member.
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12 Responses to Joy Stories: Amazing Grace

  1. Ginny Griffin says:

    Diane, you are such an inspiration. I am so proud to be in a class with you. Your gifts and knowledge shine from you.. I love you dearly. Thanks for sharing your story

  2. Diane says:

    Thank you ladies for the kind words of encouragement and most especially to you Nancy for supporting me in this effort!

  3. Linda Rapson says:

    Thanks Diane for sharing your journey with this and more to come. It will give hope to many. As I have told you, you know you are part of my journey. Thank you for the courage and example you show all of us to be ‘bold’ in our faith as you never know whose life will change and benefit because of that boldness! We love you. God bless you today and always.

  4. Kathy Pallmer says:

    I love you Mrs. Diane! You are truly inspirational!

    • Nancy says:

      Thanks, Kathy, for helping affirm Diane in sharing her witness as she has many other insights to post.

  5. Bunny Kopinski says:

    God is faithful… His love and His grace are from everlasting to everlasting!
    Thank you Diane for sharing God’s mercy with us …You certainly reflect HIS life to all who know
    you!!

    • Nancy says:

      I concur that Diane reflects the Light of Christ to all who know her. Join me in  encouraging her to share other stories from her rich spiritual journal.

  6. Leslie Lynch says:

    What a touching story, Diane! No one gets through life without those storms. Thank you for sharing your journey. The last part of that line, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see” really resonates once we look back.

    • Nancy says:

      Yes, I enjoyed working with Diane on her story of faith. She will be contributing more posts in the future.

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