Shame and God’s Divine Mercy
Letter from Arianne Baptiste
To my sweet friend,
A little over a year ago, I no longer recognized the woman I saw in the mirror.
I was overwhelmed and disgusted by all her faults and mistakes. Filled with humiliation, I cut my hair to hide from God and to hide from myself--to pretend I was someone else. Who was I kidding, no one is ever too broken for The Father.
I grew up in Trinidad and Tobago (located off the northern coast of Venezuela, South America) with five younger siblings and both parents. When I was sixteen, my life made a complete 180 degree turn in the span of three days. One day, I was planning to go see a movie, the next I was saying goodbye to friends. I migrated from the Trinidad and Tobago to the United States and let’s just say that sudden change, from just beginning to find myself to having no one really sent me down a spiral. I struggled to understand God’s plan for myself. Why did this have to happen? Why did a lot of events in my life occur? Like honestly God, what’s the point?
The church was no longer a place of comfort but a place of pain. I couldn’t proclaim that The Father is Good when I couldn’t believe it myself.
Depression came like a tsunami, I was completely submerged and there was no coming up for air. People who I called friends turned their backs on me. I was judged because of my nationality and skin color. My relationship with my parents was struggling. I didn’t know where I fit in or where I belonged.
I began falling away from the faith and with that eventually came its share of parties and drunkenness. I didn’t realize at the time, but I was pushing myself further and further under. Before I knew it, I was completely lost. Who was I? Couldn’t tell you even if I wanted to. The pain, hurt and anger I harbored in my heart toward The Father? Unbearable. I know Genesis speaks of us being created in the image and likeness of God but that’s not what I saw. What The Father sees as good, true and beautiful, I saw as a disappointment, a failure. I saw someone who was so hollow on the inside, someone plastic who tried so hard to impress others because I was not proud of myself. I did not see a person The Father would ever take delight in.
On a morning just like any other, I crawled out of bed, looked in the mirror and said to myself, “I am sick of you. You disgust me.”
Twenty minutes later, I was at a hair salon, in a chair looking at my hair as it fell to the ground. The hair dresser did not have to ask me twice. And honestly? I really thought that cutting my hair would have done the trick. I mean, I looked nothing like I did before. I felt free.
The following year was a roller coaster. If you’ve ever been to Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida and rode Sheikra, it went a little something like that. It started off exceedingly well. My grades went up, I joined a young adult group, I entered a relationship, I felt like I could fly, like there was nothing stopping me. This felt like coming up for fresh air. But if you know the roller coaster I speak of, after that rise comes a 90-degree drop. That’s the turn my life took. Before I knew it, I was hitting rock bottom. My relationship began to take a turn and was filled with ultimatums, I had no interest in my studies, it was as though i walked straight off a cliff. Happened so fast I didn’t even know what hit me. Amid this chaos, The Father clearly saw something I didn’t.
A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine encouraged me to go to confession. The commitment that I made to go to confession was long overdue, but I had no desire to go because I was feeding myself a major lie: that Jesus was tired of hearing my boring sins and was over forgiving me and showing me mercy.
Walking to the confessional, I passed a painting of The Prodigal Son. Something caused me to stop at that moment and walk closer to it. I stood there looking at the son, kneeling and being embraced by his Father. The image stirred in my heart. As I waited outside of the confessional, there was a Divine Mercy image hanging to my right. What a coincidence.
Not too long after, I entered the confessional, Fr. Blake immediately said to me, “I’m so glad you’re here.”
As I sat and looked at him, he had the biggest smile on his face and his eyes radiated joy. Father repeated himself, “I am so happy that you’re here.” First thought that came to my head? Weird. Personal thoughts aside, I confessed my sins and for the first time, I stripped every layer of my heart and laid it all out there. I have never had such a profound confession. Fr. Blake looked at me with such soft eyes and a gaze of mercy, I just knew in that moment, this was Jesus using his priest as a vessel. He then said to me,
“Ari, you have no idea how happy you just made the heart of The Father. All he wants to do, Ari, is embrace you. Run to the arms of The Father. Let him love you.”
For the first time in my life, I said out loud all my insecurities. Fr. Blake had me repeat each one and dive into it one by one, and each time came affirmation.
Do you realize that the Lord takes delight in you? A while ago I was asked this question. More like a rhetorical question but what I would have answered in my head with uncertainty, I can answer with a resounding yes! It took me a long time to realize but now I do. Now I am affirmed in my belief that I am good enough, that I am beloved, that I am wanted, and that I belong.
When I stand in front my mirror now, yes I still see my brokenness, but in that brokenness I am learning to see the beautiful mosaic that is my heart. And in between all the cracks, the love of the Father shines through. I belong to the Catholic Church, I am chosen and belong to The Father. This was confirmed in my Baptism. Most importantly, I remember that Christ died for me. Cross and Resurrection.
That is the Truth.
I am so loved, you are so loved, we are all so loved because God created us and died for us. And He (Jesus) would do it again. The words of a particular song come to mind, “There's no shadow You won't light up, Mountain You won't climb up, Coming after me. There's no wall You won't kick down, Lie You won't tear down, Coming after me.”
The Lord takes delight in me. I am worth dying for. I will always remember.
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About the Writer: Arianne Baptiste
Arianne Baptiste is a 20-year-old Construction Management student at Florida International University. She is a major fan of anything chocolate, Mc Donald’s French Fries, puppies, and let’s not forget…coffee! In her free time she either reads or binge watches Netflix, or maybe go on spontaneous adventures.