(This is the first of a two-part column by Jourdan Reynolds.)
The 10th anniversary of my re-conversion to the Catholic faith is Feb. 23. On this day, I recommitted myself to God, renewing my faith, and vowing to live my life more fully in union with him. I would like to share my story with you, giving witness to the sanctifying grace of God’s love and mercy. It is my hope that my testimony inspires you to recognize the subtle moments in your life when God has called you to himself.
My story begins in the fall of 2006. I had just graduated middle school in another community and was a freshman at a Catholic high school in Wisconsin. I was quite intimidated and nervous attending a high school that was completely new to me. I remember thinking on the way to school, “I hope I don’t get lost. I hope I make some friends. I hope I don’t embarrass myself.” These thoughts and more rushed through my head, creating anxieties and fears that didn’t need to be there.
Many of the students were quite different than me, coming from larger cities than I did. Often, I felt out of the loop when interacting and communicating with them. This hardly helped matters as I was extremely shy at the time. In order to cope with this problem, I decided to become more like the majority and less like myself. This would not be the best decision.
Throughout my first two years of high school, I remember trying to change everything about myself: the way I spoke, the clothes I wore, and even the way I acted. However, instead of making me happy, it made me feel worse. I became more depressed and lonely, wishing for it all to stop, and then I found an outlet to escape to — pornography. Up until then, I had only had brief encounters with porn, but I never got much into it. At my high school many of the guys viewed it and talked about it. Some of them denounced it, but the majority spoke of it as if it was a normal thing to do.
I don’t remember when I first started watching it, but I do remember that I felt it helped me cope with my depression, anxiety and loneliness. Porn gave me a way to escape from reality and just forget about the problems. I think I enjoyed it the most for that reason. However, God never gave up on me. During my sophomore year, I took a Christian morality class where I remember reading that pornography was considered a sin. I felt both anger and guilt after reading this. And thus began my internal struggle.
Over the next months, I researched the moral perspective of pornography. I also looked up methods to help me quit my addiction to porn. By this time, I wanted to quit porn altogether. I saw that it was consuming my life and causing me to fall deeper into a coma of sadness and despair. My initial thoughts were to go to confession and confess my sins to a priest. The only problem was that I was too scared to tell a priest my sins, especially since I hadn’t been to confession in a long time.
I tried to overcome my addiction with all methods outside of the Catholic Church, which never proved very successful. I remember making excuses about why I didn’t need to go to confession and how I could just solve the addiction myself. I was stubborn, and God knew this. I guess that is why he called for greater methods of intervention — to call me back and return to him.
(Reynolds is the secretary and bookkeeper at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish, Ottumwa.)