My Story of Grace // Holly Salerno / by Jamie Hagan

I grew up in a home with parents who both practiced their Catholic faith very strongly. Church going was a regular part of our life. But it didn’t stop there. All of the family friends that we spent time with were also part of our Church, so I grew up with their kids, too. I was up to my neck in religion but never understood Faith. I always saw the Bible in the hallway but nobody ever read it. I always hear the stories during Mass or Sunday School, but nobody ever explained them. So needless to say, I never understood grace. I grew up and I outgrew my religion. It held no meaning in my life because nobody ever explained it to me, and I didn’t know where to start looking. It soon came to be that the people speaking to me the loudest were the ones who didn’t believe, and so I listened. And eventually I had no faith either. But I did have an emptiness inside that I couldn’t explain. It lasted years and grew more intense. Little by little I could hear the calling; the still, small voice that was whispering my name and asking me to come back. I hear it, but for a while I ignored it. I still held so much anger in my heart for all the abuse I suffered growing up. I wasn’t ready to face the truth of why I was meant to go through all of that, but deep inside my heart already knew the truth. 

The day I decided to turn back to God was a glorious day. I had turned 25 and it was raining. The sun would peek through here and there. I went to the bookstore with my mom. We looked for the rainbow but didn’t see one. So we went in. We browsed and eventually checked out and headed for the car. The rain had stopped and the sun was shining. We got in the car and began flipping through our books. I looked up. I could hear Him so loudly but it was the rainbow that was right in front of me that did the speaking. I knew it was Him. I looked down again at my book. A moment passed. I looked up again and there were two rainbows. It was like He was not just talking any more. He was shouting. He punctuated His call with two rainbows. God’s version of an exclamation point. I listened. I turned back to God that day and started reading a Bible. I started going to Church and learning about having a relationship with God. I finally learned about Grace. Forgiveness. Mercy. The more I learned about it the more people I forgave for hurting me as I grew up. I forgave everyone. But one person remained, and to this day still remains, unforgiven. Me.

I struggle to find myself worthy enough to be forgiven. I still hold a grudge against myself for all the things I put myself through. All the decisions I was in control of but still went down the wrong path over and over again, causing myself so much unnecessary hurt. For turning away from God. I find that grace hard to accept. From God, who I know in my heart has forgiven me already, but yet I still feel so unworthy. For my sinful nature that I know is part of me because I am human, and for the hurt I cause others with my sin, I feel unworthy. I struggle with the grace the God gives me. I know that I am forgiven. But I don’t deserve to be. And yet, He forgives me anyway. It seems too good to be true. I know it is true and I believe it with all my heart. But it is so hard to accept. Harder some days than others, but hard every day just the same. I am so grateful for His unmerited favor.