Why TOB initially attracted me and the effect it has had on my life

By Mark Schmitt, JPll RC Staff
One of the best lessons I’ve learned in my life is that until we understand the why behind a truth, we will never have the conviction or passion to fight for, defend, or fully live out this truth. Growing up that was the number one hurdle to my faith. I had been born into a strong Catholic family, attending Catholic school all the way from grade school to high school. I knew a lot about Jesus, but I didn’t actually know him personally. I had heard all the rules, the dos and don’ts so many of us grow up hearing. But there stood the problem. I never understood the why behind it all. And because I never understood the why, I just saw these rules as restrictions on my life. That didn’t sit well with me. The biggest area I butt heads with these rules was regarding God’s design about true and authentic love and why he had all these rules like don’t have sex before you get married, don’t look at pornography, don’t lust, etc. My thought was God is just a boring God who doesn’t want us to follow our passions and our desires. By the grace of God, I came to understand that I could not have been more wrong.
So what changed? Well, it took me hitting a very deep low in my freshman year of college to finally see God’s hand reaching down to pull me out of the depths of my own sin.

I choose to go to the University of Iowa, where I would be rooming with a longtime friend from growing up, and accompanied by a group of friends from high school. Now imagine this, you’re with all your closest friends, on a campus full of more girls than I could wrap my head around, and I had absolutely no rules. My parents weren’t there telling me to go to class, or that I couldn’t go out at night, or do this or that. And God was nowhere to be found in my life. What could possibly go wrong???

Quickly my friends and I got into the party scene. At first it was just every once in a while, on the weekends, going out and finding a party, looking for girls. Inevitably, this new found freedom turned the partying into a very routine habit. It became our number one goal, to find the parties and find the girls.

However, one morning, I experienced something that I will never forget, that forever changed my life. I woke up after a night out to a feeling of extreme panic. I had never experienced anxiety like this before. I was laying there in my bed and felt more empty and alone than ever before in my life. And for the first time in a long time, God came back into the picture. I laid there and just poured my heart out to him. I had just had your “perfect” college night out, what everyone in the world I felt my age was saying to do to have fun and find happiness, and here I was alone, empty, and broken. And in that moment I said to God, there must be more. I don’t know exactly what that looks like or where that is going to lead me, but this can’t be all there is… See the beautiful thing about God is that he can use even our deepest pain and sadness to bring us closer to him. And that’s exactly what he did.

Not too long after that morning, I made the decision to transfer from Iowa. Leaving Iowa started me on a path to answer that question I was so desperate to know the answer to, WHY?

God was looking out for me and knew I was going to need help on this journey and he gave me a gift. I was recommended a book to read called Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II. This book is all about love from God’s perspective, authentic relationships, and how God truly designed us to live. As I read this book I felt like for the first time I was seeing the world through the lens God had always intended it to be seen. What it taught me was the last thing that God wanted for me was to be limited by these “rules” I had always heard. It was really the exact opposite. He has these rules in place so I can experience so much more out of life. The WHY was all about true peace and happiness.

For me to really understand and believe what he meant by this though, I had to start from scratch with the simple yet unbelievably important question of, what is my purpose in life? John Paul II tells us that our purpose is to love others the way that God loves us- in a completely self sacrificial way. You look at Jesus dying on the cross, wanting nothing but the best for us, having zero selfishness in his heart. Jesus calls each and every one of us to love others like that. By living this out we unite ourselves with Jesus in such an intimate way, and in that intimacy lies the happiness and peace God created us to have with him. A happiness and peace that can come from nothing of this world. A happiness and peace that never leaves us empty or unfulfilled but only longing for a deeper union with our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

So that was a huge turning point for me with lust and relationships, which had always been the main cause of separation between me and God. I realized that if my purpose was to love others selflessly, then when I was lusting after a girl I wasn’t just doing some sin that I shouldn’t be doing, but I was literally doing the opposite of my purpose in life. Talk about conviction. I tell you what, I did not want to be doing the opposite of God’s purpose he has for my life. My favorite line in the whole book was when JPII said, “The opposite of love is not hatred, but to use someone else for your own selfish desires.” God calls us to so much more than what the world tells us. We are called to true and authentic love the way God designed it from the beginning of creation. Pope John Paull II said it best when he said, “We can only become the people God has called us to be, until we fully give ourselves away.” I thank God every day for the gift of my faith in him and how the teachings of Theology of the Body have opened my eyes to the beauty of submitting myself to him, the author of love itself.