I will always thank God for His gift of life, and with it, the capacity to change. His Word succinctly states in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that “If any person be in Christ, they are a new creation. Old things have passed away, behold all things shall become new.” That verse has applied to my life in every extent, nevertheless there are times that I grieve in my recollection as to what and who I was prior to my commitment to the Lord. When I do dwell on that person, I shake my head in dismay at her recklessness, her unmasked cruelty towards others, and her fervent willingness to embrace promiscuity as an endeavor to obtain love.
My devotion to the Lord was actually fostered in childhood and as a Catholic grammar school student, it became commonplace for me to attend daily Mass. To be in His presence and to pray was an absolute joy. However as many individuals tend to do, I saddled away from God and into a lifestyle that can only be described as profane. Of course I didn’t view it as such and sadly I continued to pursue depravity particularly after I left home to share a Manhattan apartment with two roommates. And yet through it all, I oftentimes found myself at Sunday Mass. Clearly it was not for repentance of my ways since I was of the deluded mindset that my actions were of necessity in my quest for a husband. The circles in which I engaged...indeed the men that I knew...would have laughed at me outright had I suggested abstinence from sexual involvement until marriage. God understood that...did He not?
By early 1979, I was in grad school and employed at the Manhattan DA’s Office. The parade of suitors continued and I had just ended an affair with a man...an old friend actually...who had returned to his wife but nevertheless wanted to continue our relationship. I thought it could work and the plan was that if his spouse was home when I called, he would simply reply that I had reached the wrong number. In theory it sounded plausible but I was cut to the core when it ultimately occurred. Soon thereafter I was besotted with Frank, my latest interest who, though separated, was still in anguish over his marital estrangement. Chris, my coworker, sensed my despair over yet another futile situation and repeatedly urged me to visit his Catholic Renewal prayer group. I finally agreed to go and off I trudged with him one Wednesday evening...June 6, 1979...to Fordham University in the Bronx. Upon our arrival, he introduced me to his friend Evelyn, along with others, at which point we made our way inside. I enjoyed the service and when Confession was offered, I momentarily pondered...should I? I did and after I spoke to Father Bert, I definitely sensed that a burden had been lifted. I purposed then and there that I would live my life for God. My resolve lasted until Saturday evening when Frank, my love, made a surprise appearance at my job and headed home with me. Two months later, little had changed in our relationship. I had made plans to attend Fordham’s Charismatic Mass with Chris and Evelyn on Sunday, August 19th, but instead Frank had stayed over. As I started to awaken, with Frank still asleep, I had a dream...or was it a vision?...of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her direct expression was one of anger and I instinctively realized that my lifestyle had provoked her displeasure. I frantically implored “What is it?” followed by the words “You’re angry about Frank...I’ll give him up.” Her immediate response was to gaze at me with a beatific smile before she disappeared.
Frank left almost upon the moment that he arose and I was sorry...completely so...that I had not made the effort to go up to the Bronx and meet with Chris and Evelyn. Instead, I spent the day in abject despair. Frank did not call and it was impossible to ignore the fact that our bond was limited to our sexual encounters. And once again I was forced to ask myself...was this truly how I wanted to live my life?
Mercifully the summer ended as did my relationship with Frank...somewhat. He continued to make sporadic appearances and on one particular night, our intimacy resumed. The following morning we went to breakfast at a local diner and again I was despondent as I knew that our rendezvous meant nothing to him other than his self-gratification. By that point it was April 1980 and graduation was a month away. I had also decided to return to my parents house. Perhaps it wasn’t the wisest decision but I wearied of the life of a single woman in Manhattan with its mandated activities...buying the Sunday Times, involvement in various cultural and/or social events...anything to land a man and inevitably always alone.
Despite my return home, old habits tend to die hard and it did not take long for me to become involved with a much older man whom I had met at work. Ed, divorced and the father of three, made it quite succinct that he merely wanted a companion and not a wife. That was fine as I had never considered him in any role other than a temporary dalliance.
Things remained status quo until late September when the Lord used Chris once again to intervene. He called me on the evening of the 25th...was I free that weekend? A spot had opened up at the Charismatic Renewal retreat that was to be held from the following evening to Sunday afternoon. He thought I would enjoy it particularly as Evelyn was scheduled to attend as well as his girlfriend Gerri. I had no alternate plans, therefore my attitude was “okay...” And so with that, I packed a bag as I would head to Jamaica Estates directly from work.
The retreat in itself was amazing and I resolved that my life would align with His. Moreover, by Sunday morning, a conviction had settled within my spirit and I promised the Lord that I would refrain from all sexual activity until I was married. To Ed’s profound disappointment, I refused to renege on that vow and the relationship concluded. Soon thereafter I was invited to become a Eucharistic Minister and eventually I became involved in a myriad of parish activities. My fervent prayer was for a husband but in the meantime, life went on. By the fall of 1981, I had departed the DA’s Office for a position with the Department of Probation and with that, I was happy.
Of course being Margaret, a crisis ensued one year later which in essence could have been avoided. A visiting priest, whom I’ll refer to as Father Alejandro, was assigned to the parish and foolishly...stupidly...my heart opened up to him. A strong mutual attraction developed and a degree of physical contact was exchanged after which I was reprimanded by the good Father. I was devastated, still besotted and ultimately relieved when he returned to his native Peru a few weeks before Christmas. A permanent separation however was not in order since the duplicitous Alejandro gave me his address and encouraged me to write which indeed I did.
As the spring of 1983 approached, I was soon to become involved with John, a married but separated co-courthouse employee. I also remained desperately in love with Alejandro. Dawnne, my colleague and then best friend, had embarked on an adventure of her own with a former neighbor and therefore encouraged me in my South American pursuit. Upon her recommendation, I purchased The Thornbirds, a novel which focused on a decades-long love affair between an ambitious priest and a woman who bore his son. Within that period, the mini series based on the book, had premiered on ABC. Bolstered by Dawnne’s support, I was convinced that my cleric would eventually do the right thing particularly as his letters were constant and endearing. Nevertheless, Dawnne and I were desperate to peer into our respective futures. It was at her suggestion that we went to a psychic in midtown Manhattan that Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Neither one of us had any concept of Deuteronomy 18:10-13 which states clearly “Let there not be found among you anyone who causes their son or daughter to pass through the fire or practices divination or is a soothsayer, augur or sorcerer, or one who casts spells, consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does these things is an abomination to the Lord and because of such abominations the Lord your God is dispossessing them before you.” Devoid of knowledge re this aversion to the Lord, I entered the premises with hopeful anticipation and no sense of caution. I was soon paired with Miss Marguerite, whom, once she had cut the tarot cards, declared in part that I was in love with a man who had another commitment. Furthermore, according to Miss Marguerite, a relationship with a light-eyed gentleman awaited me. That, most definitely, was not John, who had taken me to lunch for my 30th birthday days earlier.
Dawnne’s dalliance became serious to the point whereas she made plans to desert her live-in companion and relocate to Cincinnati in order that she and Archie could wed. I left work early that Friday afternoon of July 15th to lend my assistance and found the apartment to be chaotic with things tossed about haphazardly. As I helped her pack, I once again listened to the monologue as to why I too should consider a move. Her coaxing was partially fueled by the fact that she detested John...for unknown reasons...and emphasized that a romance between two Gemini’s could never work. Moreover, she was anxious for me to meet Archie’s colleague, Manny, whom she thought had the light eyes foretold by the psychic. Late that night her friend arrived to drive both Dawnne and her belongings to Ohio. I said goodbye and promised that I would visit her in two months time once I returned from a planned trip to Spain.
Despite her status as my confidant, I was not bothered by Dawnne’s departure and I realize now that the process of separation was evidence of God at work in my life. On Monday morning, John, who somehow had sensed Dawnne’s exodus from New York, asked me to lunch and subsequently other dates followed. Summer became fall and days after I arrived home from Madrid, I boarded a plane to Cincinnati. Manny was at the airport along with Dawnne and Archie. The four of us spoke and minutes later, I had a date for the evening. We went to a club but there was no compatibility nor did Manny have the predicted light eyes. I remained in Cincinnati until mid-week and despite Dawnne’s disappointment, I was anxious to return home to New York.
Back then, had you had queried about my life, I would have rendered a description of deliriously happy. I was a daily Communicant who was quite active in my parish. I had also been promoted to probation officer and my involvement with John had increased in intensity. We ultimately reached a certain level and initially I was plagued with guilt. As I remained Biblically illiterate, I was unfamiliar with the multiple scriptures that abhor both fornication and adultery. Still I remembered my promise made at the retreat. I knew that to consider John as a potential husband was an impossibility since he had repeatedly remarked that he had no plans to divorce his estranged wife nor remarry. In distress, I sought out the advice of a friend, another parishioner, who assured me that God would not be angry as long as the intimacy was limited to one man. Did not the Lord state in Matthew 15:14 that if a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into the pit? Nevertheless her counsel sounded reasonable and off to the races went I.
Throughout it all, Alejandro and I continued to maintain contact. I called him that first Saturday evening in December and during the conversation, what I considered to a miracle ensued, when he invited me to Peru. I was overjoyed, immediately made my reservations, and the wait for my departure on February 9th seemed endless. In the interim, I reached out to another psychic, Miss Margot, whom I had patronized twice in 1980 and I was exhilarated when she gaily declared over the cards “My dear, you are going to get married and it is going to be as a result of this trip.”
The beginning of 1984 brought a somewhat unwelcome change. John and I had gone away for the weekend immediately after the New Year, and when I returned home late Sunday afternoon, I knew with certainty that our relationship was over. I consoled myself that it mattered little since within one month, I would be with my beloved Alejandro once again. I was convinced that he was prepared to leave his Order and marry me for why else would he have suggested that I visit? However within hours of my arrival, the joy I had turned to despair as I was forced to acknowledge the reality of his intent. Nothing changed for the duration of the next 16 days and my grievous return home was accompanied by the bitter realization that each one of my fantasies had been irretrievably broken.
Though outwardly all seemed normal, I found it difficult to function over the next few weeks. My intake of food was minimal and sleep was impossible for I was besieged by dreams of Alejandro whenever my eyes would close. And it was during that period, through the magnificence of Jesus, that my coworker Carolyn reached out to me. She had arrived at Probation a few months beforehand and with the exception of pleasantries, no other words of substance were exchanged. Nevertheless Carolyn knew something was off with my robotic demeanor and it was then that she began to speak me about God. I was intrigued since the manner in which she described the Lord was a depiction of one who had a personal intimacy with Him that I had yet to experience. Still, not long thereafter, I made a return trip to Miss Margot who assured me that in a matter of time, Alejandro and I would be wed. I excitedly mentioned this to Carolyn the next morning whom, after a moment of silence, began to share the danger of psychics and astrology. Essentially what she stated, and what I know now to be true, was that both were governed by the demonic while prophets who were called of God, operated under the unction of the Holy Spirit without need of instruments such as cards or tea leaves. In response to my declaration that both Misses Marguerite and Margot provided some accurate details which I most certainly had not discussed with them beforehand, Carolyn replied that a tactic of Satan was to render a segment of the truth in an effort to enslave an individual. From that moment on, I heeded her advice and never again did I read my horoscope, identify myself by an astrological sign, or visit another psychic. And though I periodically heard from Dawnne, who by then had married Archie, I no longer confided in her as I yearned for Godly counsel which she was unable to provide.
My desolation did not immediately ease but as I continued to seek guidance from Carolyn, I was able to grasp the fact that the Lord had an amazing plan for my life...infinitely better than my own...if only I would trust Him to bring it to pass. That in itself was imperative for without a full surrender to the Savior, my existence would continue as it had previously with failed relationships and futile endeavors. I was soon to be 31 and knew without hesitancy that He had placed Carolyn in my path for that particular season. And so I said yes to God.
Although I had repented of my sins during the process of surrender, transformation is difficult at best. Still I was more than aware that changes had to be made. Months earlier, to prepare myself for John, I had opted to go on the birth control pill which I continued to take following my return from Peru. Suddenly one morning, while at my desk in late March 1984, I had a personal epiphany in that I questioned myself as to why I would even bother with the pill. I was now more than cognizant that premarital intimacy ran counter to God and once again I purposed to abstain from it all while I remained single. With that, I grabbed the packet of pills from my purse and rushed to the ladies room where I popped each and every one from their foil enclosure into the garbage.
There were many factors that I admired about Carolyn, one of which was her candor when she discussed her past. Too often, when individuals endeavor to lead others to Christ, they sanitize their lives whereas the person to whom they speak is of the belief that their own mistakes have rendered them too far gone for God’s forgiveness. One person actually told me that she had never done anything wrong prior to her walk with the Lord. For an individual such as myself who had struggled in multiple areas of sin, that was indeed disastrous counsel. Still I persevered in my commitment to the Savior despite the innumerable mistakes that I made along the way.
I did not intend to leave my parish even though I was repeatedly told that Catholics were essentially ignorant of Godly understanding while those who attended Bible-based assemblies exuded knowledge. I can state with certainty that there is little veracity to that fallacious claim. Still, I wanted His truth and therefore at the suggestion of friends, I visited those particular churches during which period, the “name it and claim it” move was in full motion. All that I was required to do was to choose anything that I wanted...literally anything...and God of course would be obligated to bring it to pass. And while Psalm 37:4 clearly states “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart”, it appeared that the crescendo of wants echoed by the masses became prioritized and in fact superseded any true intimacy with God.
Ultimately I left Catholicism and during my 16 year absence...1995 to 2011...I attended non-denominational fellowships on an exclusive basis. I learned much about the Word of God for which I am indeed grateful. However it was impossible to ignore the fact that a number of self-identified Christians within the pews had so little passion for Christ and seemed to be devoid of most things as they pertained to the Savior. Moreover, the unwillingness to address sin from certain pulpits became obvious and with that, God’s mandate for holiness decreased by a number of prongs. It’s grievous to note that this has continued to present day. Many pastors, as well as certain televangelists, have obviously taken the stance that to present Biblical truth would lead to offense and thus have a debilitating impact on monetary offerings. However in Romans 6:1-2 Saint Paul stated “What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” And yet we have ignored Paul’s warning and instead embraced the concept of hyper grace whereas every transgression is immediately pardoned without need of repentance. Had Carolyn not called me out on sexual immorality and my involvement in the occult, I would have remained under the delusion that my actions were pleasing to God when in fact they were reprehensible.
Many changes have transpired since 1984, but one vital truth is that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. I sought Him, pursued Him, delighted in Him, and in November 2001, at the age of 48, He blessed me with my husband. God, in His infinite wisdom, oftentimes does not show us every upcoming detail of our lives as He would require that we follow Him in faith. When I disposed of my birth control pills in March 1984, and resolved to abstain from sex until marriage, I did not understand that my wait for a spouse would exceed 17 years. If I had known that, with my then state of mind, I may have resisted with “...just one more encounter Lord...” Realistically speaking, my interlude was lengthy because I existed in a state of romantic fantasy which left me unprepared to be a wife. Moreover, my character was in dire need of adjustment. However one thing is certain...He is not a respecter of persons. He transformed my existence...literally...and what He did for me, He will do for anyone who makes the decision to align their life with His.