February 9, 2024

Woman embraces God’s presence in her journey from brokenness to beauty

Maria Harr poses for a photo with Father Robert Hankee, the pastor of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis. The faith community of Christ the King Parish has been a blessing for Harr in her journey from brokenness to beauty. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Maria Harr poses for a photo with Father Robert Hankee, the pastor of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis. The faith community of Christ the King Parish has been a blessing for Harr in her journey from brokenness to beauty. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

(Editor’s note: The Criterion has invited our readers to share their stories of how God has made his presence known in their lives. Here is another one in this series.)

By John Shaughnessy

Maria Harr sometimes wonders if other women have experienced the same pain she has, the same desire for God to heal her brokenness into something beautiful.

It’s a desire she’s had as a mother of two, a desire that first began when her own mother died at the age of 39 after a two-year battle with leukemia.

“My family survived through the physical, spiritual and financial struggle that my dad was left with after her death. Yet, it tested my faith as I grew older,” says Harr, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis. “I was wounded, and my heart was broken, yet I did not know how to find healing in the right places.

“After delivering our two children, I began to experience an even greater challenge of faith. My spiritual and mental health were both suddenly challenged. It was as if I began wrestling with God. I was wondering if he was really with me wherever I was going. It sure did not feel like that. The fear and loss of control that began to erupt in my heart were overwhelming. Thankfully, I had a spouse, my husband Chuck, who stood with me through those earlier years and even now by God’s grace.”

Amid that fear and loss, she began to experience a touch of God’s presence when she felt called to be part of a “Christ Renews His Parish” women’s group at the parish her family belonged to at the time, St. Lawrence in Indianapolis.

“God’s grace was made known again by the women he placed in front of me over those few years of participation,” she recalls. “He knew what I needed and with whom I needed to be in community. I did not fully see what he was doing, yet I knew something was brewing.”

Still, she longed for an even deeper, more spiritual connection with women, a connection she didn’t initially find when they moved to Christ the King Parish.

“At that time, I began feeling spiritually dry,” she says. “It felt difficult to maintain or develop any strong, lasting female-centered communities with people who shared a common interest in being connected like Mary and Elizabeth were to one another.

“In retrospect, I found excuses for not reaching out too far. Mary and Elizabeth rejoiced in the Lord together. They met each other where they were at on their faith walk and accepted one another in love, scars and brokenness. I was not feeling a connection with anyone in the deep spiritual sense that I so longed for.”

Feeling even more broken during that time, she chose to completely turn her life over to God.

“I gave him full reign in a cry of agony, asking him to fill all the cracks and crevices in my broken heart. I even begged the Lord in adoration one night to help me understand what this anxious longing was all about. I desperately needed him to heal my fears and improve my trust in him and others, especially women.”

God answered her prayers, she says.

“He started placing spiritually-driven women in front of me again. I grew to understand my deep-seeded fear of loss controlled how I responded to people in my life for so long.”

She now finds peace in her life, thanks to her parish and her growing trust in God.

“He is removing core fears as he introduces me more deeply to his Son, Jesus,” she says. “He is guiding me to places where I am finding hope, even with a childhood memory that sometimes left me feeling hopeless into my adulthood. God never gave up on me, and I am seeing how he is taking my brokenness and turning it into a thing of beauty.

“I now believe in the verse from the Book of Jeremiah 29:11 which says, ‘For I well know the plans I have in mind for you—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.’

“God does bless the broken-hearted. He is making all things new. He is bringing back the joy.”

(Has God made his presence known in your life? Maybe you routinely feel his presence in an everyday situation. Maybe you have known his presence in a life-changing moment. Maybe it’s happened in your relationship with a family member, a friend or even a stranger. Maybe it was in a dark time of your life or an especially joyful one. Whatever the case may be, we would like to hear your thoughts and your stories. Send your submissions to John Shaughnessy by e-mail at jshaughnessy@archindy.org or by mail in care of The Criterion, 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46202. Please include your parish and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.)

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