I want to share my story with you because I believe it could be an encouragement for all of us. To remind us of the immense gift of life our Lord gave us. I want to testify to what Jesus has done and continues to do in my life, to bring glory to God. My Mom and dad are first cousins and got married without the blessing of their parents. The risk of their children having genetic defects was very high, but by God’s grace Cecilia, Matteo, Elisa and Michele were born, all in very good health: each of them now has perfectly healthy children of their own.
One day, my father became ill with cancer. The doctors, after some analysis, summoned him to tell him that he did not have more than six months to live. My father stood up and said: “Thank you for your help, but it is not up to you to decide how much time I have left to live, but to God.” During the week he worked at the hospital. Saturday and Sunday he had chemotherapy. My mother, who kept up the house and cared for four children, saw her husband go to work without knowing how long he would live. But he did not die. My mother even became pregnant again. The problem was that it was too soon after the chemo treatment and the doctors said that there was a high risk that the baby would be born with birth defects or serious problems of various kinds.
They advised them to have an abortion.
But they stood up and said: “Thanks for your help, but it’s not up to you to decide. It is up to God.” They decided not to have an abortion and because of that, my twin sister and I were born. She is married and has a son and a daughter, both beautiful and healthy. Moreover, Serena and I were born the 28th of April 1986, two days after the catastrophe of Chernobyl which, because of toxic clouds, contaminated big parts of Europe, including Italy, the country where I was born. After a few years, my father became ill again with cancer. Once again he was told he had six months to live, not more. He again stood up and said: “Thanks for your help, but it’s not up to you to decide, but to God.”
My mother, this time, had six children to look after and had the same fears as the first time. And again my father survived. I was about 23 years old, when my parents told me all this. I had always heard them speak of “When Dad was sick”, but I did not know all the details. In the beginning I was impressed and I pondered over it for a few days. Over time, however, my head was filled with many other things and I thought no more of it. At the time I had no clear understanding of the providence or plans of God at work in our lives.
My family is strongly Roman Catholic and for us it was important to do good works to deserve paradise. Of course there was the work of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the saints, and so on. But you had to do your part, you had to commit yourself and put all your effort into returning to God. But one day, I thought: “If my father had died the first time or if they decided to have an abortion, or if I had been born sick and had died…how could I have been here now, trying to deserve heaven? I exist only because God has allowed me to live with good health. So how can I say that what I do makes me deserve anything?”
“Why me? I should not even exist,” I thought. “But I exist. Why?” I felt I had received much more than others, without deserving anything. I started thinking about this more often, making me more and more aware that whatever I did for God would never be enough to repay Him or bring Him glory. I offended God often, even unintentionally, and then I would regret it and start all over again, but I knew already how it would end. I did not know what to do and what God wanted from me. I got sick thinking about these things. Until, one day, I gave up and said with a bit of anger: “Well, Lord, I do not know your plans. If there is a reason why you did all this, I know someday you will reveal it to me. In the meantime I will try to do my best to follow your example, but living my life with no more anxiety to offend you in every single thing I do”. I left the Catholic Church and began to live the faith in my own way.
I was tired of my work, of my country, and I had a desire to travel. In addition, I met Carmen, my girlfriend, who was the reason I then left for South America, through New Zealand, to visit my brother and his family who I had not seen for years. I came with the idea to stay three months, but my brother Matteo began to talk to me of the Way. The Way that I thought I had always known, but in reality I lived with the illusion of knowing. He began to answer those questions I had for years, making me read the answers directly from the Bible; the Word of God which I had never really read.
At one point, he said: “You cannot do anything to save yourself, Gabriele.” At that point my already unstable world collapsed on me. For days, severe anxiety gripped my heart and I was thinking: “Ok, it’s over, I’m doomed. In addition to receiving so much, I cannot do anything to merit salvation, so there is no way out.”
You can imagine what it must be like for a Catholic: always spurred on to do well in everything he does, to deserve the favour of God, to repent and confess, to be forgiven whenever he makes mistakes. Only to return to his efforts to earn his salvation. But then Matteo said to me: “There is nothing more to add, Jesus has already done everything for us on the cross.”
From that day on I began to understand what Jesus did for me and why. He paid for me what I will never be able to pay. Out of love alone, not because I deserved it! Now everything is clear, all my questions were answered. Finally, I understood why he did what he did in my life. For his glory. For the glory of His love and His justice.
He had already planned everything before creating the world: the circumstances of the events, even the choices of my parents. Nothing left to chance. Everything for his glory. And he did it even to save me! And now I can share this with you today. He loves us in a way that we will never really understand. He has control of everything and has a wonderful plan for those whom he has chosen.
It is a grace that goes beyond imagination and understanding. This it is what He wants from me, now I know. I now want to proclaim this to the world for his glory and I want to live the life he has given me with the awareness that it is not mine, it is his gift. I am not living my own life anymore, I am leaving Him to live in me, fulfilling all those good deeds that I am not able to do.
A verse that confirmed this to me, is 1 Corinthians 4: 7. “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” This is an example. One question that has plagued me for years, settled by a verse read in that book that I had never read, let alone deeply studied. The Word of God.
I hope from the depth of my heart that this testimony has encouraged you in your walk along the Narrow Path. Everything we do under the sun will be vanity, nothing but vanity, as we read in the book of Ecclesiastes, but all of this life is grace, including salvation. There is hope for all. Jesus has saved us by dying in our place on the cross! To Him belong all the glory!