As part of CYM’s Lenten Reflection: Crosswalk, we asked a few young people to reflect on  Jesus’ journey to the Cross and how it relates to their own lives. 

Testimony by Theodorus Hartanto

Four years ago I had a life changing encounter with God.  These days I find myself studying at Acts 2 Bible College, for a Certificate IV in Youth Ministry. This is a long way from where I was last year working hard at my career as an Engineer and even further from where I was  few years before that, trapped in a cycle of habitual sin and attachment to worldly things.

I was born in Indonesia and moved to Perth in 2004. I attended high school here, continued my study at Curtin University and graduated in 2013 with a bachelor of Engineer, majoring in civil and construction engineering. After I graduated, I worked for 2 years in Indonesia before returning to Perth late last year.

I was pretty much born a Catholic. Growing up in Indonesia my family went to Church every Sunday and prayed together at home.  However when I was 10 years old, my dad passed away. He was sick for a year with Leukaemia before God took his life away. With his passing I lost a father figure in my life.  I felt there was a void that needed to be filled. As much as my mother tried, she couldn’t replace that void in my life, I still needed a father figure.

As the years went on I started to get more and more influenced by the world. I started disrespecting my mum. I was jealous of my brother and sister and as the middle child, felt I was treated unfairly.  They would always get the attention, and I would always get the blame for everything.  Eventually, these feelings turned into inner wounds.

My relationship with my family deteriorated. Honestly, I hated them. I would lie to my mother, get angry at small things and fight with my brother and sister.

I was desperately seeking to be loved.  Throughout high school and university the love I couldn’t find in my family, or in God, I searched for in my friends. Back then only a few of my friends were Christian, and honestly I hated how they treated me. Looking back now, I can see that they treated me with love. But I didn’t think I needed any help and found their love annoying.

As I turned more and more to the world seeking happiness, my life spiralled out of control. I became an alcoholic and started smoking marijuana excessively. Most of the money I earn from my part-time job I used for gambling. I committed sexual sins and was treating women as objects. I also didn’t respect my body. Worse still, I influenced other people to do the same things as me because I thought it was good.

Week in week out, all I sought was temporary happiness but it was never enough. I was hurt from broken relationships, I started to feel depressed, and I felt that life was meaningless. Things weren’t going the way I wanted.

One night while driving back from university I did something I’ll never forget. I cried out to God. I asked Him, ‘What is it that you want from me?’ ‘Why am I in so much pain?’.  I told Him ‘I don’t want to keep going like this but I don’t know what to do.’ I asked him to help me. I felt so embarrassed to come back to Him. I had spent so long thinking I didn’t need anyone’s help and now I felt so unworthy.

I suddenly realised all the sins I’d committed. I felt guilty every time I committed them but I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t stop sinning. I cried almost every day and asked God to save me. It was such a painful experience. One I will never forget. I was still attached to many of my habitual sins but slowly God was working. He was progressively healing me. He was resurrecting me from the dead, I just that I didn’t know this yet.

The summit experience came in January 2013, where I went to a retreat in Indonesia. This retreat was life changing for me. I was made to realise that Jesus had always been there for me. In the past, I had just ignored Him.  I realised he always wanted to be in a personal relationship with me.  I spoke to a nun on the retreat, she told me that I should go to confession, and that I also have to forgive other people who have hurt me to, especially my family. So then I offered everything to God and went for confession.

That was the first time I had a proper confession. I remember God’s presence was so real. I remember feeling Him hugging me. He told me that He knows what I’ve been through, He knows my pain, and that He loves me. I really felt God’s merciful love.

Through my encounter with God at the retreat, I found the Father figure that I needed and had been searching for all those years.

God’s mercy still blows me away. When I fall into habitual sins, I might get tired of asking for forgiveness, but God will never get tired of forgiving. I find that going to confession regularly, as well as daily mass, and asking Mother Mary to pray for me, have been a real help in the fight to overcome my habitual sins.  One quote from St. Josemaria Escriva that I often think about is “A saint is a sinner that keeps trying”.

So over the years since my conversion I’ve kept trying and I’ve found that everything does not suddenly get easier with faith but, everything does become possible. God has graced me with a lot of help, providing me support structures for my journey, as well as providing me with a community where I could grow as a person and unleash the gifts He has given me.

As I continue on my faith journey I learn to let God guide my path. I’ve been gifted with a passion and the skills for engineering.  I love construction. I love buildings and structures in general. I love engineering. When I came back to Perth at the end of last year to work, God somehow steered me on a different path where He opened the door and planted that desire in my heart to study at Acts 2 College of Mission and Evangelisation. Did I have to say yes? No. I didn’t. In fact I was afraid, where it would take me in the future. I wanted everything to be in my control.  I prayed, discerned and I surrendered everything to God who is in control of my life. Long story short I end up going to Acts 2.

Not knowing what will happen is such a leap of faith for me. However, my experience has been that God opens doors for me. These doors only require me to take little steps. Doors keep opening until I finally reach the place He has prepared for me. It is an ongoing journey. I might not see the end zone right now, but it’s a beautiful journey.

Theo with his friends at CYM Perth’s Young Adults Retreat 2017