I was 17 when I had the life-changing opportunity to experience the program now known as Franciscan LEAD. This was the week I fell in love. This love had a name and a face and was more indescribable than anything I had ever experienced. It was Jesus who captured my heart and became the first Love of my life. The Lord, Love Himself, was revealed to me, and there was no turning back. I came home feeling alive for the first time and I knew I wanted more.
I also realized that week that if I was called to marriage then my Creator surely knew who I would marry. My heart began to yearn for a man who would love Christ more than he could ever love me. So I hit my knees. Each night, from then on, I begged God for specific intentions for my Husband-To-Be (or as I began to refer to him, my HTB). I asked that the man who would capture my heart would first be captured by His. If he was struggling with poor decisions, friendships, bad influences, or impurity, I pleaded that God would grant grace for conversion.
I decided that if my future spouse was out there, I didn’t want to waste my heart on anyone else. I knew I may have to kiss some frogs to find my prince, however, I wasn’t about to settle for frogs. I had a goal in mind and chastity of heart and body were the only way to reach it.
My life throughout high school consisted of few things: basketball, friends, parties, girls and beer. I thought I had everything I needed. I certainly was not thinking about my future spouse or trying to prepare myself for her.
One night, during the summer after graduation, I was alone in my room when something happened that I will never forget. I wasn’t in prayer, or even thinking about God, when I unexpectedly felt the Holy Spirit rush into the room and into my heart. In that moment, I understood with clarity a simple reality: that my God lived, laughed, wept, and ultimately died on a cross…all for me. The clarity and grace I experienced that night was enough for me to change my life immediately and with urgency. I instantly fell to my knees and wept. I decided to turn from sin and grew in desire for purity, chastity, virtue and holiness.
Mark and Katie’s story
Several years passed and Mark and I both transferred to the same college where we met and began to date. (For all the juicy details visit womaninlove.org) That summer, we returned to our separate hometowns. One evening, during our daily chat, I felt an inclination to ask Mark if he knew the date of his conversion experience. I went to my bookshelf and pulled out a tattered notebook. As I turned to the date in my prayer journal, my heart pounded. There it was. I quickly began to read the prayers during that pivotal week at LEAD. The very week that I had decided to climb into the trenches as a warrior for my HTB matched up with the date of Mark’s conversion experience. I read the prayers of my teenage self as I begged the Lord to deliver my future spouse. I prayed about specific things that Mark was indeed tempted with, and asked that the Lord would show him how much more intoxicating life in Christ could be.
On the summer night of this discovery, we found ourselves once again separated by thousands of miles. However, this time, God revealed how He had rendered distance insignificant when He united us spiritually years before. I began to read these passages to Mark over the phone, and we both wept in amazement and thanksgiving.
If you are ever feeling like there are no good and holy men or women left in the world to love you the way you deserve to be loved, don’t be discouraged and don’t lose hope. God is good, and He answers prayers. Someone somewhere may be in need of yours…
Katie Hartfiel is an author and speaker dedicated to sharing the intense love of God. She graduated Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she received a degree in Theology. She served as a youth minister for seven years in Houston, where she now resides with her husband, Mark, and two daughters. In 2012, Katie released her first book, Woman in Love (available at womaninlove.org).