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This blog was originally posted on The Catholic Woman. To listen to the spoken word version of the letter, listen here.

My dear sisters,

Have you ever wept at the mountains? Have you ever seen something so beautiful, so good that you couldn’t help but release the ache for something more inside of you? Rolling down your face with a few tears and a silent sob.

I have.

This summer I hiked into the alpine woods to encounter God but found Him along the highway at a tourist site. I got out of the car but I stood paralyzed at what I saw. Mountains unfolding before me. A flurry of tourists moving about behind. But I wept. All was still as if they were not there. The echo of my origin was placed before me. I couldn’t help but know I was good. I couldn’t help but know we have a God who loves us enough to paint the sunset just to see us smile.

You are good. Oh my dear sister you are good. But how often do we forget that? It’s easy, isn’t it? We overanalyze. Internalize. And yet we still come to the same conclusion.

“Am I good?” I simply can’t be.

I spent a good chunk of my life caught up in this question.

At a young age, sporting soccer shorts and a mullet, all I cared about was climbing the next tree and wondering when the new issue of LEGO magazine would arrive at my door. I asked for hot wheels for Christmas and role-played as the boy character for all our childhood adventures. I looked around me, saw my friends and sisters and knew I didn’t fit the mold. My (little) heart ached and wondered, “why am I so different?” “am I good?”

Despite my shy and sensitive outward disposition, friendships came easily to me. Those of my adolescence became caught up with confusion. Caught looking at pornography. Caught kissing one of the other girls at a sleepover. Caught staring a little too long at my teammate in the locker room. I felt ashamed and asked myself, “am I still good?”

Being a teen in the early 2000s brought about a whole new whirlwind. Then-Proposition 8 in California raising tempers and division all pointing to the “gay agenda”. All I could think was, “I mean I’ve kissed girls, had crushes on boys, but can’t stop thinking about girl in my biology class… are they talking about me?” Trendy chastity talks were on the rise and I was introduced to and captured by the idea that there was a greater purpose to my life. But often times women’s sessions became reduced to watching what you wore and how to not go too far…with the guy…you’re dating. Sitting beside the very friend that made me blush, I didn’t know how this applied to me. My heart raced… “What if they see right through me?” “Am I still good? I can’t be.”

Time and time again I fell, one woman after the next. “If I’m not good because of this, no one can know.” I drank, I smoked, and pushed it aside. “You’re lying to yourself and everyone around you,” echoed in the caverns of my mind. As the internal storm subsided, a steady whisper resounded in my head, “Come now, I want to show you something good.”

My heart was simultaneously frozen yet pounding all at once. I stepped into the chapel and my eyes met His in the Eucharist. Well over a decade of believing I wasn’t good, I fell before Him who is Goodness itself. And He looked and me and said “you are good.” And I believed Him.

"You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,

you’ve ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes.”

| Song of Songs 4:9 |

Such sweet poetry. And He sings it still. Here, now. To me. And to you.

I’m not sure where you’ve been or what you’ve been told.

Did you fall in love with a woman?

Do you feel at home in your body?

Are you unsure of the intersection between conviction and compromise?

I’m not sure how see others who wrestle with things you may not.

But what I know is this.

The God of the universe who decided it was good to have a every blade of grass tied to an intricate ecosystem, who could recite the book of our lives verbatim, this God who molded the mountains thought of YOU, and every other unique, unrepeatable human being. And He says we’re ‘very good.’ Do we believe it? And even amidst our fallen mess, do we receive it for others like we believe they’re good too?

Get to know the complexities of yourself and others - our strengths, our weakness, our go-to karaoke songs. But more importantly get to know the One who created you. The One who breathed life into dust with you in mind. He who was knitting you in secret knows what He wants for your life. Rest easy my sister. He looks at you and says you are good.

Peace & Goodness,

Shannon Ochoa

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