Valentina (name changed) is a young single Italian woman who by all appearances seems pretty successful. She's only 28 and independent with a very successful job. Having a successful career before 30 and living independently is a rare find here in Italy with the rate of unemployment being so high.
But Valentina is unique among the Italians we know for other reasons.
Valentina grew up in a typical Catholic Italian home. In her experience, being raised Catholic was something you did because you were supposed to; there was no place to ask questions about God, faith, and life. To be “Catholic” for Valentina was just a sit-down, be quiet, and do what is expected kind of thing....no relationship, no conversation…”eh, niente” (absolutely nothing) as Italians might say.
Valentina had a yearning for more. Unfortunately this yearning did not end well. As she bubbled with questions she was met with tremendous pushback and anger. This created a tremendous amount of stress and conflict in her family. In the end, the anger and hurt left her and her family no longer speaking to one another.
Valentina put all of her anger into building a successful life without her family. Out of anger she built a new life that she thought loved.
Her career was great, but it didn't satisfy the nagging loneliness she felt daily.
Some time after cutting ties and communication with her family, Valentina had an encounter with God that changed her life. One day while driving home she was in an almost deadly car accident—the kind of accident so horrific it made the news. It left her with multiple injuries, incredible pain, and overwhelming uncertainty. Valentina knew this accident should have been deadly; she should not have survived. She believed deeply that someone or something had saved her life.
After much therapy and medical treatment, she was able to return home and go back to work. While on the surface life was normal again, Valentina now carried a new understanding that life is a precious gift, and that realization turned into sadness and anger inside of her. Call it “divine discontentment” or call it suffering, there was clearly an internal battle going on between hope and despair. God was doing something significant in her soul.
As life dragged on, Valentina felt more drawn to spend time with one of our friends, Sara. As their friendship grew, Valentina felt more comfortable having conversations about God and even her areas of pain. Sara invited Valentina to the Bible study we had started with women from the church we attend. We had intentionally started this group to create space for those who were not yet following Jesus. It was a place for women to discover the truths about God and have the freedom to ask questions about life, faith and everything in between—the kind of conversations Valentina had always longed for.
Valentina said “yes” to the invitation and jumped right into the discussion. This space felt safe enough for her to share parts of her story and begin to ask the questions that she never was allowed to ask as a child.
Valentina knew that God was real. She knew that he had kept her alive in that horrible car accident, because everyone told her she should have died. She was left with an endless list of questions that she now brought into the group...
“Maybe God kept me alive, but why?”
“Is God really trustworthy?”
“Where has God been the rest of my life?”
“What am I supposed to do with God now?”
As Valentina continued to ask great questions, our women’s group surrounded her, simply listening and affirming her and the things God was doing in her life. She finally had a space that she could wrestle with her fears and doubts, and we continued to point her to Jesus and the abundant life he was offering her.
Over the next several months Valentina continued to come back to the group. She openly shared about what Jesus was doing in her heart. Jesus was changing her. She began to realize that no matter how much success she had or stuff she acquired, there was still this persistent emptiness that would never go away. She understood that that persistent emptiness was her longing for life with God.
Valentina was beginning to experience the reality that God was always with her. One evening she shared with us that she was finally ready to commit her life to following Jesus. She desired to live life with God.
As we created space for Valentina to ask the questions she’d carried since she was a child, we saw how God graciously and caringly answered them. In a way, this little group of Italian women who wanted to create space for people to meet Jesus had become her new family, and she finally felt at home. She was finally living more fully into the woman that God made her to be, and the life he had made her to live.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anonymous. This story comes to us from a staff couple who serve with Novo in Italy, where they’re equipping young Italian leaders to create new expressions of Church and share the redemptive power of relationship with Jesus.