"But now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ." - Ephesians 2:13
I was just a young girl dealing with much of the insecurities many young girls battle with. If it wasn't a hatred for my nose, it was wishing I had a slimmer build like my sister. I grew up Catholic. I even wore the white gown and held the Bible for the priest as he read from scripture. I remember sitting in the confessional room, except this time there wasn't a barrier between me and the priest. I remember sitting in a chair knowing I was supposed to confess my sins to this man for the first time. Except, I wasn't sure what even qualified as a sin. Was digging my nails into my sister's arm until I drew blood a sin? Was teasing my neighborhood friends across the alleyway a sin? "Also, why did I have to confess it?", I remember my young self thinking. It wasn't like I was one of those crazy serial killers I heard about on Dateline NBC.
My mom did her best to help my sister and I understand who God was. I remember her instructing us on our parts of the at home church service we would put on sometimes. She would pray with us at night and talk about God, but I only equated God with standing up, sitting down, kneeling, and uncontrollable giggles during mass. Oh and those scary looking figures of Jesus nailed to a cross all throughout the church and my grandma and aunt's homes - I remember knowing that had something to do with it all too.
I was stubborn, inquisitive, at times rebellious, and deep down quite unhappy with how this God made me to be. I wasn't sure why some girls got boys attention and I didn't. So, I used my sass and wit to try and tease my way into their young hearts. I wasn't sure if boys should or would like someone who was built more athletic like me. I thought I must have to do something extra in order to find a boyfriend or someone to show me attention. Stemming from a perceived idea that I was loved less than my sister, I carried the weight of having to always receive affirmation and recognition from what I did and how I looked from others into my high school and college years. I couldn't tell you how it got to the point it did, but I think one step of barriers broken only opened the door for others to be easier to walk through.
Some seeds were planted in junior high by neighbor youth pastors. Looking back, I can see how God harvested their teachings on having a relationship with Him later on in life. I just wasn't at a place where I thought surrendering to this God who seemed like a big buzz kill sounded better than living and submitting to the influences of this world. I found myself both in high school and college doing much of what pleased me at any given time. Sure, I could be funny, smart, encouraging, and driven at times but I mostly was just a tornado swallowing up those in my path with lies, deceit, and a false identity I had created for myself. I would feel bad for some of my actions, but I'd quickly go back to lying and using others to get what I wanted. I know I hurt people close to me, and I sometimes still struggle with the fact that was my behavior for so long.
There was a boy that I gave all my attention to for 3 years. It wasn't all his fault. I was so deeply insecure that I let him sort of walk all over me. Cheating, emotional abuse, and manipulative tactics from us both led to a deep well of destruction for us both to later work through separately. At the end of our tumultuous relationship, I found myself in a hospital room with a black bandage around my wrist. I remember thinking, "I'm supposed to be taking a quiz for my class. This isn't that bad for me to be in here. I'm fine, really." I wasn't fine. I used the next year to try and escape the fact that I planned and tried to kill myself. I took an internship in Spain thinking an escape in a foreign country would be just the ticket to "finding myself again". Although I loved Madrid and many of my experiences, it also left me with an even deeper pile of pain. I remember praying sometimes throughout all of these experiences. It would be a strange mix of reciting things and people I wanted to pray for and memorized prayers from my time spent in Catholic school. I would go from praying to God in one moment to switching over to praying to Mary to pray to God. I was a bit confused to say the least.
I remember waking up in a foreign place. It wasn't foreign just because I was in a different country. It was foreign because I was completely unaware how I got there. I was soaked. I was soaked almost to the point it seemed like me and my clothes were dumped into a deep pool or body of water. I had one memory from the 7 hours my brain was missing, and it wasn't one I wish I have been able to hold onto still today. It serves as evidence for the horrendous act that was committed against me, but it leaves me with an image no one should bear. I remember shoving down the reality of what happened for over a year. Between my own deviant and promiscuous past and misconceptions of what an assault was, I just tried to move on from that damaged point in what was supposed to be a quest to becoming the best version of me.
I spent the last year and a half of college doing what I knew best at the time: Partying, disregarding consequences for ridiculous and dangerous choices, lying and stealing, and pretending I was someone who had it at least somewhat all together. I got to the end of my undergraduate degree thinking again I needed to escape the reality I was in. As if escaping reality is something we can ever actually do. Instead of a whole new country, I decided a new state would do. From a young age, I thought I was meant to live in a big city making a big name for myself as a singer or business woman. Because of this, I spent the two months after college applying for jobs in larger cities farther away from my humble upbringing in Montana. Until the suggestion of Boise, Idaho came up. I knew I wanted to be better. I knew I wanted to stop doing all the awful things I had made normal and comfortable in my life. I just didn't think Boise, Idaho was the place to do it. Somehow, I found my and my parent's vehicles packed with the few items I had heading to Boise. From the beginning, I felt a shift in my heart. I thought, "This is my time to be the person I think I'm meant to be. People don't have to know my past, and I can start fresh."
Prayers were still happening from time to time. I even felt guilty some nights if I didn't say the laundry list of repetitive prayers I had laid out in my brain. My first year in Boise was anything but normal, new, or fresh. I lost my first job out of no where 2 months into living there. I couldn't find another job and was living off of oatmeal for 2 months after, and I had yet to find the man of my dreams like I thought I would. Instead, I found myself intermingling with people I had no business being around. Drinking and the occasional smoking of weed led to more experimental drugs. Although I remember thinking it was fun, it all seemed to lack the excitement it had in college. It was as if I started to feel the weight of the choices I was making, but in my mind I had no basis to reference what I was doing was regarded as "sinful." Sure, it was illegal, but was it really that bad? I, like many, thought that sin was only equated to those that murdered or did actions of the like. Inherently, I knew my lifestyle outside of work, working out, and the facade I always created was anything but angelic, but I didn't consider it "that bad".
The little insecure girl continued to live on inside this grown woman's body even after college. Because of this, I utilized my outward appearance for attention from the opposite sex. I remember feeling fed up that my tactics at dating didn't lead to anything healthy or joyful. I'm not sure how it came across my computer screen, but I had somehow heard about a book called "The Wait." The premise of the book is a famous Christian's couples journey on waiting to have sex until they were married. Honestly, it is only by an intervention from God that I bought the book for myself. It read it all in a matter of days. I was enamored with the way they talked about honoring God with their bodies and love for each other and their desire to glorify God through their relationship. After reading the book, I decided I would give their plan a try. Naively, I thought I started this journey of celibacy simply as a means to find a husband that loved me. Rather, it was God's way of opening up some of the most hurt and damaged parts of my heart allowing for Him to fill the void that truly can only be satisfied with His love. Completely unaware of what God was doing, I started to have a desire to read about who this God was that called us to honor Him with our bodies and relationships in this way. So, naturally, I started to read the Bible.
I couldn't get enough. I started looking up on Youtube different teachers, pastors, and commentaries on the books I was reading. I flew through Romans, journaled on 1st and 2nd Samuel, and was captured in Ephesians. It was there that I started to see my sin for what it was. I saw that I was completely depraved and wholly evil at my core. I began to detest all that I had done in my life. I begged God to change me, and I found myself crying and praying to Him while reading these words in Ephesians. "But now through Christ Jesus, you who once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ." I was so far away. I was running towards evil when God brought a book on Christian dating into my life in order to draw me to Him. I was ignoring the many times He got my attention growing up only to serve the gods I had created in my life. I was doing anything but glorifying Him and yet He was pursuing me over and over. He was graciously pursuing me not because I was pursuing Him. He wasn't pleased with what I was doing and yet He looked at me as a deeply broken sinner and showed me to the glory, forgiveness, and fullness of life found in Jesus alone.
My story has been anything but easy since then. I was sinful then, and I am sinful now. Through God's grace, He continues to sanctify and transform me. He disciplines me with the love of a perfect father who cares far deeper about me than I can fully comprehend. He draws me in to His throne of grace reminding me over and over again it is not I who live but Christ who now lives in me. He has brought me out of my darkness, shame, guilt, and pain and restored me back to being an adopted daughter in His kingdom. I recently lost my job in the middle of a pandemic, and I can say I have full peace and joy not because I am confident in my talents and capabilities. I can say my joy, peace, and hope are full because as I look back on this sinner who gave of herself to the lesser and false gods of this world, God swept me up and pressed me into His heart showing me I am not enough, but what Christ did is. I don't have to have it all together or figured out. I don't need to go searching for the best version of me because I already have my identity in Christ. My identity is not contingent on me having all the wealth, fame, a husband, or notoriety in the world. My identity is in the fact that I am blessed now because Christ was cursed for our sake.
My hope is in Christ because I can say from first-hand experience that all the things I did and others did to me never satisfied the deep aching in my soul to be fully known and fully loved. I know now, that as I am both fully known and fully loved, I have hope in not knowing it all. I have hope in knowing that He who created the 2 trillion galaxies also knows all the hairs on my head (Matthew 10:30, Luke 12:7). He who created the Milky Way with all its 150-400 billion stars looked down on me, a sinner, and opened my eyes to the most glorious gift of Jesus Christ my savior; my hope. My hope lies now in Christ alone because there is no other solid rock on which I can stand that won't at some point crumble. I sit here writing this story, to share with you the hope that lies in me. It's not because I chose Him, but because He chose me. I pray you read just a glimpse of my story and see that God doesn't just save those who have it all together. I sit here today still sinful and broken, but the difference now is that through Christ I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1). By God's grace, my life looks completely different now. What I once thought would satisfy, no longer interests me. I am imperfect and will continue to fall short of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, but through His grace, I am continually grown into a woman who loves God and His word more than I do anything in this world. Through Jesus, I am made new. I have hope because I am saved through grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone. There is nothing better than being loved by Him who is Himself love. I am now free to let go of my desire to be perfect, successful, or seen by those around me and can now rest in His plan to use all that He made me to be for His glory and my good.
"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him." (Colossians 2:6)
It is not I, but now Christ who lives in me. For that, I have all the hope I need.
P.S. I wrote a book on my journey to God and life thereafter, and I look forward to hopefully sharing it with you soon.