Write My Story Series
I remember growing up in an environment where God was spoken of by those close to me. Whether it be prayers and stories of angels with my mom or aunt, attending Lutheran church, or the mix of Lutheran classes and Catholic discussions, I had at least heard mentions of God and who He might be. I mean, there are even people in my family who are nuns. So, much of my upbringing was in more of an orderly and traditional setting with regards to church.
I was even an acolyte at a Lutheran church for some time. For those of you who aren't aware what that is, basically it's where you participate in the worship service by carrying a processional cross or crucifix, lighting and extinguishing the altar candles, and ringing the church bell to call the congregation to worship. I had heard about God and been involved at a church, but I hadn't really recognized fully who He was and that He desired to have a relationship with me.
Even at a young age, I always knew God was near me. Moreover, I knew He was protecting me. Infiltrated with situations that no child should ever experience, I began to have my eyes opened to some of the evils and hardships in the world. With a dad who subjected me to being around hard drugs, alcohol, guns, and really incredibly dangerous people, I often was in situations where only the protection from God could have kept me safe. I remember even at the age of 5 talking to God directly. Out of the mentions from family members about being responsible for our souls, I felt the weight of how that wasn't a responsibility I could bear. Because of that, I remember feeling the need to talk to God saying..
"God, I am giving this to you because it is not safe with me. Because things can be taken from me, but it is safe with you. It can't be tricked or taken from you. Nothing can be taken from you so I give it to you to hold onto for always - it is yours."
I'm not sure if I grasped how profound those words were at five, but I knew God was near me even from a young age. I can look back now and see much of what I was around and my ability to still be here is only as a result of God's miraculous hands. Like many, I succumbed to the alluring pressures of this world, ultimately conforming to it rather than transforming it by the way I lived. As partying and a promiscuous lifestyle led also to depression and suicidal thoughts, I found myself in a place where inflicting self harm through cutting had become a 'norm' over my life. One drunken night became another drunken night, and much of my life looked like a party, sleeping around, and deep depression. Ultimately, it all led to a place where losing my life felt better than being in it.
There I was, placed on suicide watch. This is where my life was? Deciding to kill myself and being on 'watch' to ensure that I didn't actually end it? Even then, God was working in my life. Through Christians, non-Christians, and a dog named Nahla I began to regain pieces of where my journey had found itself. Even though I wasn't pursuing a life that aimed to glorify Him, He was still relentlessly pursuing me; pursuing me in a way unique to both my circumstances and the fact He knew me better than I knew myself. The hairs on my head are numbered, and through His pursuit of me I can see that He knows me that well. So well, He brought exactly what I needed in seasons to be drawn back to Him. Through His divine grace and love, He drew me out of that suicidal season and helped saved me from myself.
Even after all of that, it was still hard to leave the life of partying behind. The attraction was great, the lifestyle was comfortable and what I knew, and ultimately I continued on with that way of life while I worked and went to school. Eventually, I found myself dropped out of school thinking that missions work is where my life was leading. I remember feeling frustrated at God for shutting every door I thought should be opened in order for me to do missions works. Ultimately, His plan was greater. Now, I can see how even with what felt like a 'good' door being shut, eventually led me closer to the true heart of our loving Father. But at the time, I was frustrated. I was frustrated not just because the door to missions was shut over and over but because I felt He had forgot about giving me the purpose or job that I watched others have. Was I not worthy of a 'purpose?' Why was I overlooked? These thoughts continually led me back to a life of destruction and temporary satisfactions of the world.
Desperately feeling I needed to leave the place that was both home and easily familiar to the calamitous decisions that had become inherent, I found myself moving to... Idaho. Thinking it was a fresh start, something new, and a way to escape what I was continually submersed in, I made the decision to move with my sister. Quickly, it became anything but that new start. Rather, my world was turned upside down in a way I never saw coming. Retaining my belief in God without fully grasping the heart of the Gospel and who He truly was, I felt almost in shambles. God truly operates on a different playing field. In our finite minds, we often want to control our circumstances. God, in His omnipresence and omniscience, knows and does exactly what we need in order to draw us closer to Him. In a time where my world was turned upside down, I now see it was so that He could turn it right side up - In right view of His glory, grace, character, and sovereignty.
Early upon moving to Idaho, my sister and I had found a church to attend as well. Although we went, I was cautious. I was cautious to involve myself too deeply in any sort of community. Actually, I wanted nothing to do with community. The 'community' I had experienced in churches prior to this one only left me with more scars than before. I thought, if this is what community is, I want nothing to do with it. Still believing in God and wanting to know Him, I continued to go to church. Even while attending church, the beginning of my journey in Idaho had been painful, dark, hard, and a whirlwind of other emotions difficult for me to convey. Last Christmas, I got the devastating news that no child, daughter, or family member wants to hear. To my ears dismay, my dad's parents called to tell me he had died. In order to go to the funeral, I used what little savings I had left. I went alone almost numb to what I was about to face. Unable to know what I would encounter going to the funeral of a man that introduced a lot of pain into my life, I went. I went because in my heart, I needed closure. Closure from what was already an awful situation made much worse by having to uncover a lie about how he died. After some research and looking into things myself, I had found out my dad committed suicide. This fresh start was feeling worse by the month.
This new season in Idaho has been one of complete chaos. Since moving to Idaho (which has only been a couple years), I have had 18 jobs, 3 cars, 1 bike, and I am at this exact moment.. displaced. In my desire to control my circumstances, I have felt frustrated yet again with God; feeling yet again, that what I believed to be true had been ripped out from under me. I begged God to show me who He truly was. "If you are what's true, show me," I cried out to Him.
Christians lives can sometimes be perceived and happy, joyful, and easy. When in reality, even as I believed in God and experienced Him in varying denominations, churches, and groups... my life was hard. Much of my story begs the question, why do you still have hope in Jesus? Even more, how did you get to the place where you are now experiencing a peace that truly surpasses understanding? Well, remember how community was the last thing I wanted upon moving to Boise? That's exactly what God used to draw me back to the hope and peace found in Jesus. A community that has had an immense impact on transforming my view both of God and who He says He is. God, operating on a different playing field, used exactly what I wanted to reject in order to draw me into His thrown of grace. As I wanted to control the life around me by pushing community out of my life, God continued to pursue me by drawing me to them.
Friends that gracefully answered my many questions, unwrapped my misconceptions on God and His word, and always pointed me back to the cross. Couples that listened to my many thoughts, hurts, ideas, and revelations from diving deeper into His word. A pastor who didn't get annoyed with my many theological questions but ultimately helped me find the amazing community of friends I have now. That same pastor that spent time creating a Bible study that taught me more of who God really was. More friends that didn't just have fun with me but poured into me over and over through the ups and downs that this season has brought me to. And ultimately, through crying out to God begging Him to show me what truth really was and Him so graciously and patiently showing me. He showed me that He is sovereign, good, holy, glorious, and ultimately there by me the entire time. Even now, as I am still walking through much of what is chaos, He continues to reveal more of Himself to me. He and the amazing community He blessed me with point me towards the actual truth of His word. As I study more of it, I continue to be drawn into the fullness of God's plan of redemption and salvation through Christ.
Is my life perfect now that I am coming under the fullness of who God and Jesus are? Absolutely not. As this blog is being written, I am still displaced as far as living. Although displaced physically, spiritually I have never been more secure. In Philippians 4:7, Paul talks of a peace that surpasses understanding as we are in Christ. In the verse, He talks about the peace of God. This characteristic of God surpasses understanding, Paul says. This peace, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus... to whom I have hope. I have hope now, in a season that has brought me some of my biggest hardships. I have hope because God in His faithfulness, brought me to a place where community that I wanted to reject pointed me to, taught me about, and drew me into true friendship based upon the truth of who Jesus is. Although my faith in God never went away in my years of destructive decisions and pain, I was unaware of that peace that Paul talks about. I have hope now because God, who is Himself peace that surpasses what is comprehensible, has pursued me even as I didn't pursue Him. Now, I have peace that surpasses understanding because I have hope in who Jesus is. Because of this, I am getting baptized soon knowing that it is not I who live but Christ who now lives in me.
Maybe my life looks a lot like yours. Maybe you made decisions that look anything but "Christian". Maybe you, too, search for truth. Well, God is your answer for hope too. He is truth, and He is good. It was hard for me to be willing to share these vulnerable parts of my story, but I reminded myself it is not my story to tell; it is God's. Because perhaps, in His gentle and relentless pursuit of me, He had a purpose the whole time to use all that I did and all that others did to me for both my good and His glory.
Note from the author: Thank you to this brave soul for sharing their story with me so that both Christians and non-Christians can see that hope in Jesus and relationship with God is not because of what we do, but because of God's pursuit of us. Thank you for being courageous and trusting me with your story.