At the tail end of my senior year of high school, life for me was anything and everything but okay. My life was in shambles with health, relationships, you name it. I had a sense of rejection and unworthiness from family, friends, church family, and God.
I was in this season of one huge shit storm. Life was just bringing typhoon after typhoon with what felt like no way out. I remember praying to God for answers, praying for God to resolve conflict, praying for God to heal, praying to God for peace, praying to God for everything I did not have in that season.
I was an active member of my youth group. But no one reached out to me to check up on me once I all of a sudden stopped attending group on Wednesdays. I felt abandoned by my brothers and sisters in Christ, people I had invested so much time and effort into.
I was angry and I felt forgotten. Why couldn't I be invested in like that by others? What Christian would just push you to the side when life gets hard? Why did I only matter to that group of people if things in my life were going okay?
I prayed every night for God to resolve the issues during that season. He was silent. I felt like I was forgotten by God because in this season I could not hear or see him. He was nowhere to be found through my blind human eyes. Now, reflecting back on this time, he was answering my prayers just in ways I could not see, funny how he works that way sometimes.
After I graduated high school, I was in this season of being angry towards God and his church. I wanted nothing to do with Christianity, religion, faith - you name it, I did not want it. I wanted to be far from it. I rebelled in any way I could. But I did not want anyone around me to know I was done with Christianity. So I faked it until I made it - it was exhausting.
Going into my freshman year of college, I was still in this stage. I knew how to pretend to be a Christian if the social setting prompted it. I was still angry with God because even into my freshman year I was still struggling with the same issues.
Then one night in March of my second semester, I was sitting at a popular spot on campus, eating dinner with a friend when this crazy, bold woman walked up to me and had the audacity to hand me a flyer inviting me to Easter. At first, my thought process was oh heck no, I am not attending. Church on Easter was the last place I wanted to be.
But the Lord knew that was where exactly I was supposed to be that day. As she handed me the invitation, the name "Lacey Sturm", former lead singer of Flyleaf, jumped out on the invitation. I asked what Lacey Sturm was doing at the Easter service, for Lacey is one of my favorite female artists out there (if you have not listened to her, I have ever so graciously linked her Spotify here).
She explained that she had no idea who Lacey Sturm was but that she was just going to be a special guest for their Easter service. I said I would love to go (only for Lacey, but I wasn't going to tell her that); however, I did not have means of transportation. She gave me another bold and courageous woman of God phone number and said to text her to get a ride.
So there I was on Good Friday, texting some random stranger for a ride to a church service I was only attending so that I could possibly meet one of my all-time favorite artists. Next thing I knew, I was sitting in the back of a piled car on my way to church Easter Sunday.
As I walked in I was greeted by so many friendly faces, strangers who wanted to know all about me. And I knew how to fake it, I played it off as if I hadn't had the chance to get plugged into a church since I am from out of town - and we all know that was far from the truth.
I was getting exhausted faking it. I really was only there to see Lacey. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Funny story, she ended up not being able to go to the service - so my entire plan had unraveled in my hands. Now, I was stuck at a church on Easter Sunday.
I do not remember the sermon taught that morning other than it is about Jesus being raised back to life. But I do remember the people. The people who saw this random, broken girl and wanted to invest in her.
It made me uncomfortable. Because at this Church, I could not just fade into the background. I couldn't keep up with faking it.
After that Sunday, I was like well, I did it. I went to church, I didn't die, but that is never happening again - especially there. I knew they would be able to sniff out my game fairly quickly if I continued to attend.
But the Lord knew that was just the community I needed to be in and he used these amazing, faithful women on my campus to be intentional with me. They kept inviting me back to church. And I kept saying yes because at the time I would have two random strangers inviting to Church. It's harder to say no if you've got multiple people asking you to go.
Now those two wonderful women are dear friends that I value and cherish greatly.
The Lord dragged me into a community I had so desperately been needing all this time. A community I could be honest with. A community who invests in me in the hard and good times. A community who knows what Church means.
The Lord knew my heart. He knew my weakness for bands and my love for music. He knew exactly what it would take to get me back into a Church. He was screaming at me to come back home.
That was a year ago. That cover photo I cherish so dearly because it marks the day the Lord left the 99 to come running after my cold, broken heart and bring me to healing.
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
And in that, he surrounded me with a community of people who are just as messy as I was and still am. He surrounded me with imperfect people moved by the perfect love of Christ (which so happens to be the slogan for the church).
He called me back home. Yes, life is still messy, but life is always going to be messy.
Being a Christian does not mean life is rainbows and butterflies. Anyone who tells you that is a liar. Life is just as difficult and messy as someone who walks without faith. Life is going to be hard until the day we get to see Jesus face to face.
Until then, all you can do is surround yourself in a community of believers who will walk with you day by day. A lesson that I had always known, but had to learn the hard way.
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
And if you need a community or a church, service is on Sundays 10 am at Phoenix Christian Preparatory School off of Indian School. Easter Sunday services are at 9 am and 11 am.