Recently I was asked the question, "What is something I had to sacrifice, give up, heal, put in the past, in order to follow Christ?"
I have been fortunate enough to have a pretty easy life. The most traumatic thing to ever happen to me was my parents divorce and even that was handled better than most. I was never abused, exposed to drugs or alcohol, homeless, hungry, abandoned. So I did not have any built up anger or resentment towards anyone or anything, like it is in most situations when people run far away from God.
But if there is any part of my life where I was running in the complete opposite direction of Jesus, it would be in high school. High school is tough. People are judgmental, and rude. There are cliques. You have to find somewhere to fit in. If you're a loner, then people laugh. Every move you make it being critiqued. I guess because I have always been so insecure, my main concern was being accepted by the world, the people around me.
Parties were cool. Alcohol was cool. Sex was cool. Skipping class was cool. Not listening to your parents because we all thought we had it figured out, was cool. Not doing your work was cool. Talking back to teachers was cool. Gossip was cool. Drama was cool.
And that's what I found myself caught up in. But I never woke up the next morning with a horrible hangover from drinking and throwing up so much the night before and thought, "Wow, I can't wait to do that again!!" I never loved the consequences of being grounded when my mom caught me in a lie and said she couldn't trust me anymore. I didn't love the fact that my "friend" group wasn't friends at all but just a bunch of girls that smiled to each other's faces and talked horribly about them when they turned their back.
I was empty. So unbelievably empty. I couldn't go to youth group and whole heartedly surrender myself to Jesus in worship. I couldn't close my eyes and be authentic during a prayer. I was raised in church. I knew what was right and what was wrong, but I was selfish and prideful. How? Because I wanted to do what I thought would get me accepted, and have friends, and make me feel like I belonged somewhere. I didn't think my Father would take care of me. I was scared so I pushed Him away because I didn't want to look inside myself and face the skeletons in my closet.
I always make the comment to L.M. (my boyfriend) that I am glad he met me when he did, because that behavior I talked about continued right on up to two months before I met him.
In February of this year, I had just broken up with my latest boyfriend. The cause was due to unfaithfulness on his end. I can't even try to explain the ache my heart felt. I had been rejected by someone I loved. I wasn't good enough. I was broken. This was real heartbreak. The kind that makes your chest ache, and tears flow without warning. I had hit rock bottom. I had no one it felt like. But in that place of pain and desperation, I found God. I found love, comfort, peace, rest, trust, authenticity, joy, purity, acceptance, forgiveness, belonging, humbleness, friendship, freedom.. the list goes on and on.
In that moment, when my Father picked me up off my bedroom floor, smiled, hugged me, and told me how happy He was that I was His own, did I realize how completely foolish I had been. He wasn't mad at me. He wasn't disappointed at where I had been, or what I had done. He didn't care about anything but the fact that a lost sheep had made its way back to the flock. He told me He loved me far more than I could ever comprehend. He said He had already taken care of my burdens, my shame, my regrets, and mistakes. In fact, He had forgotten all about them.
Realizing how indescribably good my God was is what brought the change in me. He taught me how to forgive myself. He showed me that I was loved and accepted in Him, and that's all that mattered. He told me that yes, in this life I may be an outcast and walk alone, but it's totally worth it to feel His presence at every moment of the day. He showed me people that loved Him like I do. He gave me an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, and make new ones in the church. He gave me the courage to stand up for what I believe. He gave me motivation to work hard in school. He changed the desires of my heart to no longer want sex and alcohol, but be content with curling up on the couch with a cup of coffee, watching a movie, or reading a good book (yes I'm an old lady at heart). He even gave me the chance to write for this amazing website, The Odyssey.
I am never going back to where I was. I am abundantly blessed. He continually teaches me new things. He is present everywhere I look, and in everyone I come in contact with. He fills my life with good things. He makes me brave. He gives me strength. He is my rock, my protector. He is my loving and mighty Father, who walks hand in hand with me daily, minute by minutes, second by second, and still picks me up and dusts me off when I fall. He is my best friend. He is the only one worthy to judge me because He is perfect, but even in judgment, He is kind. My God does amazing things. And in awe of Him is what brought a change in me.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 3:12-14