The story you haven't heard
I want to share my faith story with you...from the beginning. Up until now, there were probably only 3 or 4 people in the whole world who knew how my faith story really began. It was too ugly to tell. But I think I've finally gotten over the ugliness in light of how good God has proven Himself to be through my story. Most people have heard me talk about my faith story since I turned 22 years old. But I never talked much about what happened before that. When I was 22 years old, I made great strides in faith and in life, and people seem to think I'm some kind of heavyweight champion in faith. But that's certainly not how this all started. I think I was too ashamed of the nitty-gritty details and the loose gravel road I journeyed down.
But now it's time to speak up.
My faith story began when I was 10 or 11 years old. Up until 10, I was a preacher's kid growing up in a rough household. There was church twice a week that was overshadowed by the fighting and chaos 7 days a week. From the inside of churches, I saw politics, discord, and all kinds of petty things. I've witnessed the congregation-splitting carpet battle (red or green - WWJD? #amiright) at a number of churches...no joke. I watched people with NO faith gather like you would expect to see at a country club. Rub elbows. Pat shoulders. Fake, fake, fake, fake, fake... The church, in my young mind, was useless and irrelevant. More accurately, church people were petty and irrelevant. But that was redeemed by my admiration for my dad, the greatest preacher on earth. I watched him struggle to encourage a faithless bunch in church each week. I watched his undying discipline to praying everyday - not the "God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food" kind of prayers. (We've all been there...) But I watched my dad pray for an hour or so every single day of my entire young life. I watched him search the Scriptures to create the most accurate message he could. I remember how he kept a filing cabinet 5 feet tall of sermon illustrations and jokes, organized by subject matter. Can you imagine the discipline it took to do that?? (I find myself hardly keeping up with my blogging twice a month. Haha!) Anyway, I grew up with great respect for my dad, but not a real understanding of faith. At least not how I see it today. The faith I know today is alive, active, and life-changing. What I thought I knew of faith is that it was a small affirmation inside that everything would be alright. I would need that affirmation throughout the first part of my story, but I would need much more to move through the next chapter in life.
At 10 years old, the baby girl of the family, the daughter of a preacher, and the overall good girl, I was dealt a tough blow. At 10 years old, my parents divorced. I was beyond distraught. I was unable to be comforted by any hope for the future. How could that happen to my family?? Sure, my parents screamed at each other every day, but isn't that normal? Doesn't that happen in every family? I had no idea of a reality outside of that. At 10 years old, I remember testifying about which parent I wanted to live with. At 10 years old, I was ripped out of my life and forced to live in a life I found completely foreign and unreal. I didn't easily recover from that. I prayed it wouldn't happen. I prayed I would wake up from the nightmare. I had faith, but my faith...failed.
It was at 11 years old when I first met God in a real and undeniable way. I remember sitting on my bedroom floor, hopeless and depressed, without any sign of a glimmer of brightness in my future. All I saw was BLACK. Like being buried alive. Technically alive, but practically dead. I tried the only thing I thought would fix it all. I tried to kill myself. I thought it was the only way to a better future. I believed in heaven, and I believed if I died, I would go to heaven. And I believed God wouldn't fault me if He really saw what I was going through. But thank God it didn't work. You see, I was a sheltered child. I wasn't even allowed to watch Nickelodeon at this point in time. And because I was sheltered, I didn't even know how to commit suicide. Thank God!
But the thing that stopped me from doing any more damage was the presence of God in my dark room and even darker heart. I felt God in a tangible way saying:
"I love you"
That's all it took. I dropped my weapon of choice along with my hopelessness and laid it all down at the throne of God. I dropped my rage. I dropped my depression. I dropped my distrust. It was God's voice - not heard with ears - but felt in my spirit. And I knew He was there with me in my wretched circumstances, even while I was trying to take my own life. He was there. It wasn't too dark a hole for Him. It wasn't unfathomable to Him. It wasn't too ugly for Him. No. When God came into my soul, He reached into my depravity with unflinching compassion and said, "I love you". Nothing more, nothing less. But I didn't need to know more. I didn't need to know that I wouldn't have any more troubles, and I didn't need to know His grand plan to fix every awful circumstance of my life. His declaration of love was a love I never found again in anyone else. It is unlike any person's - family, fiancée, or friend's - version of love. It was beyond. I can't really describe it besides to say it was enough to assure me that there was hope for a better future, and that He was going to be with me through all of my circumstances.
There are very few people who can say so much without saying much at all. Think about it. When you talk to your boss or colleagues, your distant relatives, or your light acquaintances, you really have to say a lot to say anything at all. You have to over-qualify your statements and repeat yourself to be understood. But as you become close to people, your words become less because your mutual understanding fills the gap that words can't fill. Trust takes simple words and plumps their meaning. So when God said "I love you" and I knew it was Him...and HIS love...and His love for me..it was enough. I needed nothing more.
That was the birthplace of my faith. I suddenly became aware deep down in my heart that God was with me - in my dark, hopeless circumstances, God was with me. Emmanuel...It means God is with us. It means that no matter how far we run from Him, no matter how deep in the grave we feel, He will be with us. Emmanuel is His name, but it's also His promise to never leave us.
I can honestly say that was the only time I ever tried to harm myself. I wouldn't say I'm suicidal, but I haven't looked into the technicalities of what that term really means. In hindsight, I recognize the one time when I really hit rock bottom, but I know I will never go back there, because God found me. And I cannot possibly ever feel that hopeless since I know the true hope-giver now.
What I can say is that no matter what life throws at you, and no matter how deep and dark your secrets, God will be with You. He is looking for you. He wants to know you. He's been pining for you throughout your entire life. But He knocks and waits. Some people answer His knock, and some don't. I'm so glad I did. It has changed EVERYTHING!!! There's not a single part of me that hasn't been changed by His pure, unconditional love. It affects the way I see myself - as loved by the most high God. It affects the way I see other people - also loved by God. It affects the way I see my purpose - to spread the love of God. It affects the way I see my future - so much better and brighter because of His love.
Wherever you are right now, I pray that you feel the love of God around you. I pray that you hear Him knocking on the door of your heart, calling your name, asking to be invited in. And I pray that you answer. I can promise you - anyone reading this - that it will change everything.