I grew up in a faith where I did not feel at home and connected with the Lord. I kept questioning the church’s rules I had been instructed to follow in order to be a “good Christian”. I felt like obedience was the focus. Having a one-on-one relationship with the Lord was not the priority. It seemed like I had to go through someone else to get to God. Everything felt very on the surface and without heart; the church was filled with blank, emotionless faces.
Like a sheep, I followed the herd and took all the classes I was supposed to do in order to surrender my life to Christ. During the last night of a church retreat, the staff members performed an emotional play of God’s love for his children. I cannot remember all the details, but I remember how I felt. It was the first time I had ever felt close to God. Seeing God’s love acted out for us allowed me to truly feel it for the first time and broke a barrier the church built around my heart and allowed me to know and experience God in a way I had yet to. I was ready to give my life to Christ, but was still unaware of how quickly I could turn my back on him.
As I slowly built a stronger relationship with God, I was also growing a stronger relationship with my best male friend. We became more than friends, fell in love, and he became the center of my life. He had turned away from God at a young age. He came from a broken family and no longer believed in God’s amazing grace. My faith was not as strong as I thought and I had let my world revolve around a lost and broken soul that brought me down into darkness.
I felt completely alone. I was miserable and unloved. I did things I was ashamed of. I felt like I had betrayed God. I was sure I no longer had a purpose and I allowed my boyfriend to try to make me feel whole. I ran as far away as possible from the Lord and turned my back to him because of my shame. I even stopped going to church. I did not want to feel guilty of what I had done.
While I was running from God, I was struggling to be accepted by my family. Growing up, I often felt like my feelings (and at times my entire existence) was shoved aside for my siblings. Just like the church, at home I was met with blank faces and surface conversations. There were no true or deep emotions, just secret lives lived behind closed doors.
My parents were strict and had high expectations for me and my siblings and I often felt like I was a failure. My sister even tried to end her life but, by the grace of God, I found her in time and she is still with us today. This shook our family to the core and that moment still affects me every time I think about it. This tragic incident made my parents less strict, but the pain and the memory were buried in order to move on.
I did not have a family to turn to or a sister to share my pain, heartache, or even joys so I clung closer to my boyfriend. Falling in love with him was easy. He showed me affection and made me feel loved and worthy. I adopted his perspective, believing that if I just did the “right thing” then everything would be okay.
As the years went by, it felt like my roots I had planted in the Lord long ago were slowly being chipped away. I was losing sight of my purpose, my dreams, and myself. My eyes were not set on God but were constantly focused on trying to mend an unhealthy relationship with someone who did not understand or uplift me.
One day, while I was driving, I broke down sobbing, trying to figure out why I was so unhappy and disconnected from everything and everyone. I texted one of my best friends who I thought had an amazing life. She was happy and incredibly blessed so surely she had the answers. She told me it was all because of God. That answer sparked something within me.
Maybe God was present and maybe, just maybe, he even knew my pain.
I knew I had to repair my relationship with God but I didn’t know how or where to begin. I started to spend more time with him; I was kind of reintroducing myself to him. But the truth is, he was always there. He already knew my heart and had already forgiven me. I just had to forgive myself.
I used to stare at people during worship, confused yet in awe of how emotional they would get while praising God. They would kneel with arms open wide to heaven, they would cry and jump with joy. It was all foreign to me since I grew up in an emotionless church. It was only when I completely surrendered my life to Christ that I finally felt what they were all feeling. It took only one song to change me and to remove my veil of shame and guilt. When they played “I Am Set Free” by All Sons and Daughters during worship, I was completely changed. As I started to sing the words the veil of shame and guilt was removed from me.
“You broke my chains of sin and shame
And you covered me with grace
And you mend my life with your holy fire
You cover me with grace
I am set free”
In that moment, I felt God wrap His arms around me and literally felt all the weight of my sin and shame break and fall to the floor as love and grace overwhelmed my soul and mended me whole. I was changed forever.
I was baptized to celebrate my new journey with Christ. I have never felt more complete, loved, worthy, and more at home since I came running back to the Lord. I am more carefree, loving, confident, and genuinely happier with God back in my life. He is the first person I go to for my pain, struggles, uneasiness and even when I am just thankful.
When I was not rooted in the Lord, I found love, comfort, satisfaction, and worth in things and people that could never make me whole. I tried to take control of my life, pushing God to the side, but his love patiently pursued me. He remained constant and his arms were always opened wide to me, even when I rejected him again and again.
Since my return back to God, I have felt this desire to pour his love onto others, even those who have hurt me. Of course this is never easy, but I have surrounded myself with friends who know and feel God’s love and grace. They constantly steer me to God’s word and truth, drowning out the lies of the enemy.
I am at a point in my life where I keep asking God “what now?” I am always ready for the next step in my walk through Christ. My eagerness sometimes turns into impatience but the Lord keeps me grounded and I continue to enjoy the life God has blessed me with. I am reminded to take this journey with him one step at a time.
How has God changed your life? How has he changed how you see yourself?
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