Last week I started a new 5:30 am workout routine, and it has been one of the greatest decisions I have EVER made! No lie. Although my body fights waking up so early, after my work out I stay energized through out the day and I have my evenings free. I pinched a nerve in my neck today and was immediately frustrated because I’ve been so consistent, and now I would have to take some time out to recover. I hate getting out of the routines I have worked so hard to create, but I find this it the best time to take a moment and look back on how far I’ve come. It’s easy to forget where it all started. So while I sit here with a bag of frozen spinach on my neck (it worked better than ice), I decided to take some time to write about my journey:
Since I am going into my senior year of college and about to become a “real adult”, I’ve decided to go back to my mom’s house and get my life together while saving up some money before my next big move. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my life in college, what God has done in it, and to decide what’s next. I can’t believe almost five years ago I was planning to go to school with my soon to be fiancé. We had our lives planned together and yet something still didn’t feel right. I remember being in that season thinking that this should be one of the most exciting times of my life, and yet when alone I was tormented with the reminder of my low self esteem. Though as alone as I felt at that time, I know I’m not the only person that’s experienced that.
So how did I get here?
My brokenness didn’t just happen over night, it came from years of mental wear and tear. I had a major obsession with Disney Princesses when I was young and wanted nothing more than to be like one. Princesses were beautiful, important, and loved by everyone but I did not feel this way. I did not feel like I was good or pretty enough to deserve the happy life they had. I was constantly affirmed of my negative feelings as the decisions of the broken people around me continued to shatter my heart. By the time I reached 8th grade I made a decision to
never let people hurt me again, and I started down a road of destructive habits (drugs, alcohol, boys, etc). My bad decisions escalated to the point of getting arrested for shop lifting my freshman year of high school.
I finally had a transitional moment in my life when my best friend sat me down and began to tell me that God had a plan for my life. Even though he wasn’t the most religious guy, I still promised him I would strive to do something better with my life. Not even 24 hours later, he was murdered due to gang violence. As I’m writing this in the very same place I made my promise to him, I can remember my hopeless depression and total heart break. With the death of my friend weighing on me I began to believe brokenness was mine to keep forever. Less than a year later, I lost another one of my very close friends. Now looking at death in the face once again I found myself at a crossroads with a pressing decision I had to make. Continue this life of pain and emptiness or search for something else. I cried for days as I thought about the words of my best friend trying to convince me to be more than I was. With all of these terrible events happening around me I decided to make some changes. Not knowing much about Christianity or all that went into it, I decided to take up an offer to visit a friends church. I expected to hear something that would make me feel good about my situation and pat me on the back, but I experienced something much more meaningful. For the very first time in my life, I experienced the sweet presence of Jesus. And due to this life changing night I gave my life to Christ.
The real story starts.
I wish I could say everything changed for me over night. I wish I could say life got easier. But I would be lying. Over the next couple of years, I would work through a lot of hurts and wrong perspectives. I would also face new challenges. I did not know much about the decision that I made that night but I knew that every time I went to church, the presence of God would meet me. The experiences I was having were amazing but I continued to live the only way I knew how. I gradually made changes in my lifestyle but I didn’t fully get real with God for another year. He had so much grace for me y’all! At the end of my senior year of high school, I truly gave God my whole heart. This included my plans, my pains, and the people around me. I knew I needed a fresh start so I made the decision to move to Louisiana. The day before I left, I remember God telling me “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.” (Genesis 12:1-2). At that moment I knew I was not just leaving my home, but I was leaving my old life for good. I had no idea what my future would hold, but I felt it had purpose for the first time.
As I sit in my living room and reflect on the opportunities and experiences that I’ve had since that day I encountered Jesus in that small church building, I realize I’ve gotten here because of love. More than God wanted me to stop sinning, to stop working hard for approval, and keep an impossible image of perfection, He wanted to actively love me as His precious daughter. I did not find relief from my pain and anger because that’s what I was supposed to do as a Christian (believe me, I tried). Instead, I discovered a never ending process of learning to accept the patient love and forgiveness of Christ. Sometimes it gets hard to see myself as “precious” when I compare myself to others, hold on to my failure, or get disappointed. But as I remember my old life on this hot summer day, my heart is overwhelmed with the freedom I’ve found in the love I’ve learned to receive.
“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”