Photo Credit: Matt Seal
Today I want to get a little more personal. There have been many things on my heart that I always bounce back and forth with; to share or not to share. Today I decided to share a little bit of my life, a little bit of my heart (which is scary). If you don’t like long posts I would stop reading now. But if you want to know more about me: the good, the bad, and the ugly and how God has worked in my life — continue reading.
I don’t know how many of you heard of hurricane Katrina. I’m sure if you are from the states you heard about it, but for those of you who haven’t, it was a massive category 5 storm that went straight over my hometown in August of 2005.
I remember the time so vividly. Living on the water many hurricanes have threatened my home but we never thought much about it. Growing up we would hear that there was a huge storm but we would stay in our house until it passed over. Why would this time be any different? Naturally I didn’t think much of it.
I was dead asleep in my room and I remember my mom frantically coming in to wake me up. She shook me awake saying, “Get up we have to leave now.” What did she mean we have to leave? I didn’t have anything packed. Was I suppose to just get in the car with myself? The answer is yes. We walked out to my dad’s truck and the streets were already filling with water. I knew this wasn’t good. We simply drove. We had no where to go but we knew we needed to get to safety. Eventually we ended up in Texas and decided to call it a day. We got a hotel room and hoped to get rest.
The next morning my mom turned on the news. The first thing they showed that morning was my neighborhood. The water was up to the roofs on many of the houses. I was too young to understand the gravity of all of this but as I watched my mom break down and cry I knew something was seriously wrong.
About a week later we were able to return home. My dad went home first to clean up just a little so my younger brother and I wouldn’t see anything that was too much for a small child to handle. My school was gone, my house was ruined, everything in my life was turned upside down.
After two months of house hopping, sleeping on people’s sofas, and not going to school my mom decided it was time for my brother and I to go back to school. My brother and I started at a new school and it was horrible. I was the new girl who had nothing. Needless to say making friends wasn’t easy.
A little back story. Growing up God wasn’t really part of my life. I went to Catholic school to get a better education but my family didn’t practice the faith. I knew God existed but I just figured he wasn’t for me.
After all of this happened with the storm I knew one thing. If God really existed I hated him. I absolutely, positively hated him. How could this good God let something so horrible happen.
I went on a mission to make new friends. I would go to any length to fit in. Whatever all the “cool” kids were doing I decided I would do too. I began to break rules, to go against my parents wishes, to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted because that is how I made friends. By impressing the “cool” kids.
I did this for about four years and I finally had everything I wanted. I had a group of friends, I was well liked, I was on the cheer team, etc. But with all of that I had pretty much lost the respect of my parents. I was always fighting with them and hurting my mom. I so vividly remember her looking at me one day and saying, “what the hell happened to you.” I looked back at her and said, “I don’t care about you and dad. I have everything I need without you.”
The pain I caused my family caused me so much pain (even though I would never admit that to them). It got to a point where this internal pain demanded external pain and just like that my eight year struggle with self harm began. I was lost and hurting. This went on through most of high school.
Towards the end of high school I decided to try the whole church thing. Everyone who was involved in youth group seemed really happy and I was pretty much desperate. I went weekly and I grew to really like it, but I was one foot in and one foot out. I was living two lives.
At the end of high school I decided to go to a big state school. I wanted to live the life I had always dreamed of. Sororities, football games, parties, and all the other things that go with a big school. Once again, I got everything I had every dreamed of. I got a bid from a sorority, I was invited to parties, I went to all the football games, and God went out the window.
My struggles came back full force. I was so unhappy. I decided to transfer to a small Catholic school a good ways away from home. I thought surely my problems would be fixed here. I would be surrounded by prayer and good people so how could my life not be perfect there?
I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was the same person. My struggles didn’t go away. This time I was ready to give up on God. I decided to give him one more chance. I walked to the little side chapel on campus, sat down, look straight at the cross and was like, “Okay God. I’m here. I’m about ready to give up on you because you don’t seem to listen to me or care. What’s the deal?” I sat there for about thirty minutes and nothing. I stared at the crucifix one last time, ready to get up and in that moment I heard this faint whisper in my heart, “Do you see the scraps on my knees, those are from all the times I have spent kneeled down begging you to come back to me.”
I knew in that moment that there was a God, that he was very much real, and that he had heard every word I had ever said to him. He was patiently waiting for me to make the choice on my own to run back to him. I knew my life had to change.
Now I would be lying if I said my life was perfect after that moment. I’m still a broken human who struggles just like everyone else. It was a long road to healing and overcoming things that were a part of my life for so long. But through all of this one verse stood out to me, “Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint.” – Romans 5:3-5.
We boast of our afflictions. Our struggles, our hardships make us who we are. Without struggles how would we have hope? And how beautiful hope is, it does not disappoint. After this moment in the chapel I grew so close to Christ crucified. See, Christ wasn’t taped to the cross. It wasn’t like he could come down when it started to hurt too bad. He wasn’t up there for five minutes and then gave up. He was literally nailed to the cross and endured suffering to his last breath.
Sometimes that is the reality of our sufferings. Sometime it is something that is out of our control. Sometimes we have to endure it to our last breath. But how beautiful is that. How beautiful that in our suffering we are so closely united to Christ on the cross.
Friends, we rejoice in our suffering. We rejoice in hope. We rejoice in the gift of this life.