After I graduated high school I had two choices: join the military or live with my mom - whom I didn’t have a great relationship with at all - and attend community college in my hometown. The reason being, staying at home with my dad and step mom while going to school wasn’t an option. I didn’t want to go to either. I desired to go to college but my parents didn’t want to support me because they were afraid of signing a Parent - PLUS Loan especially with the possibly of them thinking I could get pregnant. As defeated and hopeless as I was, I chose to live with my mom. At least attending community college would be better than not going at all.
One thing I remember my dad asked me the night before I left to fly out of Texas was something along the lines of how he could have been a better parent, and being his firstborn he had higher hopes for me. I just felt heartbroken. I felt alone as my parents were telling me I needed to change, but I had no idea how to do that. All these questions and thoughts filled my head like, “What’s wrong with me?” “Why don’t I listen?” “I’m not enough,” “I always mess up,” and the list goes on and on. I didn’t have a rough childhood, but my parents’ divorce crushed me when I was in fifth grade, and I didn’t understand it. There was constant drama from my mom with the pressure of having to ask her questions through email about why she wouldn't do what she was legally obligated to do by my father. It was stressful and gut wrenching.
I’ve always been a people pleaser. I craved attention and praise from people, especially from my dad. As much as I disappointed him by being sneaky, writing notes to friends on how to lie to my dad, wanting to do things with my friends I knew I had no business doing, I longed to make him proud of me. I remember as I was getting ready for prom my senior year, I asked my mom, instead of my step mom, to buy my dress. My dad was so mad at me, and my step mom was hurt because she wanted to share that special time looking at dresses with me. I thought that they would want me to email my mom eventually about helping me financially afford it. So when I received the lecture of why I was inconsiderate, I told my best friend about how I wanted to kill myself because I couldn’t seem to do anything right. That’s just one example of feeling the weight of having to say and do things right.
I didn’t attend college that year in 2011 because of particular legal circumstances. I was extremely bitter and jealous of everyone who was in college who seemed to be having the time of their life while I was in a suburban town working literally all year, with no driver’s license, feeling very lonely.
One particular person who gave me attention was a guy I used to work with who wanted to date me long distance. I knew I had no business talking to him, but I did anyway. It’s interesting how we tell ourselves the things we won’t do, but if we’re desperate enough, we end up doing those exact things because we desire to be loved and wanted. I didn’t have any firm foundation to encourage me, no community to hold me accountable, just me and my feelings; that led to me losing my virginity and ultimately my relationship with my dad. He wouldn’t talk to me at all, and I felt completely lost. I literally felt like my heart had snapped in two. To him, not talking to me and cutting all ties was his way of me growing up, but it only left me even more vulnerable and broken.
I applied for the 2013 school year in college and got accepted to Texas Women’s University, but I needed a place to live before I started school. My parents wouldn’t let me stay with them, especially while I was with the guy I was dating. I don’t know what was going through my head, but I couldn’t break up with him because I wanted to make him happy and not cause him to not like me anymore. So I asked my best friend if I could stay with her parents. They accepted, only on the terms that I would attend church with them every Sunday until it was time for me to leave. I was petrified.
My best friend’s mom, who I now call Mommy, sent me a devotional and study Bible. I attempted to read it with the “help” of my boyfriend who was a supposed Christian, but he got mad at me when I asked questions about the Bible that I didn’t understand. He was one of those guys that said he was a Christian, but was ok living his life the way he wanted to. By the time I moved back to Texas, the first Sunday came and I felt like I had to put on a front like I been at church my whole life because I didn’t want anyone to judge me. But it was that day I heard the Gospel for the first time, and I walked up during the altar call to my best friend’s dad, who is a deacon, and I wept in his arms as he embraced me.
There is a God who will never leave me nor forsake me. A heavenly Father who loves even when I fall short of His perfection. The wrath of God was rightfully directed at me, but because Jesus took on my sins on the cross; fear of man, people pleasing, premarital sex, envy, shame, they are now crucified with Him. Because of Jesus I am enough, I am forgiven of all of my wrongdoing. I was covered in filthy, bloody, mangled rags but my Father in Heaven takes them off and clothes me in His robes of righteousness.
Freedom is mine. My chains of bondage - the burdens of having to be better - are broken, and the fact that I’m made new in Christ is real. As I look back on my life just four years ago what comes into my head is, “But God.”
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:7-8
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and portion forever. - Psalm 73:26
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. – Ephesians 2:4-5
Very soon after I gave my life to Christ my desires changed. I no longer wanted to be in that meaningless relationship, so through much effort I got out of it. I sought after my Heavenly Father every day, desiring to know more about Him and fill myself with His truth. As I searched, I came across this scripture:
For I have to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. - Matthew 10:35-39
Jesus is not saying we have to literally hate our family, but if we love our family more than God – if we love anyone or anything more than God - it becomes an idol in our hearts and replaces God where He should rightfully be. Because truthfully our Abba Father is the only one who satisfies our souls, everything else is garbage, dung, compared to knowing Christ intimately (Philippians 3:8). Nothing else can fill us up with pure joy the way God does, and I’ve gradually had to open my enclosed hand of idolatry when it comes to my family in order that Christ would reign in every part of my life.
Not a day goes by where I don’t have to constantly hold every thought captive and make it submit to the authority of the scriptures when the devil wants to feed me lies and my flesh wants to feed its sinful desires (2 Corinthians 10:5). I guard myself with the armor of God, seek God in His Word, and pray. I have friends and a husband who I confess to, who pray for me, who know my life intimately, and are my best friends because they hold me accountable to what Jesus has done. My Father, my Daddy God has saved me from death, and the simple Gospel message is that Christ died for our sins - those things that keep us away from God - but rose again on the third day that we would enter the throne of His grace. And He wants to give you this freedom of not having to seek approval from anyone because He’s approved you. What a sweet, sweet Father we have that no matter what, nothing can separate us from the love He has for us for those who are in Christ Jesus.