I am terrified of heights. Not the kind of terrified where you scream on a rollercoaster, or breathe a little faster on a high cliff- I’m talking ugly tears, heart pounding, feelings of losing control and all that jazz. This fear keeps me on the ground, keeps me from climbing tall cliffs or experiencing awesome views because of the anxiousness associated with the possibility that maybe I could fall. And I think that fear translates into who I am and my story. I am afraid to take a leap of faith because what if possibly, maybe, I could fall?
I grew up with two older sisters, 4 years separating each of us. Most of my life my identity was “Ashley’s little sister” or “Brianna’s baby sister” whether it was in school, dance, church, or with our parents - I found myself constantly trying to fit in with them. Ashley and Brianna had 4 years prior to my existence to become best friends, so I labeled myself as the third wheel for most of my childhood - striving to be just like my older sisters in hopes that I could be friends with them.
I went to high school in Mason, Ohio with a graduating class of around 900. I felt that my identity was in being likeable - it didn’t matter what grades I got or what trouble I was in as long as everyone liked me. Because I was constantly striving to fit the mold of whatever was deemed acceptable, I never truly felt like I fit in anywhere. I was on a competitive dance team, and even though I felt like those were my closest friends, I was still being left out of hangouts and whispered about at practices. The girl everyone knew me as - the chatty and outgoing dancer - covered up who I truly was - a girl willing to do anything just to find a group of people who liked her.
Because of this identity issue, I found myself searching for any kind of control on my life. I was pursuing unhealthy relationships with boys, not eating, self-harming, acting out against my parents, and doing anything I could to feel like my life was in my hands and my hands only. I felt like I was drowning, fighting the waves to get to the surface, begging for a breath with no success. I put on a smile for everyone around me but was screaming and crying behind closed doors. I can remember sitting on my bedroom floor feeling like the world was crashing down on me, knowing that was when my control was never going to cut it.
My junior year of high school I found myself at a YoungLife camp in New York, afraid to step out of my comfort zone. I did my best to keep to myself. Despite my efforts, two very special and important women in my life continued to pursue me all week long, reminding me of how the Lord will continue to pursue us even when we don’t feel like we deserve it. At Saranac, I learned that I don’t have to be perfect for Jesus, he loves me as I am and not who I pretend to be. So, at the end of that week I took a leap of faith and handed the controls over to the Lord.
When I came to college, I still continued to struggle with control. I wanted to know what the future would look like for me and wanted that future to be in my hands. Because of this desire, I fell deeply into a pit of mental illness - clinically: anxiety, personally: hell. I acted out, a lot. I cried, a lot. I fought so hard to take the reins back on my life but continued over and over to fail miserably. I was so anxious that I wouldn’t leave my dorm for days. I would rip my hair out, first pieces then in chunks trying to just find something to hold onto. It still is amazing to me how during this horrific time in my life - Jesus was there, holding me and teaching me even when I couldn’t feel him.
As a nursing student, sorority member, YoungLife leader, girlfriend, sister, daughter, and friend; life can be a bit overwhelming. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day craziness of life and forget about the big picture. I like to picture my life as a hurricane. Each day is chaotic and scary, can be a bit destructive and overwhelming, and takes my breath away. But to me - Jesus is the eye of the storm; He is peace, hope, and fills my lungs with fresh air so that I can go back out into the storm of life. With this in mind I feel like I can take on the world, even if the world to me is a nursing exam.
If there is anything I have learned over the course of my 20 years, it is this: The Lord never promised we won’t see a storm, but He has promised over and over that He will be with us. Whether it was an abusive boyfriend, anxiety, friendships, or fear- Jesus was walking by my side through the whole thing. Though my life now is nowhere near perfect, and storms still constantly threaten to come every day, I am confident I could climb to the top of the highest mountain because I know that Jesus is with me, and I will not fall.
“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer” – C.S. Lewis