Growing up I wasn’t a Sunday school kid, and to be honest the first few places I attended church made me want nothing to do with God or His people. I started church hopping with my aunt in middle school, but didn’t find what I like to refer to as my “first home church” until I was a freshman in high school.
Looking back I can see just how vital of a time this was for me. Back then, I felt like there wasn’t a place for me anywhere. I didn’t fit in at school and because of the constant bullying, I would often get physically sick and not be able to go to class.
I would get picked on for my weight and appearance almost every day. I remember thinking if I just lost the weight, cleared up my skin, and grew out my fluffy bangs; maybe I’d have more friends. It never occurred to me to think that maybe I was already beautiful just the way I was.
So the summer before my freshman year I lost the weight, and started the long journey of growing out my bangs. 14-year-old me thought surely that would help. Sadly, this wasn’t the case at all. I still remember the only comment I got when returning to school that fall was how “I looked different” that year. The whispers about my weight quickly turned into rumors that I was taking diet pills. I couldn’t win. It got to the point where I hated myself so much that I questioned why I was even here. At that point, I didn’t want to be.
I still remember the first time I got invited to a youth service at the church I’d started attending. I was wondering why they’d even invite me and because of my social anxiety, I really didn’t want to go. And I didn’t for months. Then one day I finally did and I was so glad that I attended. I met so many good, genuine-hearted people that I honestly didn’t know existed. The people I met there had such an impact on my life, and many of them don’t even know it. It’s amazing what you can accomplish by just being kind. Those Wednesday night youth services quickly became an escape for me during the rough school weeks. It was there where I finally started to learn about God and ultimately feel the love of Jesus.
Even though I first came to know God in high school, I still had a very hot and cold relationship with my faith. When things were good, I’d be praising His name and when they weren’t I’d fall apart and try to rebuild things on my own. It’s taken me years to fully embrace His plan for my life and to trust that it is always good, even when it may not feel like it.
Flash-forward to the last few years of high school and my early college years, the time I fell into the lie that I needed someone else’s love to be complete. Like most young women, I just wanted to be loved. This led me to keep giving that love until I basically had nothing left to give. After a string of bad, off-and-on-again, mentally and verbally abusive relationships, I just couldn’t physically do it anymore. I was done.
I remember driving home from one guy’s house that I was dating. And it just kind of hit me all at once. I suddenly had this feeling that there was more out there for me than how I kept continuing to choose to live. Deep down I knew that none of these relationships were right for me. We didn’t have the same values, and they certainly didn’t share my faith. I honestly think it took me so long because at that time I didn’t think I was worth a God-sized love story. I was okay with settling as long as I wouldn’t lose someone. I now know just how toxic that kind of thinking is. It kept me stuck in a pit of brokenness for years.
Driving home that night, I decided that I would wait for the man God had set aside just for me. It may seem like a silly way to realize just how big God is, but I know that only He was able to pull me out of all of those places. What I originally saw as a loss or heartbreak was ultimately my protection.
Since that night, I’ve continued to pursue God in all that I do. It’s not always easy, but I’ve slowly started to see just how wonderful His plans are compared to our own. While I still have a different set of day-to-day struggles, I’ve learned that by seeking God first in any given situation I’m then able to find peace where I am. By leaning into Him, I can see that everything really is a part of a bigger picture.
“Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” –Proverbs 19:21
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