My childhood was a tidal wave that immersed me into the depths of the Gospel. Marked by evenings in the Word with my parents, weekly recitation of Bible verses in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School during the summertime, and tent revivals in the dead heat of July, my life was anchored in a truth yet to be awakened.
I thought that Christianity was all about a checklist that God used to make sure we were all following protocol: attending church every Sunday, winning souls for Christ, memorizing John 3:16, and hiding your crazy deep enough so that no one ever knew the problems lurking down near the ocean floor.
When I started my first semester at the University of Kentucky, I told myself that I knew all there was to know about God, the Bible, and being a Christian. I stopped going to church thinking there was nothing left for the preacher to teach me. Prayer was not my highest priority and my Bible started to collect dust as it sat on the desk by my bed. I had a lot of friends that were not Christians, as well as many others who claimed Christianity like it was the latest fad. But I was bent on making even more friends, thinking that my social circle would make me feel wanted and that my academic performance would somehow legitimize my worth.
I was losing my faith in a world that told me that God couldn’t possibly be enough. I thought I was living my best days of freedom and independence. College was about to be deemed my favorite season of life until miscommunication and jealousy ripped apart a friendship with a high school friend who had attended UK with me. A toxic friend had gotten in the middle of our friendship and had turned us against each other. I felt rejected, isolated, and broken. I wanted to transfer schools.
In tears of defeat, I turned to my parents who told me to join the on-campus ministry. In my attempt to find value, I lost everything but humiliation. I believed this one hiccup would affect the whole trajectory of my college career. A petty drama of seismic proportions was enough to shake everything I ever knew about friendship, community, and a God who would pursue me in my loneliest season.
When I attended a worship service at Christian Student Fellowship, the music sounded like the revival I needed to reawaken every truth about the identity that had been spoken into me when I was a kid. I hadn’t quite made it to the second semester of my freshman year, yet God was already drawing me into His endless fount and away from the dry desert of my spiritual restlessness.
These days when I reflect on the fractured friendship, I don’t see the embarrassment. It was a moment that taught me about grace. The friendship was never repaired, but I can’t judge others for bringing their own brokenness and past hurts. I was wrong to think my friendships could bring me wholeness and healing. But God’s love is overwhelming and personal. Disappointments and hardships shouldn’t devalue a life filled with rich meaning.
God didn’t have to call me back to Him. I stumbled over the cross in vain thinking it was keeping me from self-expression and climbing the social ladder. I had so readily tossed Him to the side like last year’s school planner. As rejected as I felt, He was telling me that I was fully accepted by Him.
One of our greatest weaknesses is that we are human. If there’s one thing I can offer up, it’s this: Your story matters. The rejections, failures, successes, and moments of joy matter. We don’t always see the huge tapestry God is creating, but we must believe that He is redefining our defeats into glorious moments that He had in mind when He created the whole Earth.
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