I did not foresee these posts being so far apart, but I’m excited to continue in this small series on the “v” word: vulnerability. If you’d like to catch up, start here!
So we’ve discussed how hard and uncomfortable vulnerability is, but we’ve also talked about why it’s so beautiful and important in the church. My hope and prayer is that you’ve been challenged in the area of vulnerability just like I have! I’m excited to share more of my story with you, and my deepest hope is that you’ll see how GOOD and MIGHTY and LOVING Jesus Christ is because of the work He has done in my life. The remainder of this series will be broken into 3 parts:
BEFORE- what my life was like before I followed Jesus
DURING- how God changed me
AFTER- what life now looks like as a follower of Jesus
This is a super easy way to share our stories with one another. If you’d like to follow this template for your own life, please do!
Alright friends, let’s do this!
I was born and raised in a small suburb of Wichita, Kansas. My sister and I were raised in a Christian home and we loved going to church multiple times a week. All of my best friends were there, so I never minded being whisked away every Sunday and Wednesday for services and events.
When I was 7, one of my friends decided to get baptized. I thought taking communion looked pretty cool, so I asked my parents if I could get baptized too. My children’s pastor came to our house, walked me through the gospel, and then my dad baptized me a few weeks later in front of friends and family. I believe I loved Jesus, but there’s only so much a 7 year old can understand about what it means to FOLLOW Jesus.
My middle and high school years were full of attempts at making friends, fitting in, and for lack of better words, being cool. I would do or say just about anything to gain the approval of others. I was finding my worth in the way other people saw me. I found my value in how popular I thought I was, how many friends I had, and how cool my clothes were. As you can imagine, it was a constant, uphill battle to feel like I was enough.
I still spent a lot of time at church and with church friends, and I loved going to camp over the summer or any other special event that was on the youth group calendar. I’ve looked back on journals and know that I had “spiritual highs” after these trips and events. I would feel closer to God, promising Him that I was going to do a better job of being a good Christian, only to go back to my old ways a week or two later.
When I look back at high school, my stomach usually turns a little because of the way I lived my life. I wasn’t a great friend, I was an awful big sister to Auna, and my parents and I very rarely got along. I also loved getting attention from boys, which really took a toll on how I valued myself throughout high school.
I had my first unhealthy “relationship” my freshman year, and it set the stage for me as to what I thought was normal. I felt valued because a boy thought I was pretty and wanted to spend time with me. I felt valued when he chose me over other girls who wanted his attention. I thought I needed to go beyond any physical boundaries I previously had for myself in order to maintain his affection. After that relationship ended I was hurt and confused. I had given a lot of myself away–physically and emotionally– and all of a sudden it wasn’t worth anything. I wish I could give my 14 year old self a hug and let her know she wasn’t going to find fulfillment through boys… but instead I kept seeking for purpose through the way guys viewed me.
My sophomore year also started with a boyfriend. This one was from church though, so in my eyes, it was wonderful and fun and I loved having a boy care about me. I’ve blocked a lot of the details of this relationship from my memory, but I do know that after about a year, this relationship also became very unhealthy. To make a long story short, another girl got involved, and for the next 2 and a half years, until I was a freshman in college, my life was consumed with “winning” my boyfriend. I was so competitive that I used sex, manipulation, sneaking around, and so many other playing pieces in order to win the guy. I was truly consumed with winning, no matter what it took, and I was blinded from what I knew was right.
The devil LOVES to turn our hearts to anything in this world besides God. For me it was a boy (amidst other things) that kept me completely distracted from living my life for Jesus. Even though Jesus was always still there, my life was going down the road of pain, comparison, regret, and shame. I wish I could say that we broke up and I came to my senses, but this isn’t the end to my “before” story.
In 2008 I graduated from high school and headed up to Manhattan to attend Kansas State University. I was finally free, finally away from my parent’s strict rules, and in a place where I could really create myself and be who I wanted to be. FREEDOM. I took full advantage and went all in.
I made new friends who loved to party. This meant that I now loved to party. I didn’t have friends who went to church. This meant that I also no longer went to church. Having late night fun was way more important to me than doing well in my classes. I mean, who needed to know about earth formations anyway? (Ross Geller would disagree.) I took my first semester of college to try new things, party hard, have fun with my roommates and sorority sisters, flirt with boys, get the worst grades of my life, gain quite a bit of weight, and to abandon any relationship that I had with God.
This, my friends, was my rock bottom. I was trying to figure out who I was and I totally lost myself in the process. I had so much guilt. SO MUCH. I remember feeling so ashamed of the way I was living that I would refuse to acknowledge God in my thoughts or through prayer. It was clear to me that the way I was living was wrong, but I wasn’t sure how to change anything or get away from this lifestyle. I felt so incredibly stuck.
Thank you so much for taking time to read the first part of my story! This obviously isn’t a fun place to stop, but God is about to cover this story in crazy LOVE and GRACE. I can’t wait to share the rest with you!