There is something liberating about sharing your faith story. I think a comparable feeling would be the way that Adam and Eve were able to be within the presence of one another naked and feel no shame. Sharing my story makes me feel stripped of all pretense. It makes me feel real, vulnerable, and shameless. It is a life giving feeling.
I want to apologize for any areas of my story that include vagueness. Life is complicated, and so are relationships. In order to protect those that I love and those who are intertwined within my story, I am going to resort to vagueness but will trust that the words I do use will still help create a cohesive picture.
I called myself a “Christian” long before I actually was one. Long before I understood what it actually meant and long before my life and actions reflected anything remotely similar to Christ. It is scary how unaware and blind we can be of ourselves.
I am going to start at the moment that I realized the grace and mercy that was offered to me through Jesus Christ. During my senior year of high school I was sitting in one of my classes (a cross-age tutoring class to be exact) and reflecting on my life at the time. It was laden with sexual sin, a life-threatening eating disorder, anger, bitterness, and pain. There was abuse from a relationship lurking in my past, physical, emotional, and sexual. I tried my best to keep a good face on and move forward, but in reality I was living in a dark pit. I wasn’t the person I wanted to be or ever imagined I could be. I was someone who did not respect her body, her value, or appreciate who God made me to be. I wasn’t the daughter, sister, or friend that I should have been. It kills me to this day to think of who I once was. You can imagine how easy it was for me thinking that I was unworthy of God’s love. You can imagine how angry I was at God for letting me live the life that I had chosen to surround me everyday.
While this reflection was going on I happened to be paging through a crafting magazine. I am not sure why I stopped my intense thinking to look down on the page, but something caught my eye. It was a picture frame project involving sand and featured a story named, “Footprints in the sand.” Now, many of you are probably already familiar with this story and might even think-do these cheesy stories even matter to anyone? Yes. They do. I had never read it before. Never even heard of it. Just in case you haven’t, here it is:
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the LORD. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it:
"LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."
The LORD replied: "My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
Something about the way that the man began out in anger resounded with me. I was angry with God. Why did I have to experience abuse? Why did I have an eating disorder that seemed impossible to recover from? Why could I not walk away from sexual sin? How could I be so unloving and unkind to those who mattered most to me? I had so many questions in my mind and heart, but it ultimately boiled down to the fact that I believed that God had turned away from me, that there was no love to be had. I believed that the love that He offered would not cover my sins, and that there would never be a way out of the life that I was currently living in. I was wrong.
This story presented the grace, mercy, and steadfast love of God in a way that I understood it. I was not forgotten about. I was able to survive the things that I was going through because of God. Even though I had not accepted His love for years, it was waiting for me all along. So, in my classroom, surrounded by my peers, I bowed my head and prayed for forgiveness for my sins and asked God into my life. I told him that I wanted him, I wanted to be like Christ, and that I wanted to be changed. I will never forget that moment.
That turning point in my life did not create instant change in all of the dark areas of my life. I had created sin habits for years that took years to break. Over the next year of my life, I went off to college and I truly believe that God’s timing was perfect. I was given the chance to start a new life in a new community where people did not know my past. No one knew anything unless I told them and I embraced the opportunity to start fresh.
During my freshman year of college, parts of my old life started slipping away. I ended a long-term relationship in order for me to repair my relationship with my body and mend my commitment to purity before God. I joined my first bible study, and signed up for my first mission trip. The church I became a part of was the first real experience that I had of Christian community. I met people who wanted to study the bible. I met people who not only told me they would pray for me, but who would stop and do it right there with me. I met people who were living for a different world and purpose, not for the trials and rewards of this life. It was a whole new world to me and I thrived.
Slowly as the years went by during college my large wounds began to heal. I was able to recommit to living a pure life and abstained from premarital sex for years until my marriage. The first time I had sex again was on my wedding night with my husband. I knew that the man I was supposed to marry would not ask me to compromise myself before our wedding night, and God provided that man. I do not feel shame telling you this but want to share hope that God can change your life; he can change your sin habits and create in you a new life. God has been able to heal those wounds, and give me strength in places where I never knew I had it.
Another area of my life that has slowly been healed is my relationship with eating. I was finally able to allow God into the healing process rather than try to do it on my own. It was not a fast process. I had setbacks. Slowly I began to have a healthy view of myself, and learn to love my body. Today, I can enjoy a meal. I can enjoy the fact that I know I am nourishing myself. There is still some mental struggle when I am weakened from stress, but there is an underlying peace that has been able to sustain me. I have been able to maintain a healthy body weight for years now, and have even had a healthy pregnancy and childbirth. Something I never thought would be possible for me at my worst.
Many of my problems that plagued my life before God were/are being healed, but it is important that I am very clear that there are still problems, and even some new ones. Having a life-changing event happen to you does exactly that-it changes your life. Becoming a different person can cause rifts in friendships and family. I believe that this has been the hardest part. Committing my life to Christ wasn’t something that just involved a prayer and church; it involved a change in my heart. It changed what I believe in and what I believe to be right. It changed my future and the way that I view the world. Naturally, that can cause problems when you are living in a world that can oppose those things or can challenge them. In a sense, my life has become more challenging in that I am working hard at learning to be more like my Savior while loving others where they currently are. I’m trying, and I will keep on trying. To those who are close to me, I ask for grace as I continue to grow and I hope to return it as well.
This life change did not create me into the perfect daughter, sister, friend, wife, or mom. I won’t ever be. But as I try to assimilate to Christ, I believe that he can slowly help me become a blessing in others lives and to accept them as a blessing to me. I believe that he will continue to heal the brokenness in my relationships with others, this world, and myself. I believe that he will continue to give me strength to encounter my future alongside my husband and child. I believe because I chose to believe and am thankful that God gave me that choice.
I am not sharing my story with the hopes that you will now say the prayer that I did. I am not sharing it with a hope to convict you or make you feel condemned. I only want to share with you the way in which my life was changed and how thankful I am for all that God has done and is doing in my life. I am looking forward to seeing how God is going to work tomorrow, next week, and in the years to come in my life.
If you have any questions or would like to talk more about my faith story I am more than happy to do so! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can connect. Bless and be blessed.