Peel back the outer layer of an orange and reveal the perfect little bite size slices. Observe the human heart how it functions and brings life to the entire body. Notice the birds and how they migrate south for the winter. See the vastness of the ocean and all of the unknown types of fish and organisms. Look how the sun, earth, moon, and stars are so perfectly aligned down to the very cell that it allows all life to happen. The idea that there is no God never made sense to me. I always asked myself, what is the purpose of it all? If there is no God, there is no purpose to anything. What is the purpose of human emotion, compassion, love, joy? If there is no God then why are some things right and others wrong?Why is there that horrible feeling in doing the wrong things? These questions haunted me. Through some of the darkest times they gave me hope of a purpose to it all. My story starts when I was little…
Big nosed, big eyed, skinny, acne and insecure about myself, I struggled to make friends or even speak with adults. I was so painfully shy that I would cry when adults would even talk to me. My family was never very outspoken or affectionate. Though I grew up with a fear of God I never understood who he was or the great love and affection He felt for me. I grew up catholic and I was surrounded by people who followed a doctrine, a set of rules. They told me if I just went to mass every Sunday, went to confession, and feared God then I’d go to heaven. At the same time, the only verse that my parents instilled in me as a child was Matt. 7:14 “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”. I was taught that even if I tried hard to do everything I was taught to do there was a chance I wasn’t going to get to heaven. I didn’t want any part of that god. I didn’t want to try and follow a set of rules my whole life and have it be all for nothing.
Twelve years old I peeked out the little hole in my door to see what was happening. I saw my dad, drunk again, he grabbed a bar stool in my kitchen and threw it across the hard wood floor. His disturbing face turned towards my room and it seemed as though we made eye contact through the hole in the door. I gasped and backed away from the door. I got under my bed and curled into a ball. I had just begun to sigh with relief when I heard a bang on my door, and my heart wrenched. As I rocked back and forth I sang to myself until the banging on my door stopped and I was alone. As the years passed, the terror turned to bitterness, and the bitterness, to rebellion. I didn’t understand how a person could preach Jesus to me and then act nothing like the way Jesus acted. My heart yearned for love, affection, and to know the truth of this life.
Looking for love, I gave away my virginity at the age of thirteen. I began doing drugs and partying. The world promised peace in drugs, happiness in materialism, love in sex, freedom in rebellion, and popularity in promiscuity. It was all an illusion, I ended up sad, addicted and lonely. The feeling I got when I was high or when I was with a guy was that all of my problems were gone, that I was loved and happy. But when the high would fade or the guy wouldn’t talk to me again I was crushed. It was back to reality and I had just put my faith in a lie. I began to feel the effects of being so sexually promiscuous. I felt like I was useless and ugly, that no one would want me now that I was dirty. So I began to cut, thinking that would give me control. I began to starve myself for attention. I wanted so badly for someone to care about me. But the more I tried to seek love, the further it seemed from me.
One night at sixteen years old, I felt so completely alone that I decided I was done with everything and that this life was pointless to me. I was miserable and I couldn’t bear it any longer. I swallowed over twenty pills, slit my wrists, laid on my floor and waited to die. I couldn’t bear the pain any more. Dying seemed like the only way out. When I woke up the next morning I was disappointed in myself for not being able to even do one thing right. I was angry at God for keeping me alive.
My sister gave her life to Jesus when she was nineteen. She would tell me all the time about how she was going to this church and how cool everyone was and how Jesus loved me. Just the word Jesus was like nails on a chalkboard for me. Any time she would start talking about Jesus I would just want to get away as quick as possible. I didn’t want to admit it but she had a lightness about her. It was like her spirit was peaceful. I was happy that she had “found her inner peace” but I wanted no part of it. She invited me to go to church and youth group with her for an entire year. Each time was the same answer. Finally, she had gotten under my skin so bad with her persistence that we made a deal. I would go once and she would never ask me to go back again.
As I walked in, it felt as though everyone was staring at me or saying my name or hugging me. It seemed as though every person I even looked at would come and hug me. I pushed through everyone and went to the back of the sanctuary and sat down and took in my surroundings. There were chairs, no pews, loud music playing, lights, candles, coffee, everyone dressed like me. I had never been in a church like that, it felt different. Finally, everyone came in and the band started to play. To my shock, everyone was jumping around or lifting their hands. I felt that same feeling of disgust when my sister would say the name Jesus in this moment. These people were weird and I was going to get out of this place. They started to play a slower song and the strangest thing started to happen. I felt goosebumps all over my body, like shivers. It was almost like a blanket covered the room and this presence came in so pure it automatically brought tears to my eyes. This purity, this peace, this love was unlike anything I had felt before. Every moment before that, I had an empty feeling that followed me everywhere. I tried to fill it with sex, money, popularity, beauty, but it was never enough. This was it. This love that I never got from my father came over me like a flood. That love that I had yearned for my entire life warmed my entire body. In that moment I knew that there really was a God and that he had an indescribable love for me. Songs of songs in the bible says that this love is as strong as death and that it burns like a blazing fire. It was all so beautiful. It was truth. It was too good to be true. I couldn’t be a Christian. I wasn’t this kind of person and I wasn’t going to give in. So I held in my tears and stayed strong the rest of the night and never went back.
After feeling a love like that why would anyone ever deny it? I was so proud that I didn’t need anyone or anything. So I pushed it to the back of my mind as long as I could. After a few months, I hit rock bottom. I reached a place of desperation and I knew that I was either going to die or I was going to hear my sister out. She came over and told me how God loved me so much that he sent his only son to die for me even though I didn’t want any part of him. She told me that I could be sure where I’m going after I die because the bible says if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is lord and that God raised him from the dead then you will be saved. I learned that that verse in Matthew really means that few people find the path to life because they chose to not have any part of it. She said I didn’t have to follow a list of rules, that all I had to do was let him into my heart and life. As she’s speaking, that same sweet presence filled the room again. I felt so loved in that moment. I knew without a doubt that there was a purpose for my life and I was made for more than what I was living for. So that night in my house I gave my life to him, and I was all in. I laid awake that night and thought over my life. I knew I would never touch drugs again because the thought of doing anything like that made me sick to my stomach. I knew the difference between right and wrong. I knew I had experienced God and no one could tell me otherwise.
I am changed. I have a light in my spirit that gets stronger everyday. Jesus is Lord and truly my savior. Giving my life to the one that created me was the best decision I have every made. Life is full of choices. Life has purpose. I can breathe and know that every breath is a gift from God because he loves me so much. Realizing he loves everyone the same pushed me to help those who are lonely and forgotten. People who were like me. I have been able to travel all around the world telling people that there is hope. I get to tell people the good news that they don’t have to live in darkness anymore and that God loves them.
There is hope for everyone. Lives can be turned around and the future can be changed. Wherever I am in the world I like to sit outside and just take a few minutes to look up at the sky and remind myself how big God is. How the world is so much bigger than me. Watching them sparkle reminds me that no matter where I am in the world, the stars are the same and God is the same. I know that he is always with me. He will never stop fighting for us or loving us. So whether by an orange or by the stars we know God is with us always until the very end of age.