2006. My first true freshman year of college. I was at High Point University. A university I never actually applied to because we couldn’t afford to pay the application fee. But I got the letter anyway.
Anyway, it was my first time being away from family. My first time I felt true “freedom”. I went into college as political science major, my dream at the time was to be lawyer. So since I knew I would stressed out, I decided to do the thing that would ease anxiety and stress, sing. I joined a group called University Singers at my college. We would sing at events and one time we event went to NYC to sing at a church. It was an unforgettable experience. I’ve never had experienced anything like that before.
In University Singers was this amazing young woman, Stephanie. There was something different about her. She was handicapped but she didn’t let it stop her. She shared her faith with me when I didn’t want to hear it. In my mind the only thing I could think about was “I wonder what I’m doing on Friday night? Whose having a party?” I didn’t care at the time what she was saying but my soul cared because it longed to be like hers. It envied her.
That year I was almost suspended from school because I was caught drinking and completely wasted throwing up in women’s bathroom in my dorm. And It wasn’t the first time. I talked my way out of the suspension and a large fine by getting community service and a minimal fine. But even through that Stephanie never gave up on me, I would tell her what I did and she didn’t care. She loved me through it. Something different.
My glimmer of light and hope shattered suddenly. Stephanie passed away unexpectedly. I can’t say it shattered my world because I was more focused on me and my fleshly desires. But it opened my eyes. The school did a dedication to her so the University Singers got up and sang a few of her favorite songs. I Can Only Imagine was one of them. This song resinated in my soul and every time I heard it, I cried. I had no real idea of what the song was about but my soul cried for it.
I transferred schools that year because I wanted to be “comfortable” next to friends. So I transferred schools to Lynchburg College. My flesh took over full fledge and hatred for Christianity began to stir up inside of me. I would debate it until my face was blue. I had all the answers. I would mock it. I would be mean to anyone who believed in it. I was an unpleasant person.
There were times I would listen to the songs we song at her dedication because it took to a place I couldn’t let go of. These songs were her light shinning through. They were hope. But I hid them from everyone. I didn’t want to be a “softy” or a hypocrite. So I only would put it on when I was completely stressed to the max.
6 years after the seed was planted, I found Jesus. That hope they sing about was found. My soul that holding on to those words was home. I felt alive for the first time.
Life happens but it’s what you take away that’s important. People come and people go. But there are people who you might only see for a very short moments that will end up changing your life forever.
Love like Jesus. Live with your faith in your sleeve. Never give up hope. And always listen to the spirit inside of you. We are chosen, sons and daughters of a living God. This world is not our home. Our father has a place for us in heaven…. I can only imagine.
Prayer is an untapped source of power to so many. Many of us unknowingly put it off as just another task to do or we just need to check that religious box, “I prayed today”. But it’s so powerful and we shouldn’t neglect it. Why do we open our lips before we get on our knees? Why do we think we have it all figured out, when in reality we know only a small amount of anything?
Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” We can do NOTHING of the spirit without him, yet we think we can rule this world and this flesh without him. We think that if we don’t pray, it all will work itself out but it’s a wrong way to think.
Prayer is so powerful we shouldn’t neglect it. We need to cry out for our city, our neighborhoods, the lost, our nation. We should cry out to God about the darkness in this world because it is not okay. We should cry to God to surrender all of us because we need to be filled with all of Him. We can’t change the world by ourselves but with God anything is possible.
This world needs Jesus. This city of Baltimore is in desperate need of Jesus. We can’t expect mountains to move if we never get our knees.
So tonight I can across a picture with my niece and me. I was watching her and then taking her to church the next day. However, behind the facade of my goofy face was a terribly hung over broken woman.
What my niece didn’t know is that the night before I went to celebrate my friends birthday. But I just kept drinking. I didn’t see a limit. I paid for it. I blacked out. People who “knew” me saw a side of me they hadn’t seen… but wait a few months prior they did. You see I did the same thing a few months earlier at a party. I was drinking and drinking and just not caring about me or anyone else. It was my escape from the darkness I was living in. It was my “high”.
The night with my niece hurt me. I could not offer the love, support, or even fun times. I couldn’t keep anything down. My insides and head were throbbing in pain. I was defeated.
The next day was church and my niece was so excited! I put on a happy face and we went. I never felt more like a lair or failure that day. Anytime someone would try to ask questions, I simply deflected them and just try to push through for my niece.
Later that night, after saying goodbye to my niece, I fell to my knees and I wept. I was still in pain, hungover, and broken. I remember screaming out to God in frustration because I was reliving my life before I got saved. I was moving backwards in faith of what felt like deliberately, because part of it was in my hands of control or at least I thought it was.
God changed my heart that night on those knees. He turned me around and covered me. He took those burdens, that shame from me and put it on himself. I surrendered that night to who I was and to be molded into who God designed me to be. That was three years ago today.
Alcohol was my drug of choice it was one of my secret sins that I didn’t want people to know about so it’s actually one of the hardest to talk about. Where I didn’t drink much, when I did it was ugly and nasty. I used to tell myself I drink because it makes me comfortable in my own skin or it allows me to be “me” because there is no filter. Let me tell you those are all lies the enemy tells you to convince you to have one more drink because the more we numb ourselves the more we focus on this world and our flesh. So I was never “me”, I was the ugly version of me because I was closer to the enemies mouth than my ear was to God’s voice.
Alcoholism is real. Drug addiction is real. Luckily there is help and hope. God states he will never abandon you nor forsake you. He has and will always love you. You are his Son or daughter. He cares for you. There is hope found in Jesus. He died so that you might live.
The other night in growth group one of the ladies asked “How do you even begin to know what Jesus went through?”
I answered with something our Pastor said awhile ago.
“Love is rooted in sacrifice.” – Pastor Tally Wilgis
God sent his Son, Jesus to be the sacrificial lamb. He sent Jesus to die for us so we didn’t have to.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23
He sent his Son because he loves us because he wants us to be with him for eternity. We get the free gift of eternal life, but Jesus lived in this world and then voluntarily hung on executioners cross and died for our sins just so all of us can have the gift of eternal life.
Think about that for a moment, Jesus died for you. He voluntarily got up on the cross. He is God in flesh, he could’ve stop it. But he didn’t. He didn’t want to die in Matthew 26:39 Jesus says “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” In another Gospel it says he was so anguished that he was sweating drops of blood. Can you now imagine what he was going through? I still couldn’t.
But I said to them for us to experience even a glimpse of what he went through. Try doing something for someone else when you don’t want to or don’t have the time to. It might be a silly sacrifice but when you had a hard day at work and all you can think about our pjs and your favorite shows and someone you know is hurting or is having a rough day, try switching your plans around to put them first above your own. You’ll get frustrated and you might even get mad because you don’t want to sacrifice the time or energy of your own time.
One of my big things I tell myself is when I don’t want to do something it probably means I should be doing it. Meaning that when I evaluate something by my mere flesh and worldly views my automatic response is I don’t want to. I don’t have time. I don’t have the energy. But when I evaluate through the lens of the spirit I immediately go through it differently. I ask is this purposeful? Does it impact a person? The Kingdom? Is it meaningful? So when I don’t want to do something a lot of times it’s my flesh fighting back because my flesh doesn’t want to put others above me.
One of my pet peeves is when people say they follow Jesus and “live it out” but there is no sacrificing for others and it’s always about them.
God is Love. Love is rooted in sacrifice. And in order for us to show the love of God we have sacrifice time, talent, treasure. We have to be willing to give something even when there is no return.
Exactly two years ago on Friday, I jumped into the unknown. I knew God called me out of the job I was in and with nothing lined up, I quit. I was faithful and within a week I got a part time job. Though jobs have come and gone, it’s been an amazing two years. I have seen in God move in so many ways and in so many lives.
Over the past two years I have learned more about who God designed me to be and what he has called me to do. God gives us all the same mission, to spread the good news of Jesus, but it’s who he created you to be that ultimately unlocks your unique purpose in the mission.
I will probably never be a great speaker, it’s not my design, but being a mentor to some women and teenage girls, that is in my design. I will never be Picasso but creativity and design has become a major part of how I impact The Kingdom.
I wouldn’t have known any of it if I didn’t trust God enough to say yes to him. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t listen to the God who knows me and cares for me. There were dark seasons and trying times. The enemy didn’t forget about me and God never stopped pruning. But I wouldn’t change my decision. Saying “Yes” to God to quit my job has been the best decision of my life so far. God has a great plan for my life, but it’s only if I obey Him can I truly unlock it.
God may not call you out of your job but God might call you to give or to serve. Even if you have no rescourses, all of us can serve Jesus. All of us have the capacity to live for Jesus. We have the capacity to put him first in every decision, in every way in our lives. We have The Word of God at our finger tips, the manual and plan for our lives. But we give so much to sin and so much to worldly desires that we forget what Jesus did for us. We forget the blood that was shed and the sacrfice that was made over 2,000 years ago. So turn off the news and social media and take time and focus on the God that designed you and saved you from this world. You will never know who he called you to be if you do not put Him first.
I grew up believing receiving help was a sign of weakness and unintelligence. So I never asked for help. I dealt with my problems on my own and never turned to anyone for guidance, from asking for help on an assignment to asking for help in my personal problems or situations. I dealt with them all alone. So it took me down a dark spiral of depression. It was hard to get out of bed, it was hard to put one foot in front of the other, it was hard to even look at other people. It was hard to do life. I would put a mask on and tell everyone I was okay but on the inside I was so broken. I couldn’t tell anyone that I was struggling because that means I’m not perfect and if I’m not perfect then I’m dumb and if I’m dumb I am weak and I can’t be seen as weak because then no one will accept me or love me.
So I buried my feelings, the hurt, the broken pieces of me under a rug. I didn’t want anyone to see me less than perfect. But the more things got shoved inside the more of who I am began to diminish. I started defining myself by my failures and not my accomplishments. I started doubting everything. My personality was jaded by my inability to tell people what was really going on, so I began to just keep my mouth shut, so it wouldn’t slip out.
Eventually it got to a point where I couldn’t handle it. I found coping mechanisms through alcohol. It was that temporary feeling of joy. I was so happy. I partied almost every weekend of college and by my senior year, it was every other day. It was bad but in the moment it felt good.
In 2012 though my life changed for forever. I had started my first full time job, I had my first real boyfriend, I had lost over 100lbs, life was so good. I couldn’t have been more happier. But the broken pieces of me was still inside me. I still cried myself to sleep some nights. But I remember distinctly on a July morning I had closed my tear filled eyes and said these words, “God, if you are real. I need your help. If you are real, why am I feeling this way? Why do I have everything I want but still feel alone.” It was my first prayer I had prayed for myself. It was the first time asking for genuine help.
That September, God led me to my church home where I met Jesus. He became the One I gave my life to. My life changed the moment I open my mouth and asked for help; the moment I surrendered to the fact I can’t do it by myself. I found true joy. I found true love. And I keep working towards digging up the pieces I buried deep inside to become the woman God designed me to be.
Asking for help is not weakness, it’s strength because it’s admitting you don’t have life figured out. It’s admitting that you have weaknesses and flaws that you cannot seem to figure out and that’s okay. God has provided not only the profession of counseling for us to go to but he gave us His Son to be our counselor. We all need help. We all need Jesus because we all are imperfect and we are born into a sin filled world.
Check out this clip on Jesus being the Wonderful Counselor from Pastor Tally Wilgis at Captivate Church: https://youtu.be/VoYjRfX34Wg