I've often said that thinking about my life before Christ feels like thinking about a crazy movie I saw about someone else's life. It's incredible to know that what scripture says is true "If anyone is a new believer in Christ, the old is gone, the new has come."
I had an opportunity a week ago to share the story God has known from the beginning with a group of 60 high schoolers from Texas one night during their mission trip. I always thank God for these opportunities to give him glory for the ways in which he works mysterious.
There are a few things that I hope my testimony sheds light on for you. You are never too far from God. You are never out of his reach. He has a plan (and it is good!) no matter what it feels like. You can never make a decision too terrible or wrong to put yourself outside of God's reach, grace, healing, love and forgiveness if you repent of your ways and seek the Lord.
One of my favorite verses comes from one of my favorite books in the Bible. James. This book is power.
James 4:8 says “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” or another version says "draw near to him and he will draw near to you." And that is what my story is all about.
I didn’t grow up a Christian. I grew up in Vegas. My parents were 19 & 20 when I was born. Young-ins. They were great parents and I had a good childhood, but by 6th grade they were divorced.
I had an intense hole that could not be filled and so I did what most would. I tried to fill it. Because in 6th grade at the age of 12 I lacked (and all pre-teens or is it tweens?) the basic emotional skills to cope with the loss of my dad in our home.
In 6th grade I starting stealing alcohol from my parents liquor cabinet and drinking at school.
In 7th grade, I started smoking pot.
In 8th grade, I had a reputation I was dying to shake, but couldn’t. I needed to feel loved and accepted and needed someone to acknowledge my pain.
In 9th grade I was introduced to Crystal Meth. And thus began a 2 year addiction. I was kicked out (my mom and I still debate this one :) of my house and slept wherever there was a free couch, and free drugs. Which meant I worked for them. Thankfully my grandparents took me in for a summer and I was on lockdown. That meant no access to drugs and I got better. Or, I should say I got off Crystal Meth. But the hole was still there. It wasn't about removing things from my life, it was about filling up that big empty space.
Having discovered the high of being high, I exchanged one addiction for another.
Cocaine, any hallucinogen I could find. Anything that would numb me from the world.
Graduation night was spent on a couch in a drug coma. Huge chunks of time gone from memory.
By time I was 19, and had spent 6 years or so on some form of drug, I found myself living in an apt. engaged to a drug dealer and we ran a pretty lucrative drug business, that is until we got raided. I’ve never been so scared. And the reality of the life I was succumbing too became all too clear.
I broke off the engagement and stopped selling drugs. But I had no peace. No answer to the hole in my chest that only grew with time. I was drinking heavily to cope. I decided it was time to end it all. I had hit rock bottom. I was only 20. This was about the time I learned my brother was going to be baptized.
And I made my first move towards God.
I didn't know I was making that move. But God did. So, I made my move and I attended his baptism and was asked to get in the water with him. It rocked me emotionally. My life continued on but there was an unrest about my life. I know longer wanted to end it, but I knew I needed something else.
God was moving towards me! As I inched closer and closer, he drew me in like a moth to a flame.
Several months later I made another move towards God. I called my little bro and attended church for the first time. And again. And again. I couldn't get enough of those weird, hand-raising-while-singing, wild-eyed Christians who were so passionate, and yet quite peaceful through difficulties and struggles. I remember hearing testimonies of a couple who had lost a baby after she was born and another who was ready to kill himself before being dragged to a cowboy church (say wha?). There was a common thread through their pain- peace. reliance, not on themselves, but on God. Admittance that life is hard but we have a God who is for us. Several months later I fell on my face and committed my life to him. Truly committed to living for him. It was hard. The letting go of all I knew and embracing a new culture of Jesus was difficult.
I came on my first mission to the DR several months later and began the journey as a believer. I was even asked to join the church staff. Wait, me? Former drug addict, abused, broken me? Yes, known and loved daughter of the King, me. I began as an admin for the youth pastor, then the children's ministry coordinator, then I sent off by the mother church as part of their first church planting team and then as a missionary working with GO.
Today, after seven years of serving and living in the DR, I am married to an incredible believer, Alan and we have 4 year old twinsy girls who are the light of my life.
I still struggle. The old is gone and the new has come, but the old has shaped me in many ways and learning to walk the new is a daily choice and path we navigate together as He leads me. Walking with Christ doesn’t mean we no longer struggle or that he will give us everything we want. He gives us what we need, according to His will for our lives.
I never thought that day I went to my brother’s baptism would be a game changer. I never thought I was moving towards God. But that is why he is God. He was calling me to him and as I moved, he so faithfully responded.
Do you need to move towards Him today? What needs to be turned off and over to Him? How is he moving in your life closer to you?