You know how Facebook likes to send a random photo to you at the top of your feed so you can share it as a memory? When I logged into my account this morning (sad to admit but logging into Facebook in the morning has become as routine as brushing my teeth) this was the photo I was sent:
The above photo of me was taken more than SIX years ago and it conjured a lot of mixed emotions. As I sadly considered how much more attractive I was back then (pre-baby and with a LOT more hair), I was taken back to that time in my life. I was 35 and STILL single. The smile on my face didn’t quite reflect the reality of my inner state.
I was in the darkest period of my life. I was living alone in a condo in Long Beach, filling my time with activities that I am certainly not proud of, I was suffering from sleep paralysis, which really is just a fancy, scientific term for demonic attacks, I was working a dead end job and I was in a relationship that I thought was true love when it was really all based on LIES. He lied to me and I lied to myself by believing those lies. At that time, I felt my soul was being sucked dry. Many times, I would go to bed crying myself to sleep because the cloud of darkness got so unbearably oppressive. I was absolutely dead inside. No life. No hope. No love. Several times, I thought about committing suicide to end the misery. I thank God for not giving me the courage to do it. On top of all of that, I carried around a deep sadness that stemmed from not feeling loved as a child. Growing up, my parents had a dysfunctional and tumultuous marriage and it perpetuated an insecurity that debilitated me on a daily basis. And having a younger sister who was always considered “the smart one,” I seemed to never quite measure up. As a way to cope with all this, I became angry and bitter. In high school, I rebelled against my parents, I lied all the time, I snuck out of the house, I hung out with a marijuana-smoking surfer and I even dabbled with various kinds of drugs to try and escape the pain I felt inside… I was just so lost. What it all boiled down to was that I just wanted to be loved, to feel a sense of worth; and the rest of my adult life would be spent on seeking people and things to satisfy that. But I guess you can say, I looked for love in all the wrong places.
I spent a lot of time in my 20s and 30s searching for something that would fill the emptiness and despair I felt inside. Even though I was in and out of the church as a child and knew who Jesus was, I still went searching for that elusive something- an indescribable longing, an annoying dissatisfaction, a question that couldn’t get answered no matter how hard I searched. After college I went to Christian churches and even got baptized. I tried to seek answers in spiritual, new-age type books. I thought people like Eckhart Tolle, Miguel Ruiz, Wayne Dyer and Tony Robbins had all the answers. Heck, even Oprah Winfrey became my guru. They knew something I didn’t and that made them special. They knew some sort of secret about life that I didn’t no matter how hard I tried or how many books I read. For a while, I thought that yoga or living the yoga lifestyle was the answer. It sounded right: quiet the mind and get centered because that will lead to enlightenment. I would be more self-aware and I could find out who I truly was and what I was meant to do with my life. While all of these things seemed to help, or so I thought, it wasn’t long until I felt dissatisfied and empty again. And after years and years of trying to fill the void in my heart, in December of 2011 around Christmas time, something miraculous happened to me…
God saved me.
No, I wasn’t struck by lightening, no I didn’t die and enter a tunnel with a bright light and no He didn’t appear to me in a vision or a dream. I would describe it as a peculiar, softening of the heart. As God began to supernaturally draw me to Himself, He would send people to me; I like to call them earthly angels, and they listened, they encouraged and they prayed for and with me. I started to see what a wretched sinner I was and how far away I was from the goodness of God. I began to be convicted of my sins and the sinful life I was living. I had an overwhelming sorrow about it. I was so ashamed. So filled with guilt. As God’s Holy Spirit was doing His work in me, I wept bitterly for turning my back on Jesus whom I sang songs about at church as a child. Not only had I forgotten about Him, I even cursed Him when a long-distance friend tried to share the Gospel with me. I sobbed for hours as I read my bible for the first time in years; an NIV study bible that was given to me by a woman named Nadine Kupres, a woman I used to work with in my 20s. I read the Book of John and it was like the words were coming alive to me. They pierced my soul and for the VERY FIRST TIME, I saw the Truth. I saw Jesus. He was the answer to my question. He was the One who would fill the void completely. He was the One who would heal my broken spirit. He would quiet the demons that nightly tormented me. He was the One who would satisfy the longing in my soul. He was the peace I had been seeking. He was the One who showed me what true love was. He was and is EVERYTHING.
Over the next few weeks, I could not believe what was happening to me. It was all so surreal and so hard to grasp because the work of the Spirit is invisible and only its effect can be perceived. I was changed. I felt cleansed. I felt new. I had a peace that surpassed all understanding. He took my shattered soul and made it whole. Am I perfect? By no means. I still struggle with sin because we live in a fallen world tainted by sin but the difference is, I am no longer a slave to sin. What a blessing and a joy to know that I have the ultimate model of goodness to look to; the perfect and sinless Lamb of God who loved me enough to die on that cross for me, a death He did not deserve so that I can be reconciled back to God and have eternal life. That is love. That is hope. That is grace.
I am reminded of one of those songs that you just kinda know the lyrics because it has become so a part of the culture but you don’t really know what it’s referring to. And then one day, you hear the song again and the lyrics take on a whole new meaning and you get it. Has that ever happened to you? The first part of “Amazing Grace” is such a song for me:
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
Thank You Jesus. There is nothing more amazing, more sweet than Your grace.