Friday, April 25, 2008

My journey starts here...

The world sends us messages to tell us who we should be or how we should act.  Before I became friends with God, I listened to what the world was saying to me.  It led me down a path of pain, emptiness, and despair.

My parents separated when I was two and divorced when I was four.  My dad came in and out of my life as he pleased, leaving me void of the father I really needed.  This led me to a struggle to feel beautiful, I never felt pretty enough the way that I was.  In fourth grade, I was sexually abused.  In fifth or sixth grade my brother moved out, and after that it was just my mom and me – through middle school and high school.  My mom developed physical and mental health problems, so oftentimes I was acting as the mother rather than the child.  I felt so lonely and often like an orphan.  All I wanted was a mother to love me and to take care of me.  Along the way, I found depression to be one of my closest companions.  I often had thoughts of suicide and self-harm.

I began to listen to the world in search of the guidance I was missing.  As a result I began to compromise my purity.  I often told dirty jokes and my mind was usually in the gutter.  I started to do things that fed my sexual cravings.  I looked to the world to find my beauty and they said, “Sir…err, uh…ma’am.”  My femininity was stripped from me.  I had the body parts of a female, but I felt masculine in nature.  Soon enough, I became confused about my sexual orientation.  The world told me that the answer to my problems was to be gay.  The guidance for which I looked to the world, only made me more confused and empty.  I had no hope for a better family, my impure thoughts and actions always left me wanting more – I was never satisfied, and I just didn’t like the thought of being gay – I hoped that there was another option.

About this time of desperation, my next door neighbor invited me to her church’s youth group.  My mom had taken my brother and me to church when we were young.  I remember accepting Christ at a young age, but I didn’t fully understand what that meant.  I understood that God had rules for me to follow, so I aimed to be a good person and follow the rules.  I thought I did a pretty good job, and because of that, I considered myself a Christian.  Since I was already a Christian, it seemed logical to go to church with my neighbor, so I did.  It was then that my life began to change.  I learned things about God that I didn’t know before.  I learned that this God could be my Father.  I really liked the sound of that, so I started to talk to God and read my Bible.  In this new relationship, I found hope, a hope that gave me the strength to keep on living amidst the pain.  God told me that he had a plan, a good reason why my life was so hard.  His Bible says that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  This verse meant that God had a reason why I was going through hard times with my mom and my family.  Whenever I was faced with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, I remembered this verse, and it gave me a reason to keep pressing on.  I now had a hope and soon I found a new family – God’s family.  God was now my Father and I his child, and I gained brothers and sisters who loved me and looked out for me.

Then I started to understand about Jesus.  I had been doing these things that were bad in God’s eyes.  I wasn’t the goody-goody I always thought I was.  I realized that because I had done these things I had put a barrier between myself and God, a barrier that I could not remove by my own efforts.  I also found out that because of my disobedience, I had to pay the penalty.  The penalty for disobedience is death, which is separation from God.  I loved God, He was my Father, and I desperately wanted to be with him.  What could I do?  Then, I remembered Jesus.  I had heard that Jesus paid the penalty of death by dying on a cross.  He paid my penalty, so that I didn’t have to.  I told God that I was sorry for the bad things I was doing and that I wanted to stop.  I trusted that Jesus took the punishment for my disobedience so that my relationship with my Father, with God, could be restored.  But the best part is that Jesus didn’t just die on a cross, he was resurrected, meaning he was brought back to life.  God said that if I trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection, that I too would die and start a new life.  This new life would be free from my past; I would no longer be haunted by the things I had done.  Jesus took my old identity and replaced it with his, so when God looks at me he doesn’t see my past acts of disobedience, he sees Jesus and his perfect obedience.  What a joyful realization it is to know that Jesus did the work to remove the barrier between God and me and that because I trust in Jesus, nothing can ever separate me from my Father again!  I had started a new life with God.  I had finally found the love and family I always wanted, and I was finally freed from the guilt that held me captive.

From then on, it has been a continual growth process – I didn’t change overnight.  I began to ask God for my identity.  I started reading my Bible to find out what my life was supposed to look like.  Some things were easy to quit, but other things took years to overcome, and even now I still struggle with wanting to disobey God.  Even though I have started a new life with God, I am not free from hard times.  God is still in the process of healing the relationships within my family, so some days are good, but other days are like things have never changed.  Life is still hard, but now as I walk through life I am never alone, though I may sometimes feel lonely.  At the end of a hard day, I have a Father who wraps me in his arms and comforts me.  He finds me lovely and delights in blessing me everyday.  I have a new perspective on life that comes from my new identity.  I have a purpose filled with love that drives my life forward.  I am no longer confused or guilt-tripped by what the world says, for now I listen to God, my Daddy, to define who I am.

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