Sometimes you’ll hear about people who had a tough home life describe their upbringing by saying, “I wasn’t hugged enough as a child” as a justification for why they have emotional issues today. That phrase could NOT be farther than my story. I often joke with people that I was actually, “hugged too much as a child”. I have two amazing parents who love the Lord and set a nearly perfect example for me and my two older siblings Ryan and Sarah on how to live out their faith. They did the best they could to give us a strong spiritual foundation. If I didn’t have a soccer game or practice I went to church every Sunday, youth group on Wednesday, and all the mission trips I could go on. While I learned all about Jesus I can’t really say I knew WHO Jesus was until a little later in life. I would often leave youth group or mission trips on a “spiritual high” which would usually last less than 48 hours before cycling back into old habits that I had just claimed freedom over less than 2 days ago.
Being the youngest of three I think I always craved attention and to be in the spotlight. I would definitely be labeled the “wild child” by anyone in my family. Growing up I was always the one to push the limits or go too far with a joke just to get a laugh or to be noticed. As I grew up I started to find my worth in this. I cared deeply about how others viewed me and the approval of others became my idol. So much so that I started to learn how to change my behavior to whatever I thought would please my peers in the most endearing way. I needed to be viewed as “the best” by everyone I met. At youth group, I could always give the right answer or “act the right way” to try to get the approval of others and prove that I was this awesome Christian but that simply wasn’t an authentic version of myself. If you saw me at school the next day it wouldn’t be odd if you saw me insult others to elevate myself. If you saw me at practice I would often try to cheat in drills or take shortcuts when no one was looking to try and win a sprint or a scrimmage. I had to be “the best” in everything I did and wanted everyone to “know” it.
As you can imagine this cycle was so exhausting and draining. Around my sophomore year of high school people started to piece together I was not everything I was portraying myself to be. I made mistakes with girls that went very public, said hurtful things to friends of mine, and even ended up getting in a traumatizing car accident that could have easily taken my life.
This was my sobering moment. I remember after the car accident I started thinking about what would have happened if I would have died that day. “Would I have made it to heaven?” I remember losing sleep at night wrestling with that simple question. “Would God take me into Heaven?” Unsure of where to go, I went to my youth pastor and ended up confessing to him all the lies I had been living and all the horrible things I had done. I remember being so nervous with how he would respond. Whenever I confessed, he just laughed to himself and said, “Despite everything you’ve done, Jesus still loves you, and therefore I do too.” It was so simple, but that statement changed my life. The acceptance and love I had been chasing was right in front of me through Jesus. I didn’t have to earn it, I didn’t have to put on a performance, I didn’t have to justify myself. I just had to let him into ALL areas of my life.
From that moment on I have tried to let God radically transform my heart. I try to live as authentically as possible and only seek his approval. I still have a lifetime ahead of me of lessons to learn but I will say the best authentic spiritual growth for me has come when I started to consistently and intentionally CHOOSE Jesus every day of my life. If you are someone who struggles with spiritual highs and lows, start incorporating time with Jesus into your daily routine. Spending time with Jesus on good days, bad days and all the in-between will help you develop a healthy dependency on Him and will help integrate His presence into all areas of your life. We are reminded of this the most in Matthew 16:24-25, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it”. Thank you for listening to my story, God Bless.