I was running away, avoiding dealing with the hurts of my past. The hurts of my present.
Some called my lifestyle self-destructive. I preferred to call it fun. Way more fun than confronting the hot mess I had become.
In my defense, I was 19.
When you were 19, would you have chosen to delve deep into the dark, twisted wounds plaguing your heart? Or take a few shots, put on a mini-skirt, and make life a party? The second certainly sounded like a better plan at the time. And it worked for me. For a while.
Then, I woke up alone.
Not alone like no one was in the house with me. I had three roommates and was never really alone.
But I was alone.
I was tired.
In all of my running, I had run from the true hope I had once known.
I don’t believe in coincidence, so I will say it was by divine providence that one of my roommates invited me to church that morning.
Here’s the thing: we were NOT the kind of girls who “go to church.” But because of the timing- right as my emptiness had become so clear to me- I willingly obliged.
I remember feeling dirty as I walked through the doors. I felt even more isolated as I bumped elbows with people crowding into the small room with purple chairs and dim lights.
I couldn’t tell you one word that was spoken or even a song that was sung that day, but I can tell you how it felt.
The room smelled well-loved, like many people had shed tears on its floor before me. I was anonymous in this sea of unfamiliar faces, and it made the room feel safe. A reprieve from the weight I’d been shouldering.
As the music played and the pastor spoke, something inside me started to change. They incited a response in me I hadn’t felt before. It seemed as though the bad I had done no longer existed and I was worthy of being loved. It didn’t make sense.
It felt wrong. I didn’t trust it. I was dirty. I reeked of frat house and underaged scandal. He was holy, righteous, perfect. I expected him to have expectations of me, but He met me with warm embrace instead. Somehow, all of my reckless living had lead me here, to the reckless love of our God.
I was undone.
His unreserved, uninhibited love for me was overwhelming. I left the church that day made new. Not made whole, but made new.
It has been eleven years since that moment, and I still experience God in this way. In each of my circumstances, God’s love is deeper. He reaches into the darkest place of my heart and says, “I see you.” He doesn’t abandon, shame, condemn as I would expect him to. Like we might, if we saw someone so intimately.
He stays. He loves. He doesn’t wait until I’m all cleaned up; he chases me down when I’m dark and disheveled.
This happens because God doesn’t love, He is love. He is the complete embodiment of perfect love. Love is not an action he has to put forth effort to do, it is woven into His DNA. And because this is who He is, His love doesn’t depend on me. It unconditionally exists because He exists unconditionally.
The unreserved love of God is what grabbed ahold of my heart in that church building eleven years ago, and it’s His love that continues to change me every day since.
“Immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ.”. -Ephesians 2:4-5