This story continues to encourage me no matter how many times I read it. The Lord never stops his pursuit of our hearts — even when we stumble, even when we fall back into the bondage of sin, He is there, waiting, with open arms. No matter how many times we try to slip out of His grasp, He never lets go.
I had a wonderful childhood — I grew up with awesome parents and two amazing older sisters. We’ve always been believers – meaning we professed faith in God – but we did not attend church or live out our faith on a regular basis. My dad taught me how to pray, and my mom taught me the stories of the bible. From a young age, I knew there was a God –but what I didn’t know, was if God was just someone I had learned about in the Bible or if He actually was alive in me.
I truly believe God uses our biggest weaknesses to draw Him closer to us and to strengthen our faith. For me, that weakness is and always has been matters of the heart and relationships. My weakness started at a young age and has created a 15-year cycle only One could break — Jesus.
I was 14 years old — my first year of high school. One look was all it took and I was in love. This beautiful, doe-eyed man with dark hair was just plain “cool”. Not only was he cool, but he was hard to get and wild to hang out with. You know, the typical “bad boy”. But wait, he thinks I am pretty? Me? Little old me? This is when I got a taste of the feeling I became addicted to for years to come. He was my drug and I would stop at nothing to get my fix. Throughout all of this, I remained sexually pure. He had my emotions, my heart, my mind and my self-worth, but he did not have all of me.
Now, at 18 years old, I was considered a “good girl”. Who waits until 18 to have sex these days? All of my friends had lost their virginities at this point, and eventually, I followed in their footsteps. I lost my virginity to my first love, the “cool” guy. I call him “my drug” because that’s all he was, and all every guy after that would be.
A month later, I see a positive sign. And no, not in the spiritual sense. Here I was, 18 years old, had sex one time, the first time, and I was pregnant. At this point, my high school first love had left me for another girl. Lost and alone, with serious bouts of depression, I told only two people at the time. One begged me to keep it, the other just shook her head in disbelief. I will never forget the shame and lowness I felt that day. When I told him, he begged me not to keep it. He said he would kill himself if he had a baby right now, and offered to pay for it. That was it — $75 later and it was done. My life was forever changed and it is the biggest regret I have thus far.
Despite everything that happened, I spent the next four years fighting for this same man, “my drug” — the one who told me to have an abortion. I couldn’t survive without the feeling he gave me. It became my source of happiness, and when he tried to take that away, I couldn’t handle it. We ran with a faster crowd — lots of drinking, partying, and emotional abuse. It’s hard to believe, but the biggest and most traumatic experience of my life was about to unfold.
Someone very dear and close to me was dating her first love at the time. He was older and friends with my first love. They dated for years — he was like the older brother I never had. One night, his girlfriend (my dear friend) was working. I decided to go out with him and a few other friends to our usual hangout until she got off work. Before I knew it, I was extremely intoxicated. It happened so fast. I kept saying, “something was put in my drink. I need to go”. He took me home and “took care of me”, or so I thought — He put me in the shower to help me “sober up”, made a nice “bed” next to the toilet so I would feel comfortable, and the next thing I know, he slid up right behind me.
I ran out of his place hysterically crying. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. His roommate saw me undressed, crying and believed something else had happened. I didn’t care. I knew what had happened and I just wanted to leave. I ran to my first love’s house hoping for some comfort. I didn’t get any — he didn’t believe me. No one did. My dear friend came home the next day and I told her everything with not a breath in my lungs. Thankfully, she believed me, confronted him and he said, “I don’t know. I may have done that”. She gave him a good slap, but two weeks later, they were both bribing me with Rascal Flatts tickets. I guess the pain of reality was too much for her, or deep down she didn’t believe me either. As sure as the air I breathe, I know what happened that night. God knows what happened that night. I was taken advantage of by someone very close to me.
After years of emotional abuse from my first love, and bullying from the women he left me for, I started to really feel that this was normal. Then, I noticed the dear friend I mentioned above started to have a different aura about her. I couldn’t explain it. She was more peaceful, confident and wise. I was curious as to what had changed. She introduced me to Northland Church. The pastor’s messages really spoke to her heart and it started to change her. She eventually left the man who took advantage of me and is now happily married with kids. Not many people have the heart and good nature she does. I decided to start going to church with her. I prayed God would give be a sign, a burning bush, anything to help me get over my first love and change my life. On the outside, everyone saw a beautiful, happy life — a girl who “had it all”. But on the inside, I was dying.
One night, on the way to church, my dear friend and I were talking about my situation with my first love and how I cannot break the cycle with him. No matter what he did to me or what happened, I couldn’t leave. Family and friends were very concerned. I explained to her, “It feels like I am constantly playing tug of war with God”. I have always heard God’s voice, but I refused to listen. I felt God was pulling one end of the rope saying, “No child, you are not to be with this man,” while I was pulling the other end disobediently replying with, “Yes, yes I will.” When I explained this inner turmoil/battle to my friend, her answer was simple and sweet. “Well, my money is on God.” Thirty minutes later into the service, our pastor says to the hundreds of people in the crowd, “Sometimes you are going to feel like you are playing tug of war with God. Well, brothers and sisters, my money is on God.” The crowd laughed and I just stared in disbelief. I look over at my friend who was looking at me with an expression not of surprise, but of, confirmation. She wasn’t surprised our Almighty Father sent such a profound message that was perfect for me. I left church that night, my faith forever changed.
Years went on. My faith was changed, but my heart and self-worth were not. You think I would’ve learned my lesson at this point, but that was not the case. I entered another toxic relationship with a different man. I finally left the first one, but replaced him with a better version of “the drug” I was used to. No one understood it. I was a good girl — I didnt do drugs or cheat. I had a great upbringing, good friends and a wonderful career. But, my biggest weakness caused the biggest heartaches and trapped me in a downward spiral of sin. I chased these men. I chased “the drug”. All the while, my deepest inner desire was to be loved and a part of a healthy, loving, faith-based relationship. To be wooed and swept off my feet. To love a man unconditionally and have that love returned. I was so far from it.
At that moment, it hit me and my world changed. This man I have been dreaming about all my life has been with me this whole time. Jesus. He had been fighting for me over and over for 15 years. He gave me so many outs, second chances and graceful love. I started crying. I couldn’t believe that the One I kept turning my back on and ignoring, was the One who was giving me what I was searching for all this time. To chase and fight for me with unconditional love. Oh, how beautiful that love is. My love story with Jesus reminds me so much of the book of Hosea. I “relapsed” and ignored God so many times. I committed sins that I am certain hurt him. But no matter what, no matter how much time went by, he fought for me. He thought I was worth it. It’s time I started to believe it as well.
I recently ended the toxic, four-year relationship. It’s something I should have done from the beginning, but I am okay with it. My four-year “loss” was truly a gain in that it changed that man and brought him closer to God. It also changed me. It helped me to realize who my true love has been all this time. I couldn’t ask for more. God works in such mysterious ways.
At 28, I can say for the first time that I am truly content. I am confident, and slowly starting to find my self-worth. Ironically, God has placed a man in my life recently who is so different from the others. I believe this is a second chance. I don’t know what will happen, but I am willing to step out in faith and trust God.
I look back at where I’ve been, and where my dear friend was compared to where she is now. Her beautiful life and family, full of faith and love. I’ve learned, contrary to what my type-A personality would like to believe, nothing is perfect. We all have our path, our thorns, our hurts and our victories. It is all part of God’s glorious plan and the only advice I can share is to just let go and let God. The more you choose to ignore God, the more hardened your heart gets. And that’s a dangerous place to be. Your Father will never stop loving you or give up on you. No matter what you’re facing, please remember that. Close your eyes, take a leap of faith and get ready to experience the best love story of your life!