Moderation was never my strong suit. I dreamed big and tackled life head-first – I was all in or not at all. And so life became one big pursuit of ultimate experiences to feel like I was on top of the world; fully loved, fully pursued, fully desired and envied by all around me. I so desperately wanted the fairytale life, so I strove to control and steer my life in such a way that people couldn’t help but notice me. I had forgotten that I had already stolen the heart and gaze of the King of every king.
It started with a few shots and some hookah. All fear slipped away and I transformed into the life of the party. I felt wild and free, and actually liked the unsteadiness, every emotion heightened by 1000. So I kept going, adding harder drugs and drinking and smoking my life away, spending my weekends in a haze I thought was purely fun-living while simultaneously slipping deeper into depression. I hated myself when I was sober, so I used every excuse to get drunk and high and drink my fill at the poisonous fountain of empty hookups, bittersweet lies whispered in my ear as I laid more and more of my inhibitions aside. I thought that I was living, but I was dying inside. The idea that I was actually created to experience pure Holy ecstasy, which I was failing to manufacture through sex, drugs and alcohol, was lost on me. I had never heard of Holy Spirit, and though I had grown up in church, “God” was more a series of religious activities and quiet times than an actual relationship where I could find the identity and fulfillment I was desperately longing for. I was a sheep without a shepherd, running full speed ahead off a cliff. And I was a master manipulator who convinced everyone around me, including myself, that I was totally fine. I was caught in a seemingly impermeable fortress of lies and deceit, until in stepped the rod of God, His staff of correction – rebuke to save me from total self-destruction.
With failing health and a failing report card, I was asked to go home – academic suspension, shame, anger, more self-hatred, gossip, and no grace. I hated God and walked away. But God is relentless in His pursuit of His creation, leaving the 99 to find the one…ME. I ended up at ROCKHARBOR and Saddleback Church where, during Saddleback’s CRAVE Winter 2010 retreat to Utah, I encountered the Father heart and radical love of God, and would never be the same. The subsequent 3+ years have been a journey through gnarly terrain, but I clearly see how the Lord has been relentlessly pursuing me and I am amazed at His patience, in love with His faithfulness, and humbled by the sheer magnitude of His mercy and grace.
Exactly two years ago this month, I was two months into a one-year commitment to singleness when I backslid worse than ever before. In a matter of weeks, I was back to partying heavily and dived head-first into a sexually impure relationship, while simultaneously leading a high school small group in HSM; I was basically living in open rebellion. One day I prayed “God, if you want him out of my life, YOU do something about it.” Well, I challenged God and He showed up big time. A week later, on Good Friday no less, God in his graciousness literally removed my boyfriend from my life, cauterized my life and re-consecrated me to Him. Finally, God showed me that repentance is about so much more than just saying “I’m sorry,” and how it brings joy beyond measure. On the second night of the YWAM Circuit Riders’ tent meetings in Huntington Beach that August, I was brought low with the realization of the full weight of my sinful choices and how much they grieved the Lord’s heart; it broke me completely and left me undone, sobbing on my knees in the front of the room; I truly repented for perhaps the first time in my life, and surrendered my life to Jesus. A week later, at the closing night of the tent meetings, I was filled afresh with the Holy Spirit, filled to the overflow, and received my prayer language. Things have been kicked into high gear since then and I ended up deciding to do the Fire & Fragrance Discipleship Training School (DTS) at YWAM Harrisburg, a community planted out of YWAM Kona to be a beachhead of revival on the East Coast and a contending house of prayer for the Ivy League campuses.
My time at YWAM was like heart surgery, mind surgery and detox all swirled into one – a complete reevaluating and stripping away of all that had hindered, and a revealing of the simple truth of who Jesus really is and what it means to walk as a beloved daughter of the King and a fully known, fully adored Bride of the most perfect man that ever was or ever will be. It was like being in a compression chamber inside of a pressure cooker, on a furnace – so painful! But so SO amazing, as Jesus turned up the heat and all my impurities rose to the surface, until I started to glow and resonate with the very image of Christ. During this time, especially while on outreach in Nepal and at Yale University, the Lord spoke to me a lot about covenant and abiding in Him, and directed my attention almost every moment of every day to the book of Hosea, Redeeming Love, and John 15. I realized that Jesus is faithful, even when I am not. He is so much more committed to me than I am, or ever could be, to Him. His heart longs for and burns for me infinitely more than mine does for Him. And when I screw up a million and one times a day, He is not regretful for choosing me – His delight does not waver. For He knew exactly who I was, He knew exactly what He was getting, when He called my name. And yet He saw so much more. Past the dirt and grime and shame of willful adultery, He saw GOLD. He chose me and did everything, and all that He asks is that I believe and receive.
The beauty of the Gospel is that God sent His only son, the darling of Heaven and the desire of nations, to be crucified for our sake, for my stupid mistakes and the prison of my sin nature; to set me free from insecurity, fear of man and of failure, performance, and a self-destructive lifestyle, YES, but most importantly to adopt me into the perfect family, and destroy my heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh; to equip me to not only desire God more, but to live for Him with every breath that fills my lungs. None of this can be striven for, worked towards, manipulated into being, or attained by the works of my hands. Instead of control and deceit, it requires surrender. Instead of clenched fists and gritted teeth, it requires open hands and outstretched arms, working with – and not slaving for – the pleasure and approval of the Lord. It is revival and reformation, of my heart and my life; all things made new in His glorious light. I have been ruined for the ordinary, for cute comfy Churchianity defined by 1 hour in service on the weekends and little else; I have seen the Father, tasted of heaven’s beauty, and nothing less than eternity will satisfy.
I am not who I was, this much is true. But I am stepping more and more into who I was created to be. Oh praise the Lamb, I’ve been set free.