During my freshman year of college my Intro to Psych professor quoted a journal she was reading that stated,
“Our deepest desire and our deepest fear are one in the same. We want to be fully known and fully loved. But see, our fear tells us that in order to be fully loved, we cannot be fully known, and in order to be fully known, we must risk ever being loved. So we walk a delicate line of compromise.”
I was seated somewhere in the middle row, when her words reached my heart and something strong filled my chest and overflowed out of me as I started tearing up quietly in my dorm room later that day, thinking about what she had spoken.
I have grown up in church for a long time and my mom has been an amazing example of a believer in my life.
We never had much growing up, but we always made it work. My mom didn’t just talk about trusting Jesus, she walked it out. I watched my mom pray for provision, for protection, for us. I would hear her every morning around 5am crying out to Jesus. She would sing songs of worship. She would pray for every member of my family with authenticity, every person she encountered, every time disaster struck any part of the world. My mom is the kindest woman I know, and the most dedicated prayer warrior I have ever seen. She demonstrated a life that seemed so hard for me to relate to growing up, but because it was so honest…it inspired me anyway.
I went to church camps, retreats, vacation bible school, Christian concerts, you name it…I went. Sometimes, while I was away, I would have these spiritual encounters and I knew that I knew that it was Jesus. But going to a few retreats, attending church regularly, witnessing my mother pray and live the way she does, did not make me love Jesus. They just proved to me that it was real. I knew that I was more than just a body. I knew that I was Spirit. I had heard the Gospel in every variation I could think of.
But that is not why I fell in love with Jesus (though they did teach me how to show him how I love him).
I fell in love with Jesus at rock bottom.
I fell in love with Jesus while I was in the heart of my depression, my anxiety, my pornography addiction, my anger issues and my self-loathing. It was there that I first experienced my own truth for myself. I am not a great person. Some people who meet me are under the impression that I am and that life has always been easy for me. But no kid likes being poor. No kid likes feeling ugly or weird or unwanted. No kid likes being labeled ‘that immigrant’.
It’s weird what sticks with us.
I had a lot of anger in my heart, a lot of embarrassment and shame inside of me.
Then my two friends died in high school a year apart from each other. They were such great people and I could not wrap my head around it. My head hurt, my heart hurt. I didn’t know how to pray pretty. I didn’t know how to dress up for church. I didn’t know how to act like I was okay.
Then one morning, I found a scripture without really trying. It wasn’t trying to read it, but it kind of just drew me in. It was Ezekiel 16:6
“‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!”,
This spoke to me. Jesus was not turned off by the gruesome image of me “in my own blood” (well, at the time, I was cutting myself so it was very literal to me). He was not disgusted by me. I started thumbing through more Scriptures and I saw it then. Plain as day, Jesus knew me. He knows me, fully. There is nothing hidden in his light.
When I saw that he was not running from me, I started running to him.
When I saw that he was not afraid of me, ashamed of me, upset with me, tired of me, or whatever else I feared. When I saw that he was willing to do whatever to bring me back, I took a chance. I sat up in my bed in the middle of the night, a sobbing mess, and I shakily asked Jesus to come into my heart for real. I remember saying, “I don’t know what you could do with me, I’m not much. I haven’t been kind, but I promise I will try. If your love is like it’s written here, I want you.”
My life has been different since the day I started for real loving Jesus. Not because I started being kind, loving, bubbly, and/or selfless. It was because I started to understand that his grace is sufficient. I started to see that Jesus loves me at every point and beyond that, He is able to speak to me and my situation at its worse and literally transform the whole thing. I saw that he could make a dead person like me live again.
I love Jesus because he loved me first. Because I love him, I have been and am continuing to learn how to love people in my life differently.
I am learning how to honor my authority, learning how to go above and beyond, learning not to derive my value from what I do, I am learning who I am and how to see the value in that, I am learning how to be gracious with people in my life when I encounter their ‘bad’ and to have grace for myself when I (inevitably) fail again. I have learned that none of us are perfect, but that Jesus isn’t just looking for a fair exchange or perfect people. I see now that he wants my filthy rags as they are, and that he wants to give me a life that I don’t deserve. I love Jesus for so many reasons, but my biggest reason/turning point will always be that while I was at my lowest point, he never ran away from me. I know that he is the real deal.