Grace | Ozark Senior 2015

My name is Grace.

I don’t remember the day I accepted Jesus as my savior. I was small. I know that. I didn’t know what I was doing, but God knew. I’ve  spent my entire life going to Sunday School and church services with my dad. I knew it was right to love Jesus and believe He loves me.

My parents are missionaries and what they do is the coolest thing someone can do for Jesus, if you ask me. I grew up working with them for His Kingdom. I knew Jesus. But I never knew what it meant to truly love Jesus. To crave Him. To seek Him.

The summer before my sophomore year, before we moved across the country . . . again, I went to church camp for the first time. I remember being nervous because my older brother used to fight tooth and nail to avoid going to camp. But I was pleasantly surprised.

God met me in a powerful way at that camp experience on the last night. Up until then, the services had been fantastic and the worship equally as great. But I was unsure about this last service. I was unsure about The Holy Spirit. My dad used to teach about The Holy Spirit’s cleansing work by filling a cup full of mud with water to wash it clean. Until that night I was a bit scared of it because I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know what that meant and how it affected my relationship with God.

But that night at camp, something moved in me. HE moved in me. I pushed my way to the front of the crowd. I remember praying. I don’t know for how long I prayed. Out loud. On my knees. Swaying to the music. It felt like minutes. Maybe it was hours. I listened to someone at the front as I began to feel discouraged. I don’t remember who she was, but she told us that the Spirit wouldn’t speak for you. He will tell you what to say but you have to speak the words. She told us to just speak whatever came to our lips. I mumbled. I felt stupid. But soon I felt a stirring unlike any other. My very soul cried out through my tongue. I was closer to Him than I had ever been before. That moment changed me. I will never forget it.

Shortly after camp, we made our move to Oregon. It was a missionary furlough- we were only going to be there for one year. Despite my life as a missionary kid, this move seemed impossible. We arrived in the middle of the summer: the worst time to arrive to a new place. I spent the summer inside, no friends, nothing to do. Only waiting. I look back now and know this is where my darkness began. It was here that I began to feel the loneliness. The thing about being lonely is that it sits in your bones. It’s not something that passes the way a melancholy afternoon does. It weaves its fingers into your mind and doesn’t let go.

I retreated. School started. I retreated further. No one was mean. But then, no one ever is mean to the new girl, at first.
Having missed soccer tryouts, I found myself not connecting with anyone. I resigned. I wouldn’t make friends until track season. I would be kind. I would be friendly, but if I met no one until the spring, that was okay.

This is the story of my darkness. A girl unfamiliar with loneliness finding herself lonely. A girl close to God finding that the world is so much darker without Him. The path to depression was already deep by the time I realized I was following it. Getting to depression is not like walking forward. It’s like digging your own grave with your hands. I remember realizing I was depressed. It was like jumping into an ice cold pool. It took my breath away. I woke up every morning and didn’t want to get out of bed. I wrestled with something so dark and so terrifying inside of me. And the worst part: instead of drawing towards my Heavenly Father, as I should have, I shied away from Him.

Then the cutting started. All I remember about it was feeling so empty. That’s even more frightening than sadness or anger or bitterness. Emptiness. I was so deep into this darkness that I could no longer feel. Nothing made me happy for very long. Nothing even made me sad. I so desperately wanted to feel something . . . anything. And yet I was so helpless. I could not fabricate my emotions. So I made myself feel something physical. I made myself feel pain.

Self-harm is something no one can truly understand unless one has done it to themselves. It’s something our Heavenly Father never, EVER intended us to experience. It’s so horrible and to know that there are those of you out there still dealing with it breaks my heart.

That darkness is something God never wants us to feel. That’s why He gives us His light. He gives His light to us to keep us away from the darkness.

And, yes, the darkness did stop.

But only when I turned back to Him was I able to put away that blade. Able to let the scars heal. I have a vivid memory of one of the last nights before we returned to our home in Missouri. My parents found out about my self-harm and of course, I stopped. I sat on the floor of my room and I cried. I cried the deep, soul-cleansing kind of cry that wracks your body as I read 1 John 2:17…

“The world and its evil longings are passing away. But those who do what God wants them to do live forever.”

This verse has been my favorite for a long time and in my season of healing, it is so applicable. I did not want healing. I did not want to emerge from the darkness. It was hard. It was hard to pull myself from that pit. But God did not want me to stay there. He has plans for me. Awesome, amazing, huge, unimaginable plans that I can’t do if I remain in darkness.

Because of the time I spent pulled so far from my Savior, I now cling to Him with everything I am. He is more than the Savior that died for my sins. He is my personal Savior. Just as he saved me from the monster I fought within me, he can save you. There is a darkness in all of us. One we cannot overcome without the mighty power of our Everlasting God. Run to Him. When no one else listened, He was there. When I was empty, He filled me. Run to Him.

2014-10-30_00131 John 1:5-7 (ESV) This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 Peter 2:9 (ESV) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

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