Today was a new low. I just feel so frustrated, so confused, so alone in my faith. Last year at school I joined a ministry called Campus Outreach, and it was just not for me- but I kept trying to make it fit into my life because I felt so deprived of Christian leadership as a freshman college student away from her home church. The whole group said they focused on community outreach, saying we must pour the gospel into others’ lives. But I never really understood why I would share the gospel with someone I didn’t know, or some random girl that lived next door to me in my dorm. And the more Christians you converted, the more you were praised. This group was so closed off to drinking (as is every other youth ministry I’ve experienced) and they never really said why, or it never struck me. I’ve always struggled with drinking, but they automatically assumed if I was drinking I was lost and looking for attention and love, when in reality I just wanted to have a good time. Am I insecure? Yes. But I don’t believe having a couple beers means I’m depressed and don’t know Jesus loves me. I’m SO sick of Student Ministries placing an emphasis on not drinking- NO. Or an emphasis on “living weekend to weekend”. What the hell does that mean? Where does Jesus play into this? I know in the bible it says drinking is a sin, but I’ve always thought sin is so much deeper than a physical act. And does one physical act always have the same emotional motivation? Considering there are more than 7 billion people in the world, I’m guessing not. I just am always confused and frustrated on this situation. Anyway, I made the decision to stop going to Campus Outreach because I realized that I didn’t want to be a part of a clique-y, non-diverse group of people who placed a huge emphasis on Christian friends rather than just loving the people that are in their lives, no matter what they believe. And the worst part of it all is they never said a word. I spent a huge chunk of my freshman year devoted to this group, searching and searching for sincere spiritual connections and never found them. Maybe glimpses of them, but never found them. And instead of texting me and asking me if I wanted to hangout, or even asking if I wanted to talk about why I didn’t want to be in the ministry anymore, I was just dropped. No words. And that hurts so much. I don’t even know where to go from here. I feel so lost. I feel like every ministry is clique-y and not even focused on the right things at Bradley and that is so frustrating. I have basically zero community and just so dearly desire a mentor in my life that will point me to the Lord. Because I do thirst for Him. Of course I do. I wouldn’t be desperate for community if I didn’t. If you’re reading this and feel the same way, I’m so sorry. I know it hurts so much. But I have to believe everything happens for a reason, and God is in the midst of this. It just sucks right now. And if you’re reading this and have input, please message me or comment or contact me. And most of all, pray if you can. Not a huge, lofty prayer, just a little, “Hey God- you know Steph? Just be with her.” prayer. Thanks for reading.
Lately I’ve been feeling so far from any sort of Christ-centered community; I feel constantly as if I don’t fit into the student ministry here at my college. Because I’m in a sorority and have an extroverted, edgy, sassy personality, I amount to a strange hybrid of bad girl and Christ lover. I never know what to make of it. I feel like some of the people in the my student ministry think I go out to get attention from guys, drink and generally delve into and absorb sin. When in reality I go out to dance silly with my friends and sing obnoxiously to “fergalicious” until 3 am. If I really fit into the campus ministry, I wouldn’t feel like I had to prove I am a Christian. It angers me so much. God doesn’t make cookie-cutter perfect little Christians; that thought doesn’t even make sense. He made us messy, radical, sinful people to show how much we need Him. How LOST we are without Him. The gospel wouldn’t have any meaning any other way.
So often I feel like my best friends here who don’t go to church with me show me so much more acceptance and love than any of the people I know who I would normally attend church with. So what is going on here? Doesn’t God make us all fabulous, different and unique? And doesn’t it say plainly in the bible to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31? I’m so sick of feeling like a strange, misunderstood hybrid of sassy sorority girl and junior high bible study leader. Who am I? It’s times like these, when I’m close to staying in my bed all day and feeling sorry for myself, when I have to remind myself that I can’t depend on others. If I have learned anything this year, it is that literally everyone will let me down. Disappoint me. Leave me full of sadness. Devoid of joy. Empty. And the only true, constant thing I have in my life is God. And the sacrifice His only son made for me.
At the ripe age of 18, I’m starting to grasp how much more real life is. It is not sunshine and rainbows. Life consists of hurt, pain, sadness, emotion. Raw emotion. And I need to make a habit of relying on God more. Every time I feel like my world is crumbling, I pray the force of the crash pushes me onto my knees in prayer and worship.
But I’ve been lazy. L A Z Y, people. It’s been weeks since I last really opened my bible. A part of me is annoyed at life in general (if you’ve taken nursing classes, you understand my pain), and another part of me doesn’t want to read the bible because I feel like some of the Christians I know at school give me a hypocritical vibe and a feeling that I’m just so much different and more sinful than them. But I think that’s just a stupid excuse. I know myself. I’m not the type to claim I’m perfect. I’ll be the first to admit I mess up. Not like I’m proud of my sin, but I’m more than aware that I’m am not Jesus. Who’s with me?
If you feel alone and misunderstood, believe me, I’ve been there. I’m there now. But let me tell you something: you’re not alone. God is with you, in the midst of you, crying with you, laughing with you, feeling with you. Why do we always let ourselves forget that? Why do we always forget we’ve got this amazing, trustworthy, loving creator rooting for us? His truth should always override our emotions (that are usually moody, hormonal, and exaggerated anyway, right? Don’t even try to think otherwise, reader. I know they are.)
I know this post was a little scatterbrained, but I haven’t posted in so long and it feels so good to write out everything I’m feeling. I’ll share a verse that gives me comfort, hope and peace. “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
So next time you feel judged by another Christian, or just completely different than your community of believers, it’s going to be okay. God loves you, understands you, and hungers for you more than anyone on this earth. And I know it’s so hard to understand that because he’s not physically present, standing in front of you, telling you these things. But this is the truth.
I hope you all feel the love and joy God has to offer. God bless.
Really loved this post. So often I can be impatient and unloving to those who need it most.
Who am I? I am a sinner. I am broken. I have a heart full of selfishness, flaw and hopelessness. All of this- my human imperfection- was rewritten the day I became a Christian. When I accepted Christ as my savior, my destruction-lead path was destroyed. I accepted God’s love and grace, whispering that I am more worthy than I was ever told. When I realized that the Son of Man died for me, my self-concept transformed. I began to see how truly little I was and how big God was; humility was breathed into my life.
I am shaped on the belief that Christ died for my sins; I function solely because of this belief. I am shaped on the belief that the path God has for me is better than anything this world has to offer. I am shaped by humor. I am shaped by the desire to show others grace because God has shown me grace. I am shaped by love- love for God, love for others, love for those who have never been loved before. I am shaped by the value I hold for my relationship with God, family and close friends. I am shaped by my sorority which motivates me to raise money for meaningful philanthropies. I am shaped by laughter and the joy that hilarity brings me. I am shaped by watching too many episodes of How I Met Your Mother over winter break. I am shaped by the absurd amount of naps I take. I am shaped by my somewhat embarrassing adoration for inappropriate jokes. I am shaped by the love my mom has poured into my life. I am shaped by volunteering and leading Junior High students in Christian discussion. I am shaped by my insane love for cats even though I am allergic. I am shaped by the beauty God has infused into my life. I am shaped by my best friend who has shown me pure love by sharing the gospel with me. I am shaped by the student ministry I am in. I am shaped by my music taste (Coldplay, anyone? How about some Mumford and Sons?). I am shaped by my fashion choices. I am shaped by the perfume I wear. I am shaped by the society I grew up in- a typical Midwestern suburb full of soccer moms and a really good high school.
To put it simply, I am shaped by God’s love and sacrifice for me because it is the only constant thing I will have for my entire life and eternity. Self-Conception is deemed as “a more overriding view of ourselves, a sense of self through time”. That is why I place such an emphasis on God. Because How I Met Your Mother will end, Coldplay will eventually break up, I will lose friendships, the Junior Highers I volunteer with will grow up, I will not always experience laughter, and I will not always make the best fashion decisions. But Jesus remains.
I consider myself an onion- my various self-images over the years keep compiling, one on top of the other, but in the midst of all of these, under all the layers, is the promise of God’s love.
Until I was seventeen years old, I wasn’t a Christian. When I was younger, I was bullied for my weight. Over and over I was told I was overweight, fat, unworthy, not good enough. As Cooley suggested in the Looking-Glass self, I looked at myself through the eyes of my bullies and was ashamed. I was overweight and it was my fault. I was unworthy because I was ugly and that was my fault. That crap really builds up and shapes you when you’re younger. My parents divorced when I was five years old and my dad came out to me that he was gay a couple years later. I was so confused. All of these experiences amounted to a dorky, overweight girl who had no explanation for anything around her. I tried to cover up my insecurity with humor; that has always been my security blanket. In eighth grade, I barely had any friends and I reached a breaking point- I cried to my sister, proclaiming I was unworthy and unloved as a person. She took one look at me, and showed my tough love. She told me I was worthy, strong, beautiful, and if no one at school saw that they were downright wrong. She told me if I didn’t start believing in myself, relying on myself, and having strength within myself, I would fail. In that moment, I started believing I had to rely on myself for everything. Strength in myself and accomplishments became the idol and center of my life.
Moving onto high school, I still had extremely low self-esteem, but doing my hair and make-up helped a little. I made the Poms team and felt a little more accepted. I earned good grades, worked hard, and eventually made good friendships. But I still lived for social acceptance. I still craved physical approval, especially from boys. Freshman year I would upload photos of myself on Facebook that hardly looked like me. I wanted to appear better than I was because the person I was had never been good enough. Physical beauty was so ridiculously important to me- I needed to be skinnier, my eyelashes needed to be longer, my hair had to grow to long lengths. I was never going to be as pretty as the other girls in my school. I was never asked out; I was never desired by a boy. I believed that was my fault- I wasn’t desired because I wasn’t desirable enough.
Then I met my best friend, Maddie. She took me to church. At first, I thought I knew the gospel. I thought I knew who Jesus was. But until I let him transform my heart and become the Lord of my life, I was just a lukewarm, fake believer. Going to church only on Christmas and Easter isn’t Christianity. Accepting God’s love, value, sacrifice and grace everyday is real Christianity. Until I realized this, I had always relied on myself. That is what I was taught. I was trained to believe in myself, work hard for myself, and accept the physical self image my bullies had given me.
None of this was what I started to read in the bible. The truth? Jesus died for me, on the cross, bled out for my sin. That’s how worthy I am. God knit my innermost being together, placed every hair on my head, and sent His son to die for me. That’s how beautiful I am. After such a long season of unworthiness, when I became a Christian my life became so light. God poured His grace and love into me. I don’t deserve it because I am a filthy sinner, but He loves me so much he gives it to me anyway. It is a pure, selfless gift. Relying on myself and working as hard as I possibly could no longer became a concern. I still aspire to achieve goals, but not for myself. I desire to achieve goals for the pure goodness of the Lord. And my self-esteem? Skyrocketed. I may not always be the most confident, but I have an inner knowledge and belief that God made me, and that is what makes me beautiful. Physical beauty means literally nothing. And those embarrassing photos of me on Facebook that looked nothing like me? They became a part of the past. Why represent myself and something different when God has made me exactly the way I am for a reason? I am who I am, and I am joyous in that fact. If I didn’t have Christ in my life, nothing would have meaning. Nothing would amount to value. With Christ, I have value, love, no condemnation for my wrongdoings- just pure, joyous, laugh-out-loud grace.
So yes, society can try and shape me all it wants. Bullies can call me unworthy, tight Pom uniforms can whisper thoughts of ugliness into my ears, and a bad grade on an important exam can try and tear me down. But I know that I am truly defined by Jesus’ sacrifice for me.