When I take a step back and look at how my life is, one word comes to mind: undeserving. While that may sound odd, it’s true. In order to understand my response, I need to give you a little bit of a back story. I grew up in a Christian household. Christianity was not part of my memories, but part of my identity. I grew up thinking one way of life was ultimately the only way to live. However, my perception of Christianity changed when my parents separated. I was in high school when I was told they were going to get a divorce. It shook me because I was taught to believe divorce was not an option. After that point, I questioned a lot of things around me. I started skipping Sunday services, decided to hang out more with my friends than family, and when it came time to choose a college to attend, I picked one where I was far away enough from home. College years blurred into four years of partying, drinking, and making nothing but one bad decision after another — AKA my rebellious years. During that season of my life I thought, “If I was able to make it this far without putting God as a priority, then I really don’t need him.” It became easier and easier to neglect my Christianity and focus more on what made me feel good and what I wanted to do.
After I graduated college, I moved back home with my mom. I had plans to move to Texas, but that wasn’t for a few more months so I decided it would be smart to save whatever money I could by staying at home. Mom knew I hadn’t been to church in years. She knew I had turned my back on God and lived a different life. But every Sunday morning before she left for church she would ask me, “Manda, do you want to come to church with me?” And my answer was always the same. “No.” After a few weeks, mom stopped asking me because I kept giving her the same answer. Slowly though, I noticed I was feeling very unfulfilled… empty for lack of a better term. I pushed it aside and thought nothing of it. Instead, I focused my energy on finding a job so I could make some money before I moved to Texas. Interview after interview, I didn’t get anything. Doors were closed on me and I didn’t understand why. I had a BA in Journalism, I was smart, and I knew I was a fast learner. I kept applying hoping something good would turn up.
One Sunday morning, I heard my mom and little sister getting ready for church in the bathroom. I don’t know what compelled me to say these next few words, but I went into the bathroom and told them both, “I’d like to go to church today.” Their faces were in utter disbelief. A few moments later, it was shrieks of joy and clapping. I sat there during Sunday service not knowing if this was for me anymore. My life did not have God in it… so why was I here? For some reason, I kept going. Why? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I want to say it was God pulling at my heartstrings.
But there was one particular Sunday that changed my life. A man named John attended our church for the very first time and he came up to me after service ended. I didn’t know who he was and had never met him before in my entire life. He told me it was his first time at this church and we got to small talk. Before we left and parted ways, he asked me if he could pray for me. I thought it was really odd that some stranger would want to pray for me, but I said okay (to be polite). As soon as he started praying for me, I started crying. Every thought I had in my mind, every question on my heart was being confirmed in that prayer. Things I knew God was asking me to do, but ignored, was being brought to my attention. Knowing that God wanted me to come back to Him overwhelmed me because I had been ignoring him all these years. I thank God for sending John to visit our church that day. If it wasn’t for him, I honestly don’t know if I would be where I am today.
After John prayed for me, I rededicated my life to God and I promised never to turn back to how I lived before. Immediately after I made that decision, I was given job opportunities, my sense of emptiness was taken away, and my relationship with my family grew stronger than ever. My whole life was literally turned upside down. Looking back at my life, I don’t know why it took me so long to stop fighting against God. The whole time, I knew God was there, but he never forced me to choose him. He chose to love me instead. He waited for me to find my way back home to him in my own timing. Love doesn’t pressure you to love back. Love is selfless and unconditional. Every time I think about that, I tear up. Because remember when I said my life is underserving? I say that because if I was given a life based on how I was and the decisions I made, I would have been given a pretty miserable life. I would not be blessed with my amazing husband, Josiah. I would have been in Texas living in a city without any emotional support from friends or family. I would be looking for the next “high” to make my life worthwhile/worth living. I would not be writing this blog with Sharon. I would not know the value of who I am and continue allowing others to make me feel insignificant and worthless.
Everything I went through has brought me here. And although there was a lot of wasted time and stupid decisions, I don’t regret anything. My failures and stubbornness taught me how to appreciate every season of my life. Rock bottom is not the end. There is so much more to your life than you know. Everyone has so much value and a purpose to carry out those talents/callings in life. Life isn’t easy. It’s not meant to be easy. Because if it was, then why would we need each other? Why would we need God?
I’m far from perfect. And I know I don’t deserve this kind of amazing, unconditional love, but yet, God still chooses me – every single day. He runs after me daily just to remind me that he loves me. My story may not sound like yours, but I hope it gives you encouragement in knowing that when our lives don’t work out to what we planned it to look like, there will be something better. We’re so used to seeing what we can see and basing our decisions and choices on that. But God sees the bigger picture and He will always give us what is better and needed for us to be molded to be the person he designed us to be.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8