Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned & fallen short of the glory of God."
On this day two years ago, I finally arrived on Colorado soil in the foothills of the Rockies. If I'm being honest, I wasn't entirely sure what I was doing. No clue. I didn't know what the right decision was, I just knew that staying in my hometown was the wrong one. I had divorced eleven months earlier & I needed to runaway. So I packed my life into little boxes & headed west. When I pulled out of my parents' driveway on January 7, 2015 to begin the two-day journey across the country, I was only trusting that this was the right decision, even when I doubted the whole thing. I assure you, there was a lot of doubt, with (very little) hope for a silver lining. What a transformation has taken place in two years. I really can't take credit for any of it, because Jesus has been holding my hand the entire way -- even when I tried fighting Him off. And boy, did I try. A lot.
I think back to my second day in Colorado Springs. January 9, 2015 was a cold & icy day. The Front Range wasn't even visible. I woke up in my hotel room, still in disbelief that I had actually left my life behind to start over. This was it. This was my new beginning, where I could be anyone that I wanted to be. I expected to wake up feeling relief or joy... but instead, I was overcome with grief. What on earth had I done? This unfamiliar place that was supposed to feel like home & fulfill my dreams of hope felt more like a mistake. This unfamiliar place resembled something that I already regretted. I called a friend from home in a quiet panic, fighting back my instincts to stay in bed & never get up while I drowned myself in tears. He encouraged me to go outside, go to a local coffee shop, or drive around & learn the streets. But greeting the fate that awaited on the other side of the hotel room door paralyzed me.
I spent nearly an entire year tending that field, only to realize that it had yielded no crops. This was a tiny nudge from the Lord. Maybe I should be doing something different. That was a fleeting thought, as I entered a relationship with a man who wasn't saved. Again, I was trying to cherry-pick the parts of the Bible that I believed, & toss out the parts of the Bible that I wanted to ignore. I am really good at ignoring the command in 2 Corinthians 6:14 about being unequally yolked: "Do not be yolked together with unbelievers." That's a pretty straightforward command, & yet I didn't see the harm in my actions, I instead justified them. Sure, he has a temper. And what's wrong with a little premarital sex? Even the steadfast Christians are doing that. I mean, I've already been married so it shouldn't really be that much of a fuss. I can still believe even if he doesn't, our relationship isn't harming my spirituality. I was pretending on the outside that my inside was sanctified. Unfortunately for me, I got really good at pretending. I got really good at saying I was a Christian, & then putting absolutely none of it into action. My redemption story is ugly.
I moved in with a girlfriend when my lease expired. She invited me to Restoration Church a few times, but I could usually find an acceptable excuse to miss attending. Although I acknowledged that I needed God at this point--& had been needing Him for quite some time--I was ashamed of how I had been living my life. God couldn't possibly love me after all of the things that I've done. One of the first times I attended church was after a friend committed suicide, & I think I went because I really didn't know what else to do. Admittedly, I have certainly thought about suicide before... the ending to my worldly pain, so a part of me understood why she made that decision. I went to church by myself that week, battling my tears the entire time. Unbeknownst to me, a seed was planted among a tragedy. Death, in any capacity, always makes me re-evaluate the world & my own existence within it. Around this same time, my dad's cancer came back, which made me look at death all over again. I felt so hopeless, so powerless. With what little faith I had, I wondered why I should bother even keeping it. I went to church that week anyway. And unbeknownst to me, another seed was planted among a tragedy.
One of my best friends took me out for a beer & a brownie sundae, two months after Danielle's death, & one day before my dad was having surgery to remove his cancer. I nearly cried when he reached across the table & told me if I ever needed anything, that he would be right there. I wanted to spill every detail of sin, but I kept my mouth shut & nodded. He said something else, something that I will never forget. "...I'm happy because I have God." This made no sense to me at the time, because his life had some of the same moments of hopelessness & pain that I had experienced. Yet here he sat before me with a smile, proclaiming that God is good, even when life isn't. And another seed was planted.
Those seeds didn't immediately flourish, but they were quietly growing while I ignored them & continued in tending to my wild oats. Anytime I felt lost over the last two years, I would just water those wild oats. Those darn oats! The yield continued to be a bushel of regrets that dried out my soul, withered my spirit, & broke my heart. I was misinterpreting the needs of my spirit for the needs of my flesh. The wild oats were poisoning me, but I continued to chase the world anyway, in the exact opposite direction of Jesus. In October of this year, just three months ago, those seeds that were planted in times of tragedy finally started to sprout. They started breaking through the soil. Instead of crying out for a bottle of alcohol, or crying out for a stranger's bed, I began crying out for help. Lord, I know it's been awhile. But I will not survive another hour, let alone another day, by myself. I can't do it. I prayed this literally every hour, for days at a time. And slowly, a transformation took place.
I'm not here to give you gossip about a pastor's daughter, I'm here to tell you that no matter how ashamed you are of your past, Jesus has already forgiven it. The past doesn't even matter. Tell everyone that I am a very imperfect human being with a lot of wounds, insecurities, & faults. A lot of mistakes & regrets. That I am a stubborn, wild, broken mess, even on my best day. But also tell those people that I am a beloved of Jesus Christ. Hallelujah that He makes all things new -- even me. And especially you. You are loved & cherished beyond measure. If you feel hopeless, I promise that there is a reason to feel hopeful. Jesus doesn't care about the mistakes you made last year, last week, or yesterday. He's already forgotten about & forgiven your past. He chooses to love you (yes, you) every single day, whether you like it or not. Even if you don't believe, or maybe you're only 50/50 buying into it -- that's okay. He still knows you & loves you. He's fighting for you.
Even when I tried running away, He stayed with me & He loved me. Even when I ignored His neon lights & blinking arrows of guidance, He stayed with me & He loved me. Even when I tried using sex, alcohol, & money to fulfill me, He stayed with me & He loved me. I told you, my redemption story is ugly. But my redemption in Jesus Christ is stunning. Thank you, Jesus & Colorado, for two years of lessons learned, regrets forgiven, shames diminished, & wholeness found.
Megan Elizabeth is a storyteller based in Kalispell, Montana. Take a peek at her blog & portfolio, drop her a line, & follow her story on Facebook & Instagram.