I woke up in the dark, barely able to breathe in the heat. I had no idea where I was, how I got there, or what had happened to me.
I stood and banged on the door. As my eyes adjusted, I realized I was in a garage. I banged again. Someone I didn’t know answered the door and let me out. I went back to my college dorm and sat down to think. How did I get here?
To answer that question, I must start at the beginning.
My father was an abusive alcoholic who beat my mother and brother. After one too many beatings, my mother had enough. She took my brother and me, and we moved to Texas.
A few months later, my father visited with my brother, then took him and disappeared. Suddenly, both were out of my life.
While I was still young, my mother remarried. I spent most summers with my great grandmother, who took me to church regularly.
Eventually, my mother and stepfather started going to church. We attended regularly and became active in our local congregation. I began singing in church at around age ten and played drums with the worship team around age 13.
Growing up in a Christian home gave me a good foundation to build on. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
However, a Christian home does not guarantee a trouble-free life. As a child, I suffered physical and psychological abuse, and at age 12, I was sexually abused by an uncle. I was also sexually abused by a family friend on multiple occasions.
I gave my life to Christ at an early age, but I never quite had the relationship with Him that I should have had. I dated a few boys but never made a connection with any of them. I had a crush on a boy named Glen, who played saxophone, but he and his family moved away.
When I was 17, I fell in love with an amazing man. He was kind, funny, and a strong Christian. He treated me like a queen, and I was madly in love with him.
The man was in remission from a brain tumor when we met. During my senior year of high school, the tumor returned, and just after graduation, he died. I was devastated.
I left home shortly after that and moved in with a friend until leaving for college in August. Away from home, I was unsupervised, hurt, and angry.
I went into a downward spiral of self-destructive behavior that started with alcohol and led to drugs and other bad behaviors. That all ended when I woke up in that dark, hot garage.
Throughout this ordeal, a dear childhood friend would encourage me. I would call her at all times of the night and morning, crying and whining.
This friend would remind me that God loved me and that she loved me. She would tell me that what I was doing was wrong and that I could not continue on that path. When I woke up in that garage and went back to my dorm, I thought about her and what she had told me, and I thought about all the things I knew to be true about God.
I called my friend, and she offered to send me a plane ticket to Arkansas, where she and her family had moved. I flew there the next day and turned my life back over to God.
A few months later, that saxophone player from church moved to the same little town in Arkansas. We were married six months later and have stayed together for thirty years. We have also been blessed with two amazing children.
I wish I could say that everything in my life was perfect after that. I still had many ups and downs, relapsing multiple times and returning to my old friend, alcohol.
But each time, God persistently pursued me. No matter how many times I rebelled, disobeyed, or failed, God never gave up on me. He is not the God of second chances; He is the God of infinite chances. His unfailing love never gives up.
I think of three parables in Luke 15.
The first one is about a sheep that wanders away and gets lost (vv. 1-7). The shepherd leaves the other sheep and searches for the one lost sheep until He finds it.
In the second parable, a woman loses a priceless coin (vv. 8-10). She searches everywhere and doesn’t stop looking until she finds it.
The third parable is about the prodigal son (vv. 11-32). He turns his back on his father and squanders his inheritance. At his lowest point, he feeds pigs and is so hungry, his stomach growls for the pigs’ slop.
Not knowing what else to do, he decides to go home to his father. Before the wayward son even approaches the house, his father sees him, runs to him, hugs him, and throws a party in his honor.
These parables tell me that whether I have wandered off, gotten lost, or purposely turned my back on God, He never gave up on me.
Since I turned back to God, He has poured out blessings on my life. While I never saw my biological father again, my brother came back into my life, and I got to know him for several years until he died this year.
I lost my mother last year, but God brought me through it. He has given me a family, a home, a job, and a wonderful life. Learning to journal in alcohol rehab made me realize that I liked to write. God blessed me with the ability and opportunity to share through words about His grace and mercy.
Jesus came to bring us an abundant life, to heal the soul-sick, to deliver those who are prisoners of sin, and to break the chains of bondage. He came to comfort and restore those people who have been used, abused, bruised, battered, and broken.
He died for us so that we could be forgiven and brought back to life. He came so we could be reconciled with God and have a personal relationship with Him.
No matter where we are in life, God knows us and loves us. He wants to have a relationship with us. I am living proof that He can make life something beautiful.