Fifteen. Looking back, I can't pinpoint one specific event, but I distinctly remember my teenage years being turbulent, ridden with rebellion which in turn brought a lot of grief to my family. Around this time, I had been introduced to cutting by then, and self-mutilation become something that seemed to bring emotional soothing. My hands, legs and face. Metallic compasses, cheap razor blades and knives were my weapons of choice. That's where it first began, at least as far as is clear in memory. I can't remember what triggered it, but in the middle of the night after a trivial argument, I picked up a box of painkillers and consumed them all. What lay ahead was me sprawled across my bathroom floor, trying to throw up and my mum endeavoring to get me to chug a glass of milk to neutralize the poison I had just ingested. This was followed by a hospital run with me lying across the backseat of a car, and then me puking my guts out all over the emergency room at the hospital. A mandated counselor was assigned to me following this event. I would like to say that that was the last time I attempted to commit suicide. But between 15 and 20, I had tried to drown myself in a pool, guzzled several bottles of syrup, knocked my head against a concrete wall repeatedly and wandered a street plastered alone at night — all attempts to end my life and bring closure to the sense of worthlessness and emptiness I carried.
Sixteen. I began running away a few times as a teen, in the heat of the rebel I'd become and trying to escape a complex tapestry of a desire for freedom and adventure as well as a manifestation of anger and pain. My parents became the ones to begin the search for my whereabouts on several occasions, with old friends, their parents, and in school offices. I was the one every parent warned their daughters to keep off, and I increasingly became the one whispered about at family gatherings.
Seventeen. Alcohol became a part of my life, almost exclusively for social purposes. Over the next few years, I became a sloppy and emotional drunk. I carried such a cumbersome sense of worthlessness, battled with my identity, and turned to fashion modeling to gain acceptance. It promised a short term sense of recognition. I felt celebrated, noticed, and wanted. But this, I discovered, over the years, became a gateway to such a depth of compromise, completely losing myself to the culture of that world. My moral compass was dissipating, and any whisper of conviction I had left from growing up in a religious home grew fainter as I got older, moved away from home for college and stopped going to church.
Nineteen. My drinking turned from occasional social drinking to regular drinking. It was a big part of the culture of the college I went to, a drink after class, drink in between classes, drink after class and nightcaps at our apartments. Mondays were for making plans for the parties and clubs over the upcoming weekend and weekends began on Thursdays. Night after night, we’d go out. It was all the same. Same music, same guys, same girls, same cycles of guys trying to pick up girls for the night and the same couples in the corner of the club or on the street curb getting into a public fight. The cycle was the same, waking up with empty pockets for the men and sometimes fuller pockets for the girls, from guys who’d give money to buy yourself whatever drinks you wanted. Same crowds. Same old same old. I’ll be honest and say for a while, it was fun, but over time this became a dysfunctional life. Looking back, I feel like we were all looking for something, and none of us was 100% honest with each other about the real weight of pain or confusion we had about ourselves, our families or our relationships.
I was a deeply broken teenager with an identity crisis, an orphan spirit and battled with rejection and acceptance for years. By my 20th birthday I’d began getting weary of the lifestyle. I was a lot more inwardly broken than I appeared and it was getting harder and harder to put up a front that everything was okay. In many ways, I unintentionally cut and hurt whoever came too close to me with all the broken pieces I was carrying.
Failing miserably at school was the beginning of my undoing. I first went to college when I was 17. Up and till then, I was a decent student and was academically competitive through high school. By my third year of college, my GPA was at 1.7. This led to a mandatory meeting between the Dean of the College of Business, my father and I. The threat of getting kicked out of college became a greater reality. Places of deep pain were exposed within that meeting, and the issues that had been heavy on my heart unraveled most messily within that office. I’d like to say I went into counseling then, but I didn’t. What followed over those years was more masking of weighty issues, more hiding a toxic relationship with a filter of perfection and more partying to stifle all the voices continually going off in my head. A long term relationship came to an end, compounded by academic failure and a strained relationship with my family. My world came crumbling down and something within me snapped and depression began to set in.
For a while, I’d attempted to fill that void with surrounding myself with a lot of people, more partying and ditching class. I distanced myself from the people who I knew would call me out and kept company with acquaintances I knew would let me live this YOLO life. At least that's what we called it back then. Alcohol was my greatest source of comfort and I quickly escalated from social drinking into alcohol dependency to get through the day. Whenever I had a bad day, be it six o'clock in the evening or 11 a.m., I had a ‘break in case of emergency’ bottle of Napoleon, ‘Naps’ as we affectionately called it. I carry distinct memories of drinking the whole bottle, smashing it against the wall and cutting myself with the shards of glass, of drinking and wandering a street at night by myself and other emergency room episodes. I'd become numb. I was searching for who I really was, in every party, every photo shoot and music video shoot and in every guy that took an interest in me. It's incredible how much pain you can mask behind a cute outfit, a pair of heels, some makeup, and a smile. I’d slowly began having questions and began feeling that there had to be more to life. Those thoughts consumed me as I stared at the ceiling at 6.30am when we had just gotten back to the apartment from the club after partying all night, and when my companions were passed out drunk.
I knew the 'I can do all things’, 'God has a purpose' and a ton of verses here, but I didn't live for God, and I had stayed off church for as long as I had lived away from my parents. I didn't think I could be forgiven or start over, and I knew I would be judged for the life I had lived. There was such an overwhelming roar of emptiness and that I thought I’d find peace by modeling. I thought applause and compliments would fix me. But they didn't. They weren't enough. I would draw strength from verses I saw on Facebook and things I remembered on who we had always been taught God was. People I partied with and went to college with had begun dying, from bad weed trips, car accidents, and other deaths related to the lifestyle we lived. I remember being in a car accident with no recollection of that night's activities but knowing so clearly that these were warnings of what was ahead if something in my life didn't change soon.
His Story & My History
Twenty. I was weary and secretly battling depression. A friend from the 3rd grade had somehow come back into my life. I was a pretty guarded person and had become good at masking pain, but for whatever reason, I opened up to her about the depth of emptiness I felt stuck in. She was living in Southern Africa and was far enough that I could be vulnerable while maintaining a facade back in Kenya for the modeling crew I resided with. I know that now to have been a God moment. That night, she sent me the link to a sermon and up until that point, I don't think I'd ever watched a sermon before. Potholes. That was the message on YouTube. Being away from church all those years, I felt church was boring, not relatable, restricting and judgemental but on this particular night, I was desperate, and the man seemed to be speaking into the exact situation I was facing. God had been chasing me down. I knew it, from the Kirk Franklin CD I'd stole from my newly born again mum that I would play every now and again amid that lifestyle, the little devotional book I hid from my friends that I had bought to try to gain a sense of peace and the car accident that had felt like a warning. He’d been beckoning me back to himself all along. In the middle of the night, in the four corners of my bedroom. I cried out, ‘God help me.’ Nothing sophisticated. Nothing deep nor eloquent. Nothing supernatural. But He came into my room. I didn’t know it then, but I came to know it by the evidence of how my life took a turn in that surrender and cry for help and how deeply He continues to change me. He came into my room. Jesus came into my room. And somehow, this girl who sought attention finally felt love, acceptance, and forgiveness. What followed over the years was a series of altar calls with me falling severally and still compromising the new faith I had just committed to.
His story meets our history and EVERYTHING changes. Everything changes spiritually within that moment of prayer but the natural only changes over time with the decision to keep following Him. The story of how I came to follow Jesus has stayed close over the years. I hold it so dear because I never want to forget how deeply messed up I was until I met Jesus or rather, Jesus met me. It blows me away that even before I ever saw Him or knew Him, Jesus was already there. Sometimes I close my eyes and picture Him there in critical moments of heartbreak and pain. Places I didn't even know when He was there. Like in spaces where I had lost a sense of my value, or during every occasion that I had tried to take my own life. Or when I cut myself thinking that physical pain soothed mental and emotional pain. Or when I went through emotional, physical, and verbal abuse and all the negative and belittling words and actions that had felt like a confirmation of how worthless, useless, and helpless I already was. God was always there. Emmanuel. God. With. Us. He walked this earth and because of that, is able to relate to our pain and paid the price on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. He hadn't forsaken me. He still had a plan for my life. Plans with new beginnings, clean slates, and purpose for every place of excruciating pain.
Twenty Seven. I’d carried overwhelming mistakes, shame, and pain over the years. The year I surrendered my life to God and accepted Jesus as Lord, I got to start my degree and life over again. The girl with the 1.7 GPA? Graduated cum laude eight years after initially starting her undergraduate degree. The same girl who was reprimanded by the dean seven years earlier, a broken and lost girl, spent the last year of her masters on scholarship working as a fellow for a different dean. The girl with a strained relationship with her family has seen such a depth of forgiveness and restoration in that relationship. The girl who ran away from counseling and any real vulnerability has learned to continuously sit across counselors, pastors, leaders, and friends to continually walk in new levels of healing and wholeness. I’ve experienced such a depth in the loving-kindness of God. I hold so much of my history because it reminds me of how deeply Jesus changes everything. He is my absolute everything. There are things the Lord continues to work through me on. Mistakes that I made, that I still make things I did, that I still do and things are done to me that I continue to walk through, but I’ve experienced the heart of the Father through Jesus Christ. He is the only one worth following. In following Him are forgiveness, healing, and restoration. That's why He came to earth.
His Story & Your Story
Whether all or bits and pieces of it, you probably identify with my story The search for self-worth, the pursuit of significance, the deep longing to be loved just as you are, the dependency on alcohol and drugs as an escape. The haunting memories of things done to you, as a child or as an adult, or the guilt or shame of something you've done, known or unknown to the world. The pain of something or someone you lost that you never correctly processed that is still affecting you today. We all have a story and we all have an opportunity through Jesus to change the narrative at any point. When your life on earth comes to an end and your eternity begins, will it be an eternity with Jesus or separated from Him forever? After your last breath, what will your story be?
Psalm 139:8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
We can never hide the true condition of our hearts and lives from God. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. Not one of us has gotten it right, no matter what we present to the outside world. He invites us to bring every heavy thing we have been carrying in exchange for His rest. There are things we sometimes try to figure out on our own that was never designed for us to figure out. His wounds bring healing. He gives us beauty for ashes and joy for our mourning. He listens to our prayers, He comforts us and even when we don't have the right words to say, our tears carry on intercession to heaven.
Over 2000 years ago, Jesus, the image of the invisible God, walked this earth. God made flesh walk among men. His mission? His creation. Sin separates us from God, and Jesus Christ is the mediator, the bridge, bringing us back into relationship. Sin separates us from God, but Jesus separates us from sin and brings us back to God.
1. God loves you
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16
Sounds cliche right? Maybe you have experienced counterfeit love before and so you can’t wrap your mind around an eternal love that wants you. Maybe people in the church haven’t been as welcoming and have failed to love you and you concluded that if that church didn’t want you, God doesn’t either. But the reality is He does. He loves you and He still wants you.
2. We look for God in everything, in relationships, our family members, our friends, careers, hobbies, in money…...and even when we get them, we often still feel like something’s missing. Everything falls short because this void was designed to only be filled by God. He’s that something more we were looking for but didn’t know we needed.
3. Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to the Father and the only way to eternal life.
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
4. You don’t have it all together, have it all figured out to encounter Him or welcome Him into your heart and life. It’s a process….of learning and unlearning and he transforms you by the power of the Holy Spirit. You may have had battles and strongholds your whole life. With alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex, brokenness, and you may feel like you need to ‘clean up your act’ first before getting into a relationship with Him. It’s His job to do the transformation, we’re just to welcome him into our hearts and amid our mess, He begins working on the roots of our brokenness.
5. His blood, spilled on the path to Calvary and the cross cleanses us and washes away our sins, mistakes and mess ups, and He remembers them no more. He washes white as snow. He remembers our sin no more, flung into a sea of forgetfulness. He’s waiting to be invited into our brokenness because He is the only one designed to fix it, He is the only one strong enough to carry that weight. He's a defender. A savior. A loving and forgiving Father. A constant and ever-present friend.
‘How do I start over?’
You can start over at any point, anytime and anywhere.
Romans 10:9 says If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
1. Repent and surrender your life to Him, welcoming Him into your heart. Repentance means making a conscious decision to turn away and walk away from a past lifestyle and no longer return to what you sought forgiveness for.
2. Plug into a Bible-based church to start growing and building your life with Him. We are to live in community with other believers for accountability, growth and fellowship. God uses transparency and vulnerability with other believers for our healing
Father, I come before You today, in need. I acknowledge the life I have lived in the past has been far from You. I am a sinner and I need a Savior. Thank You for sending Your Son to die on the cross for my sins. Lord, I surrender my life to You. I ask for Your light to come into the darkness of my brokenness. I confess with my mouth today and believe in my heart that Jesus is Lord. Thank You for eternal life and for freeing me from the consequences of my sin. I welcome You to come live in my heart. Today I decide to follow You and live a life that honors Your sacrifice on the cross. Amen.