If I had to narrow my entire heart for this blog into one thought it would be this:
I want this to be a place that shows you what it’s like to be a Christian, in a real way, how it actually looks lived out.
I don’t want this to be a place that you come and leave feeling bad about yourself. I don’t want this to be a place where we put on happy masks, showing each other the polished up versions of what we THINK we’re supposed to look like.
I don’t want this to be a place that is a competition of who can behave better or who can balance more spinning plates perfectly.
I want this to be a place that’s real. A place that shows you an example of what it looks like when a person really loves Jesus with as much of their heart as they can muster, and steps aside to let him do the rest.
That being said, I know that something He requires of me in writing and being entrusted with 5 minutes of your time, is transparency- raw honesty.
And sometimes it’s not pretty… today it doesn’t feel pretty.
Today it feels sloppy and I know that today’s the day where I share with you a portion of my life that can be described perfectly in that one word.
Awhile back I wrote a blog about sex. I talked about my history with relationships and what Jesus did when I really allowed him to define what sex and passion and relationships look like.
But if I’m being completely honest—sex was never my biggest struggle.
I had my first drink when I was 13.
During a sleepover one night, my girlfriends and I snuck into my parents’ liquor cabinet and had our first drink—sips straight out of a bottle of peach schnapps. We thought it was incredible. I mean—obviously… it was peach schnapps.
We took steps towards each other, wondering if after our teeny sip we could still walk in a straight line.
That was the beginning of nine very, very sloppy years.
I drank most of the way through high school—although never publicly. I was on the Poms team and could be kicked off the squad if I was caught. So we kept it hidden—only drinking with people we felt comfortable and safe with.
When I got to college, I arrived fresh and ready to go at one of the biggest party schools in the country. I had fairly little experience with actual parties and was eager to get my feet wet.
Which I literally did the first weekend of school.
I was invited, much to my amazement, to an actual fraternity party. I was instructed to wear white so that people could write all over my shirt and arms and legs in highlighter—they said it’d glow in the blacklit basement.
I remember walking up to the ‘bar’ to get my first ‘real life’, college beer—a can of Keystone Light. I was so proud. I danced and drank and laughed as people wrote on my arms and my t-shirt and sloshed around in the inches of beer that had puddled up on the floor.
“Got my feet wet…” get it?
I can’t pinpoint a specific time, or moment where things really got going, but without realizing it, I found myself in a group of friends that really, really took their partying seriously.
They partied hard and partied often, and I quickly learned to keep up.
Blackouts were common and laughed off. There was a whole group of friends that you’d have when you were wasted that you wouldn’t make eye contact with when you saw them in class. It was surprising when people DIDN’T show up at the breakfast table in the same clothes they wore the night before.
Parts of it were fun and parts of it felt like I had always hoped college would feel. I felt sophisticated and reckless at the same time. I felt rebellious, like I was outside of the rules that governed the rest of the world. I felt like I was experiencing all that youth had to offer.
And then that wore off.
It wore off into an almost perpetual hangover. I’d wake up five mornings a week, feeling like I wanted to die. I rarely went to class, usually drank off my hangover and spent a lot of college with my mind feeling like mush.
I woke up in other people’s rooms, with my wallet, phone, camera and shoes mysteriously missing, and having absolutely no idea what happened the night before—almost once a week.
I got in fights with the people I loved, loved people that I didn’t even like, and once woke up from a blackout in a bush outside of someone’s house.
I woke up many times with skinned knees, bruises I didn’t recognize and at one particularly messy formal, woke up with a burn on my back that I had absolutely no memory of receiving.
And somehow in the midst of all of this, I just couldn’t see that anything was wrong.
Partying was my culture. It’s what we did. I didn’t know anything outside of it.
And so when I met Jesus, I had a really big battle to fight.
I’d sit in our college ministry on Tuesday nights, uncomfortable and feeling out of place, but totally overwhelmed. I’d cry and cry—literally weeping in my best friend’s lap, as I was so overwhelmed by the goodness happening around me. I couldn’t put my finger on what was happening, or what was stirring in me but I was surrounded by light for an hour giving me a break from the perpetual darkness that I didn’t even realize I was living in.
But as I would sit there, I’d also battle.
I could feel God tapping on my shoulder, wanting to talk to me about my partying, about my drinking, and I just didn’t want to hear it. I’d spend hours in church coming up with rationalizations and agreements. “Jesus— what if I only have three beers a night? Three. That’s like nothing!” But nothing satisfied Him.
I’d leave church on Tuesday nights and head down to Pearl Street—to Taco Tuesdays where well drinks were only a dollar and most of CU’s senior class was taking full advantage.
I would do this week after week—go to church, argue with Jesus and then get drunk.
It was quite the cycle.
Things changed drastically after I went on my first mission trip to Costa Rica.
It was there that I made my first group of Christian friends. They were kind, and funny, and silly, and wonderful. And I was shocked at the amount of fun we had while being totally sober.
I felt seen on that trip—I felt like people wanted to get to know me for who I really was—without a cocktail and a miniskirt.
I laughed more in those ten days than I ever had, and alcohol wasn’t even an option.
It blew my mind.
I came back from Costa Rica with an entirely new group of best friends, and things just changed.
I had people to hang out with on Friday nights that weren’t going to be partying. I had fun things to do that actually were MORE fun than standing around at a bar, looking the best that I could, and hoping that someone would notice me.
We went sledding after dark, played on playgrounds in the snow, dominated laser tag, explored Denver, and enjoyed life in a way that I’d never experienced before. Life was fun and missing the elements that I had gotten so used to: alcohol, hangovers, shame, and mess.
I felt free—for the most part.
But God still didn’t let up.
For my 22nd birthday, I went to Las Vegas and really went all out.
I was in bed by 1AM on my birthday, having gotten too drunk too quickly and understanding that my limit had been more than exceeded.
The next day we continued our road trip, heading up the coast and finally ending up in Portland—the hometown of my best friend Kelsey.
We sat in her church that Sunday and I wrestled. I begged God to leave me alone, to give me the ability to have one drink—just one.
It seemed absolutely impossible to walk away completely after what the past eight years had just looked like.
But He insisted.
So sitting on Kelsey’s bed, I promised my best friends, and Jesus, that I wouldn’t drink for an entire year.
It was one of the biggest commitments I’ve ever made.
I woke up the next morning feeling a thousand pounds lighter. The sun was shining brighter than I had remembered it and I was flooded with relief.
It was over.
The shame, the guilt, the mess, the perpetual hangovers, the blackouts, the fights, the toll that it had all taken on my body and my heart—it was all over.
And I was free—for real this time.
In that next year, many things changed, and a few stayed perfectly the same.
Before you think that I’m about to tell you that fun is a sin… let me tell you that I’m a really fantastic partier.
I will celebrate with the best of them. You are likely to find me in the middle of the dance floor showing off my moves, wearing some sort of crazy costume and probably looking ridiculous—but you can be sure that I’m having a blast.
And the thing that I got to realize in that year without alcohol (a year that I completed successfully), was that the ‘partier’ didn’t go away, and neither did my fun.
It was the best year of my life—to that point.
That year was up a long time ago, and since then I’ve had to reevaluate again how I feel about alcohol and it’s role in my life.
I do drink—sometimes more than others, and sometimes not at all—and I still absolutely love to go out with my friends.
Beer and wine and cocktails and fun nights out are all really great things, and I want to explode the myth that being a Christian isn’t the most fun that you can possibly have. Because my life and my friends refute that with everything we are.
Reevaluating alcohol’s role in your life DOES NOT mean you have to trade in your party pants for a turtleneck and an apple juice. And my friends and I have learned that the awesome way.
But that doesn’t mean that we’ve always had this freedom.
Alcohol and drinking are often a symptom of a bigger issue. People drink when they’re trying to avoid what’s going on in their lives, to feel confident, to feel loved, to feel accepted, to quiet the voices in their mind that are telling them something they don’t want to hear, to hide, to escape and to drown out pain. And none of those things are good.
Alcohol isn’t going to fix the problems in your life, it’s only going to make them worse. And that’s something that I spent a LONG time learning the hard way.
My wish would be that everyone would be able to glorify God with everything they are—to toast to Him with a fist pump and a glass of champagne. But for me, it took me a long time to get to a place where that was healthy.
I still am incredibly careful—aware that alcohol is one of those things that gets slippery and can slide out of control when you’re not paying attention.
But with a pure heart and in moderation, it adds some sparkle & pop to even the best moments.
So here’s my prayer today.
I pray that right now you’ll be really honest with yourself about the role that alcohol plays in your life.
I pray that you really evaluate your drinking and if you’re drinking for reasons of avoidance or insecurity.
I pray that if you don’t drink- that you consider your reasoning and make sure that you’re not binding yourself up under a law when what Jesus wants for you is freedom.
I also pray that if you don’t drink- that you ensure that it’s not something that causes you to judge and condemn others. That’s not from God either.
I pray that we can all understand in the deepest places of our hearts that God LOVES us deeply and forever- and that we can’t earn his love with ‘behavior modification.’
I pray that we can all take a moment to consider what our actions do to those around us and to the name of Jesus for those that don’t know Him and associate our actions with His character.
I pray for freedom from the lie that being a Christian is boring and that having fun is a ‘sin.’ It’s not.
And I pray for freedom for all of us, from addictions, from having things like alcohol control our lives, from the laws that we bind ourselves in, and from lies about who we are and who God is.
I pray that we can all shake and laugh and toast and celebrate the beautiful gift of life that God has given us, and that we can honor and thank and glorify Him in everything we do.