I promised you last week that I would begin to share my story. I believe that we can see God so clearly when we look at what he’s done in our own lives and in the lives of the people around us. I hope that by hearing my story, you’ll open your eyes even more to the miracles that God’s writing around you and in your life. I also hope that you’ll begin sharing your story too.
I never really wanted to be a Christian. It was nice for other people, the way that going to the gym or joining a book club is nice, but that was it. I just wasn’t interested.
I believed in Jesus, I guess, but I believed in him the way I believed in Santa Claus. He was a nice idea but I didn’t expect him to do much. I didn’t think Christianity was bad… I just didn’t particularly see a need for it. Not in my life anyway.
And then a need showed up.
After two years of party-filled, college ‘perfection’, I got my heart broken. Really, really, really broken.
Those first few weeks were a disaster. It was a messy cocktail of alcohol and tears, hoping that the one would wipe away the other. I found out the hard way that it doesn’t quite work that way.
There were nights in those weeks when I was put to bed by girls I barely knew, crying too hard to get my shoes off by myself.
I needed help… I needed something, but I had no idea what.
I was lying on my bed one night, curled up in a ball, when I decided to pray for the very first time.
It was a messy prayer, desperate and tear stained.
“God… I need help. I seriously have no idea what I’m doing, I think it’s about time you took over.”
God didn’t talk back, at least not that I heard, and my pain didn’t disappear instantly. But I did find something that helped.
It was a few days later that I found the book Eat, Pray, Love.
Reading Liz Gilbert’s words felt like having coffee with my best friend. She got me. She put words to my heartache that I couldn’t find amidst the rubble. She put a body around my desperate desire for something bigger than myself, for a journey to go find that missing piece.
I fell in love with her story, captivated by the idea of pulling yourself away to a beautiful place to heal and to grow. I wanted that! I needed that!
I needed something… that was for sure. And for the first time, I thought that thing might be God.
I wanted an “Eat, Pray, Love experience” of my own and six months later, that’s exactly what I got.
With the book tucked safely in my bag, I headed to Sevilla, Spain with my two best friends for a semester abroad.
It was an adventure of the best kind, right away.
We spent our first night in a bar, packed with locals yelling in their lispy, gorgeous Spanish, drinking the local brew and eating olives by the handful.
I spent the next several months wandering the cobblestone streets, breathing in the sweet smell of the orange trees that dotted the winding roads. We ate delicious food and drank the best red wine, and slowly I began to heal.
It felt to me as if the beauty that surrounded me was sinking into me, healing my wounds with sweet smells and stunning sights.
But the best healing yet came from my two best friends.
Michelle has been my best friend since I was eight years old and Kelsey became my best friend in those perfect Spanish months. The three of us made the perfect little group, traveling and laughing together and coming up with the most ridiculous inside jokes.
But the best moments came when things got quiet – in the moments between our adventures or early in the morning.
Kelsey and Michelle were both Christians and having recently acquired an appetite for God, I had a lot of questions.
I asked them everything I could think of – picking their brain on everything from salvation to sex. I hammered at their knowledge of the Bible and begged for details of their lives and the role that God played in them.
I loved them, absolutely, they’re my core people, my best friends. They’re the center of the party and the best partners in crime. They both have the kind of laughs that could get even the most uptight person to snort – it’s one of my favorite parts about them.
But I still wasn’t sold on Jesus. I just couldn’t get past the lives that I’d seen other Christians lead. It was too boring for me, too rule-filled, too sterile. I just wasn’t convinced.
In March we had our spring break and we could think of no better place to spend it than Italy. We spent 10 days wandering from Rome, to Florence, to Venice and then back to Rome – sight seeing, while allowing for an abundance of leisurely pizza breaks.
One night, we decided to join in a pub-crawl. We drank our way through the streets of Rome, sampling the best beer, wine, and limoncello the city had to offer. We even got free t-shirts out of the deal – something we were extremely proud of.
But being the responsible and cultured women we are, we weren’t going to let a night of partying interfere with our sightseeing.
The next morning we donned our matching t-shirts and headed straight to Vatican City. (Going to the Vatican hung over, wearing a pub-crawl shirt? Classy.)
I’d been to the Vatican before, appreciating the art and the history and the holiness of the place, but it was nothing compared to what I was about to experience.
Accompanied by our tour guide and surrounded by a million other tourists, we trooped into the Sistine Chapel and looked up. We admired the ceiling and the details of the fresco and then I wandered off a bit, my eyes locking with a set of eyes in the painting on the wall.
And that’s when I met Jesus.
Stopped completely in my tracks I stared at Michelangelo’s gigantic fresco, transfixed. My heart started beating out of control and I felt like I wanted to run. Not away from the painting, but toward it. I was looking into Jesus’ eyes, feeling like I was seeing my best friend for the first time in years.
He was so familiar to me in that moment. He was somebody that I wanted to know so badly. I wanted him to know me too, to like me, maybe even to love me.
All thoughts of religion were completely gone, along with all of the negative Christian stereotypes I’d stacked up over the years. It felt like time stopped. And with my heart beating wildly I said the only thing that seemed to make sense.
“Alright Jesus, I’m in. Lets do this Christianity thing.”
Part 2 coming soon…