I still remember the day I committed to NYU. Coming to New York was never part of the plan. I only applied to NYU because I felt like everyone else was. Never did I imagine I would actually end up going. I grew up in the same house, in the smallest city my entire life. I grew up knowing the map of my city like it was the back of my hand, and knowing everyone in my graduating class by name. I grew up sheltered and not knowing the diversity and harsh realities that existed in world. Hell, I didn’t even know how to do laundry till the second month of college when I was running out of clothes to wear, and shamefully had to ask my roommate how to do it. I don’t know what it was that got me to decide on New York, but regardless of my parent’s reluctance, and the debt I was going to sell my soul to, I committed on NYU. It was the best decision I ever made.
I know that there are certain people who are close to me who know my story, but I finally feel comfortable and confident in sharing it to whoever may come by this post. Senior year of high school was a rough time for me. I was always someone who needed to be in control of my life. I wanted to know the exact direction i was headed, and constantly wanted to be able to plan out the next few years of my life. When I was applying for college I had no control over the outcome. Sure, I could do well in school, write killer applications, and try my best on my SATs, but, ultimately, if a school did’t want me, they didn’t want me. That feeling of inadequacy and lack of qualification haunted me. I wanted to be in full control, but slowly I could see that slipping away, and there was no way I could salvage it. What I needed to do was let life run its course, but I just couldn’t handle that. I chose to control the only thing I could control at the time, which was my body. What started out as trying to eat healthy ended up becoming not eating anything at all. Eating three jolly ranchers a day and working out endlessly, I started to see my bones rise to the surface of my skin. I knew this was not normal, but I refused to admit that I had a problem. I was anorexic, but I kept telling myself I wasn’t. I was a Song girl at the time, so when we had performances, I knew people could notice how thin and sickly I looked. I knew that people at school looked at me and were concerned and felt like I needed help, but in my mind, I didn’t. I was just fine. I became afraid to interact with people and would get angry when anyone would ask me if I was okay. I began to shut everyone out of my life. I wanted to get away, and I wanted to be somewhere I didn’t know anyone. New York seemed like the perfect opportunity. I had no idea what I was in for.
I spent the first couple months of my time in New York in serious depression. I knew that if I continued to live my life this way, I would not be able to accomplish everything I came to New York to do, and, more importantly, I could be jeopardizing my life. I didn’t know how to handle the confusion and helplessness I was feeling, so I resorted to alcohol. I never drank in high school or was one to party, but when I realized the ability it had to make me unconscious of my feelings, I kept turning to it. Physically I was healing, but emotionally, spiritually, mentally, I was doing worse than ever.
Early in my junior year, there was a point I knew I hit rock bottom. I no longer knew what or who I was living for, and felt darkness cloud over me. I didn’t have the strength or courage to push through the struggle on my own; I needed an anchor. I went to church one night because I didn’t know what else to do. The message that night was so perfectly aligned with everything that I had been going through. When I thought He was absent in my life and when I thought I was going through these struggles on my own, He never let go of me; He never gave up on me. Even when I turned away from Him and shut Him down in my disbelief, He was embracing me. When I lost confidence and felt inadequate, He still looked at me as His perfect and worthy daughter. It wasn’t a coincidence that I went to church that night, and it wasn’t a coincidence the message was so on point. The Lord was speaking to me, and he was calling me back home.
That night I prayed for the first time in a long time. I asked God to reveal to me His heart for me. If he was really there, I wanted Him to show me some kind of sign. That night I had a dream. I was in a coffee shop in the middle of a long line waiting to order. A man walked in carrying a duffle bag and stopped in the middle of the shop. At one point our eyes met, and I had a sinking feeling in my stomach where I knew something bad was about to happen. As I was feeling this, he pulled out a gun and shot me 4 times, twice in the leg, twice by the neck. After doing so he just walked out, and nobody in the shop did anything about it. It was as if nothing happened. I was on the floor, and all I could think was please don’t let me die. God, please don’t let me die. I’m not ready yet. Please don’t let me die. Next thing I knew, I was at my parents home, and both my parents were frantic. I was saying Call the ambulance. I need to go to the ER. But they were just running back and forth screaming. I ended up walking myself to the ER limping and still praying Please not now, God. When I was with the doctor, she kept looking at me and shaking her head. If I was going to have any kind of chance to live I needed her to do something. I started begging her: Please get these bullets out! PLEASE! Please save me! And she continued to shake her head. When I finally screamed WHY ARE YOU SHAKING YOUR HEAD?! HELP ME! She said It just doesn’t make sense..Every bullet that was shot into you, just barely hit a nerve that was supposed to kill you.. And then she slowly began removing the bullets. As she pulled the last one out, I woke up weeping. I knew that God was giving me a second chance. He was telling me there is no one in the world that is going to be able to save me, not even my parents. He was telling me that everything in the world can pass away, and the things of the world can break our bodily flesh, but our salvation and our life in Him is eternal. I knew why I was so afraid when i thought I was going to die. It was because I wasn’t confident if I died in that moment, I could go to heaven. I was scared that if I was face to face with Him, He would say I don’t know you. I looked at my life and realized it didn’t reflect God or the purpose that He created me for. He was giving me a second chance to live; not for this world, but for Him. That was the moment I knew that I could no longer live apart from God. I knew that no matter what I had in this world, without God, I’d always come up empty.
The past four years were the most challenging years I experienced, but they were also the most rewarding. I found myself again, and, more importantly, I found my identity in Christ. A month after I had that dream, I made the decision to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. It just no longer made sense to me to want to live my life for myself or for the world because I knew there was something greater. God called His believers to spread the gospel to non believers, and to make His name known. I wanted to pursue that calling. Whether it be in my vocation, in my social circle, in my school, I wanted to know that my life reflected God’s love and His light. It wasn’t a therapist, a friend, a family member who healed me; it was God’s unconditional, unfailing love and grace. When I looked to Him and allowed Him to take control, He changed my life from the inside out. He led me to the most incredible people, and kept showing up in every aspect of my life. I am starting a new chapter of my life, and entering into adulthood. I don’t know what is ahead and what will happen in the next years, but I don’t need to worry and be anxious. Despite what life may throw at me, I know that I’m going to be okay. I can think about the future and become overwhelmed and frantic, but it won’t change the circumstance; it will only allow negativity and discouragement to creep in. The unknown can be a scary thing, but God is already there. He is already there working in those moments. I just need to have faith and keep moving through.
But those who hope in The Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.