“On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him…though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not.” C.S. Lewis
“When I look in the mirror I don’t see that perfect person that everyone seems to see, but a piece of trash. I feel like a thorn among roses…” At just 13 years old, I wrote these words in my journal—broken, depressed and feeling hopeless.
To the everyday eye, I seemed like “the perfect child.” I grew up in a loving, Christian home. When I was five years old, I accepted Christ as my personal Savior, but it wasn’t until later in my life, that I started to grasp what it truly meant.
It was in junior high, that I really began to struggle in my faith and I began to have feelings and desires that weren't there before. I remember reading “teen romance novels” and feeling a deep longing for that fictionalized desire, love, and sexual tension. As an awkward, tall junior high girl, these thoughts became my obsession and my struggle with sexual sin began.
I struggled with perfectionism, anxiety, and depression. I had questions of how God could forgive me. Though I was saying the right things, and going to church, my heart, and mind was overrun with sinful thoughts.
On an 8th-grade missions trip to Ocean City, New Jersey, I made the decision to be baptized. As I was dipped into the Atlantic Ocean, I prayed for forgiveness and proclaimed I would truly begin living my life for Christ.
In high school, I got straight A’s, was heavily involved in my school and youth group and was constantly studying and trying to achieve—all the while, I was filled with anxiety, questions of self-worth and desires for male attention. My sophomore year, I attended the Life Conference in Phoenix and I remember hearing Francis Chan talk about sin and the Holy Spirit. I felt called to be real with God and confess my sin, recognizing that I needed to turn away from the sexual desires and need for acceptance from men. There was also an altar call during the conference for people to come forward if they felt like God might be calling them to ministry. I remember thinking to myself that I didn’t think—or want—that to be me. In my head, I had a vision of what my future would look like and it involved making money and being successful in the world’s eyes.
Unfortunately, that was a struggle that followed me to college. Away from the watchful eyes of my parents, I rebelled and began to drink and party. I continued to have the perfect façade of having straight A’s, getting the “right” internship, leading the “right” organizations so that I could ultimately have a successful and well-paying job. I held on to my standards by a thread, keeping the title of a virgin by the world’s standards, but crossing physical and emotional boundaries with men whose names I couldn’t even tell you today. I still attended church at times, but my heart was in the wrong place. It was either to find a good, Christian man or to “earn” my forgiveness and feel worthy to come to God, broken once again—feeling inept and alone.
During my senior year, as the pressure for finding a job began to mount, the anxiety and worry became heavy. Not knowing where to turn, I began to read and study the Bible again. With my college career coming to a close, I had a decision to make. I had two job offers—one with a company in Cincinnati that would keep me close to my then boyfriend or one with a company in Philadelphia where I knew no one. I prayed and considered both, and felt that God was calling me to Philadelphia. Looking back, I can see how He had a hand in it all.
That first year living on my own in a new city and job was one of the most challenging times of my life. Newly single and without friends in a new city, God became my stronghold that He should have been all along. I started traveling consistently for work. I knew I couldn’t do this on my own and I began to pray and be in a relationship with God like I had never been before. I found a local church and got involved in a young adults group, which helped to strengthen my walk.
While I continued to date on and off, the Lord helped me see that being sexually desirable continued to be an idol; I gave up dating and finally felt content in my singleness. It was then that God brought Joel into my story; we were in a long distance relationship for a time, but God made it clear He wanted us together and we were married on September 22, 2012.
I remember thinking that once Joel and I got married, my walk with God would be so much easier. We both desired to wait to have sex until we were married, and though we kept that promise, there were times we still pushed our boundaries and then felt the guilt after. I thought once married, we would not need to deal with this sexual sin and my walk with God would be easier. I was very wrong.
The first year of our marriage was not the “honeymoon phase” that most talk about. I had built up in my head that once I was married we would no longer struggle with sexual sin and I would finally be wanted, loved, and desired by my husband. When Joel did not fill that void, I felt utterly alone—alone in this struggle of my new role as a wife, and alone in the struggle for sexual intimacy due to all the baggage both Joel and I brought into the marriage. Thankfully, God was with us through it all and had a plan for us. Along with the stresses that come with a new marriage and sharing your life with someone, I was in a high-stress career that, while deemed the “perfect job” by the world’s standards, I was beginning to feel empty within. It became clear I was not truly giving control to God.
A couple years into our marriage, Joel was given the opportunity to come to Dayton, Ohio, for his job and we soon got plugged into Apex. As we got involved with a house church, I began to realize how much I valued community and that my soul craved it.
However, my job was causing me to be on the road often, which was not allowing me to get involved in Apex as much as I wanted. After monthsof praying, I felt like God was calling me away from my job.
Once again, God provided and I was given the opportunity to be the Communications Director here at Apex. Looking back, it’s funny to think how I dug my heels in at the Life conference thinking there was no way I would go into ministry—and that’s exactly where He has called me.
As I’ve gotten to know my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ at Apex and our house church, in particular, I’ve realized that I’m not alone. I’m not a thorn among roses—among all these other perfect, Christian people. I began to hear other’s stories on how they had been broken and faced the thorns of sin but had been redeemed by God. God used these people and their stories to truly help me see that I didn’t have to be perfect or have it all together. I’m also not held to a standard of perfection by the Creator. That is why he sent his Son. Each day it is a struggle to die to our sin, but He loves us and forgives us.
I remember reading in junior high this quote from C.S. Lewis that still rings true:
“On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him…though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not.”
The true rose, the true perfection, is God. His ways are truly perfect.
Author: Andrew Metz
Photographer: Hilary Tebo