I've known Emily for three years. We met during an internship and have been friends ever since. Emily is one of the bravest people I know, with a true fire for Jesus that emboldens everything she does. She's also super fun to be around and can dance like nobody's business. Emily's been a huge force in my own faith journey, but she has been on quite the journey herself. I'll let her tell you about it in her own words. — M
When you and I met right out of college, I was really going through a hard time.
My mom and stepdad were getting divorced. As the oldest of six kids, I felt like I had to hold things together for my siblings. Meanwhile, I had just gone through a breakup of my own. Then I moved myself across the country for an internship in a small Pennsylvania town where I knew no one!
I couldn't see it then, but I was depressed. Just a total mess. I knew that I needed to pull it together. At the same time, I couldn't do it on my own. I joined the local church, which is when my faith became really real. Before, I was pretty delusional about my faith. I wasn't behaving like a Believer.
I had been in a relationship with a non-Believer for almost a year and was really lost. Once that relationship ended, I felt ashamed for how I had walked away from God and feared He no longer would love me. I thought I had disappointed him beyond repair. I felt like damaged goods for future relationships and just about myself in general.
My struggles became so apparent. I realized that I wanted to be wanted.
For so long, I sought that fulfillment from other gods—guys, my career, my body. I craved the attention of men. I was determined to be the perfect student and have the perfect career. I had also engaged in an eating disorder for years. I had so much shame from chasing these idols. They didn't fulfill me, and I was seriously unhappy. I started seeing a counselor and really plugged in at church. I was prescribed antidepressants, which helped me significantly and I take to this day. I was beginning to be open with my struggles.
I needed grace. For the first time, I felt how much I needed it.
When that internship ended, I took a job in Dallas. Again, I knew no one. Honestly, I felt like I didn’t fit in there.
But God wanted me in Texas. I think He brought me there just to be a part of The Village Church. My apartment was literally two miles away from The Village's main campus. I didn't even know what The Village was until I moved there. I immediately joined a small group. We were involved in each other's lives and were very honest with each other. I had never had that kind of intense accountability; I needed it.
God put this group of Believers in my life during a season of great guilt and shame. I remember I had drunkenly hooked up with this guy, and I felt so disgusted with myself. Again, it went back to that whole desire to feel wanted. I really didn't want to tell my small group about it, but I did. They put hands on me and prayed for me. By confessing it, God was teaching me to let it go.
I had chosen such brazen sins against God. It had become a spiral of "Well, I've already done x, y, and z, and I can't make it up to God now." Because I hate making mistakes. I hate being wrong. I'm a perfectionist. But I've learned God doesn't go, "Oh you've been a good girl this week, I'm going to bless you."
It's not about being good or bad.
God doesn't work like that. That's where His grace came in. The thing is, I already had it! The Holy Spirit was working in me. Even though I didn't love myself at the time, God did. And that is what kept me hanging on.
My time in Texas was a season of giving up a lot of pride. God was breaking down my walls. He was showing me that getting help for a struggle doesn’t make you weak. It's quite the opposite. Being perfect is not attainable. Accepting that, and knowing God still loves me, has been life-changing.
About nine months into living in Texas, I was laid off. That's when the feeling of loneliness really hit me. But God was there. I look back and see that layoff was a blessing in disguise. The Lord brought me back to Pennsylvania, to work full-time at the same company where we'd interned. It was what I like to call a "pillow landing." I was emotionally fragile from being laid off and starting all over again. It was my third move in as many years. I needed familiarity, and God brought me that.
My faith continued to grow. God was teaching me so much. And a year later I was laid off again. I was a 24-year-old college graduate with two layoffs in the books! It definitely hurt my pride.
Yet this second time around, I had a much different mindset. God wasn't punishing me or trying to make my life worse. He was using these experiences to grow me.
A lot of my identity was wrapped up in what I was doing and where I was working. I began to realize life is not about that. God is going to provide. I had prayed about whether this job was a good fit for me, and God took me out of it. He also provided a new job at the company within two weeks.
I see how fulfillment doesn't come from relationships or work, or from my own striving. I don't have to prove anything to God. He loves me in spite of me. I don't have to earn anything through Him. What I have to do is trust him and continually refocus myself on him. I have to surrender my life to Him. I really think that the Holy Spirit has worked in me with my pride, my depression, all of my sin. It's so easy for me to get stuck in my own head. I think so much of life is giving Him control rather than thinking, "Oh my gosh, what if I do this and all these other things happen?" I take everything one day at a time. He is going to lead me in whatever happens. He's going to give me what I need each day.
It's not about me. It's not about what I've done--He has done everything.
I know if I'm not where I'm supposed to be, God will put me someplace else. That's part of trusting. I know I'm not working for an organization; I'm working for God. That motivates me. To think you have no purpose where you currently are, well, I just don't believe that's true. God is going to use you wherever you are.
How do I keep trusting God? I pray for faith! I'm never going to say, "Oh, yay, for suffering. I know this is going to be good for me in the end." I'm real about it: "Okay, I'm really struggling today, Lord." I bring anything and everything to Him, saying prayers throughout the day. That helps me to not feel anxious or worried.
I really like Psalm 34 right now, especially verse four:
He is delivering me from my fears. God is all ears and all eyes. He knows. He hasn't abandoned me, even in my suffering.
God is telling me, I am here. I know. And now keep going.