Saturday marks my seventeenth birthday. So, to “celebrate” (if you can call it that), I decided that I was going to kinda look back at this past year and all God has done for me. I thought it might be cool to see how far He has brought me and the things that He’s taught me. Y’all got to see a little glimpse into my life with my first post, “The Song” (which you could read here: < https://songofawanderer.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/the-song/ >). But people are incredibly complex, multi-faceted beings, and I would be lying if I told you that one post was all there is to me. One single blog post could not even begin to cover something so complicated. But I decided it was time to give you another, deeper look into me – a window into my soul, if you like. Those of you who may have been wondering what makes a girl like me tick, this is for you.
My name is Erika. And a year ago, I was almost dead.
Let me elaborate on that a little. I wasn’t terminally ill or anything. But I was lost. Alone. Confused. And utterly broken. You see, I told you in “The Song” that I’ve had some dark times. Some rough roads. But I didn’t tell you at all about that. At the time, I couldn’t even talk about it without crying, and I don’t cry easily, if that tells you anything. The scars were still a little too fresh, and they still bled easily. But scars heal with time, and although they’re still a part of me, and they’ll never really go away, I’ve begun to get more comfortable with sharing my story. It’s still painful, but not so much.
Anyways. This whole thing really started when I turned thirteen. We have to go back that far before we can go to last year, so just hang in there, okay? I decided that I was a capable teenager now, and I could do things on my own. I’ve always been an independent introvert, but this was extreme even for me. I decided I didn’t need God or anybody else. Life? I got this. It couldn’t be that hard, right? Boy, was I ever wrong. Sometimes I wish I knew then what I know now, wish I could tell Little Me, “Be careful. Sometimes you take a reckless step, and you can’t ever go back.” But I was young, I was stupid, and I was tired of being told what to do. Everybody had some rule or other, and I figured I would be happy alone and in charge of my own life. I would have no rules, and it would be awesome.
Well, it didn’t work out the way I’d intended. Not at all. I grew into a rebellious teen and was absolutely impossible to reason with. I was quite the little jerk, and I’m amazed anybody ever put up with my crap. I was hard on the outside, but inside I was dying. I built up walls around my heart and refused to let anyone in. I was so sick of getting left behind by everyone I’d ever cared about. I still had my family, of course, but half the time we weren’t speaking because I’d been offended by something or other. I completely closed myself off from everyone who cared about me and convinced myself that nobody did. I was certain that if they cared, they’d break down the walls, and their persistence would prove their love. But if they got close, I got scared and retreated farther into myself. “Sweet as sugar, cold as ice: hurt me once, I’ll kill you twice.” That was me. Except I wasn’t really all that sweet.
All that time alone in my head gave Satan the perfect opening, I guess, and he began to whisper things to me. “Stupid. Worthless. Nobody cares about you. You mean nothing. Why don’t you just end it all? You might as well. They won’t even notice.” Things like this, all day, every day. I still hate silence to this day, because in the silence, the voice spoke, and I hated what it had to say.
In time, I began to believe it, and by the time sophomore year hit, I was an emotional train wreck. I cried more that year than ever in my other sixteen years combined. I was so tired with the storm I’d thrown myself into a few years ago. I was exhausted by the daily battle I fought and lost, and I was staggering under the weight of the burden I carried. I had a few friends, but we weren’t exactly “best buddies,” and I often played the part of the fifth wheel. I was almost entirely alone, and I was so emotionally worn out. The worst – and best, as it turned out – day of my life was my sixteenth birthday. My friends basically ignored me, as usual, but that day I just couldn’t take anymore. I gave in to the voice and decided that when I got home from the music competition I was at, I was going to end it all. I was so done with this depression. The loneliness was killing me, but I was too proud to go back to God or to admit weakness of any kind to anyone. I was just done.
But God is good, and He loved me where I was. He wasn’t done with me yet – He still isn’t – and He loved me too much to let me fall over the edge, even though I so desperately wanted to. I’d spoken to my Bible teacher about my incredible loneliness (mostly because she forced it out of me), and she told me that she would pray that God would send me a special friend, a Biblical friend who could help me back to Him. And that day, He did. The one He sent me wasn’t at all who I was expecting – for one, he was a he, and he went to a different school more than 100 miles away – but he was exactly what I needed.
I still remember that meeting very clearly. I’d seen him before and we’d talked briefly, so he knew who I was. He’d gotten 2nd for his classical piece, and I randomly
decided to go congratulate him. But it wasn’t random at all – God knew exactly what He was doing. I started talking to him, and he was so humble about it. He immediately began to spout off about how he totally didn’t deserve it (which is not true, but that’s beside the point) and how all the glory went to God. That sparked my interest, because I’d never heard that from any 16-year-old boy. I looked at him a little closer, and I saw something I’d missed at first glance. He had the love of Christ in his eyes, and I could see it. I saw Jesus in that boy, and it saved my life. I remember thinking to myself, “I want what that guy has.” Through him, a loving Father reached out a hand and pulled me back from the edge I was tottering on. After a series of conversations, we became friends, and I’ve never looked back.
This past year has been a painful year of healing. I’ve come clean with my parents and tearfully begged their forgiveness. They gave it freely (and just as tearfully), and we have tried since then to be more of a team. We still have our fights, and when it’s bad it’s awful, but this time I’m not alone. I have my Jesus to get me through, and He has mended the rift like no one else ever could. I’ve learned to open up more and look for people in need. Sometimes they need a friend, sometimes they need a listener, and sometimes they just need a shoulder to cry on. Because I was looking, God sent a beautiful girl my way, and I didn’t miss her. I’ve become a sort of mentor to her, and she is an incredible blessing and sister to me. I love this girl with all my heart, and I thank God every day for sending her into my life.
My relationship with God has grown exponentially this past year as well. I’m getting to know the loving Father, the ever-present Friend, and the roaring Lion all at once. I’ve so enjoyed growing closer to Him, and I feel His presence with me always. I’m never lonely, and it’s so amazing. He’s been so merciful and gracious to me, even though I so don’t deserve His love and affection. He loved me unconditionally even when I was at my lowest, and even though I was an absolute brat in return, He didn’t give up on me. I wasn’t a “lost cause,” I was a lost daughter, and He knew that my heart was crying out for a way home. He loved me in spite of myself, and He was more than willing to save me from myself. “Such love constrains me to answer His call, / Follow His leading and give Him my all.” Such was the case with me. Once I finally got some sense knocked into me, I ran to my Jesus, and He met me with His arms open wide. He met me right where I was and showed me the meaning of grace. It was whilst emerging from this fog that I wrote “Come Home” (which you can read here: < http://thetravelersoverflow.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/come-home/ >), and I’ve been writing ever since.
This time one year ago, I was almost dead. But now, I’ve discovered grace, and I’ve never been happier. I’ve still got scars that I never show, still got fears I’m too afraid to face, still got a little bit of untameable darkness in my head that comes out when I’m weakest. But I no longer have to face my demons alone, and that’s the beauty of grace.