I grew up in a family that did not go to church. They all lived “good” lives and valued people, but church was something we just never did. There was no Bible in the house and no focus on praying, religion or faith. I grew up in a home that had strong values on education, performing well and having the look of perfection. My family did not show emotion. We did not talk about our feelings or allow ourselves to be upset. We needed to look put together and that did not include drama, arguments or emotions.
I was made fun of throughout school. I felt like I was not like everyone else. I saw myself as different and not good enough. Because of the high values I created on being put together, I began striving for approval through my deeds. I made sure I did well in school, aced every test, did every science fair and was the teacher’s favorite. I saw these things as valuable even in third grade. I thought that I would gain approval by succeeding. I thought my classmates would like me if I were perfect. I thought my parents love was based on these things. Every thing I did, had to be done in perfection. I remember never feeling satisfied with myself unless I was the best. This perfectionism began a huge influence in my every action.
Around 5th grade, I began going to church with my grandmother. I didn’t really understand anything about church, but my big brother was going… and I wanted to be like him. This church was old, but I met some kids there. We had giant dinners to raise money and Sunday School classes. I thought it was exciting. I never really understood what was being said and the questions I asked were always ignored, but I was at church. Just adding another thing to my list that makes me a good person.
Even with all these things I could check off my list, my incredibly high standards for perfection still said I was a disappointment. This became even more evident in seventh grade. I went to a new school. I went from a class size of 30 to over 500 students. I saw so many new people and boys that my insecurities grew. I focused on what I saw as beautiful. I saw long, blond hair, blue eyes, thin, outgoing and fake. I thought that was what perfection was. I thought that if I could obtain that, I would finally be happy. I would finally be good enough. I would finally have worth. My obsession with my physical appearance caused me to dye my hair, dress differently, strive to be thin just like the magazines. I began struggling with anorexia early in seventh grade. I began lying to my friends and family about what I was eating. I began lying to myself. My eating disorder became my identity. I saw my ability to control what I ate, and my weight as my control of my life. If I could be in control of this one aspect of my life, I would be okay. I created this false identity based in my starvation. My personality changed. I became a fake, insecure individual who was just seeking for approval.
I remember sitting on the bleachers before school and blacking out. All my friends were around me and yet I felt so alone. I knew their acceptance wasn’t what I wanted. I felt so alone and worthless. All I could think about was how I was not good enough. I knew there had to be something more, but I didn’t know what it could be. I knew I had to have value, but I didn’t know how. I knew this wasn’t the answer I was looking for, but I didn’t know what was.
During this time, I made a friend Natasha. She invited me to youth group at her church. I thought it would be fun because of all the cute older boys. Over the next two years, I became better friends with Natasha. She invited me to go to Camp Patmos the summer after 8th grade. I thought this would be fun! A week away from my family… A week with my best friend. Why not?
I kept hearing about the God who loved me. This God who loved me so much that he died on the cross for me. It just didn’t make sense. Why would someone love me? How would someone love me? I still saw so many imperfections.
After one night’s service, it finally all clicked. His acceptance was what I need to be seeking for. His love was enough. These ideas of who Jesus was all came together. God showed me my distorted view of who I was and replaced it with the true identity I had in Him. This standard of perfection that I had was broken that night. The chains that I created were broken.
It was because of this week that I began my journey with Jesus. I began reading the Bible, praying, seeking friends who know this guy named Jesus too.
In ninth grade I went to a new church youth group. This girl from school invited me and it sounded like fun. When I got there, I was hooked. There were cute boys who could sing (something any girl would want) and some of my best friends. It was here, at Park Heights Baptist Church, that I continued to grow my relationship with God. I was baptized in December, 2005, when I was 15 years old. I began serving and becoming passionate about living my life for God. The youth pastor at this church allowed the youth to serve. We would have crazy ideas of youth services, and he would support us. I would be there for hours every day and would just thrive. This was the place that solidified my passion for Jesus.
As I grew up, I began to understand my distorted views of reality. I began to seek after God’s heart in order to change the blackened heart that I had created. Through years of counseling and mentoring, I have been healed. Healed from sickening views on perfection. I am healed from broken images of who I am and should be. Distorted views on God’s acceptance. Though I still strive for perfection, I do not value myself based on that. I can now see God as a loving God. He is someone who loves me as I am. I do not need to be perfect before Him. I am free. I am free to be me. I am free to make mistakes. And I will never be the same.