I’m sharing my story reluctantly. It’s still a very vulnerable thing to be honest with my story.

I grew up in a Christian family. I believed that God existed, but I didn’t trust God’s love for me. 

I didn’t trust the love for me from my family or the community I grew up in either. I felt like I had to work really hard to earn people’s approval and affection—so the way I related to God was similar. A result of not trusting people or trusting God was that I lived a double life. In one part of my life I attended church every week, volunteered, was a good student, played sports, and was involved in clubs. But I was anxious and feared that I didn’t fit in with anyone. 

I dealt with all of these feelings of being alone, scared, and anxious, by working really hard. I would often stay up half the night rewriting notes so I would get a perfect mark. I also turned to self-harm, alcohol, and other drugs and I fell into addiction. My substance use kept me from feeling all of these things. I didn’t want to feel anything. I just needed to numb it all. 

In all this I knew God was out there, but it was like God was over there, and I was somewhere different. I was still hollow and empty on the inside. I didn’t trust that God’s love was big enough for the hurt I was trying to numb. When I first started going to community group I listened to other people talk. They’d ask me how I was doing because they actually wanted to know. But I would hold the truth in until I left and would cry all the way home. I wouldn’t take the bus because I was crying so hard. I would walk for forty-five minutes because I didn’t feel safe to cry in front of people. I felt this secret shame that I wasn’t good enough, and that I didn’t deserve their love (which, spoiler alert, is God’s love through them!). I’ve been told all my life that Jesus died for me and that he loves me, but for the longest time I couldn’t wrap my head around it. 

Over the past four or five years, I’ve been noticing God teaching me that I can trust his love and that it’s sufficient for me. I don’t have to hide anymore. The gift God has continually been giving me over the past few years is a new family, and showing me his love through them. God is slowly teaching me that I can be loved as I am, and more so, that God loved me before I could do anything to earn it from him. 

At one of the pre-launch gatherings for the evening service at St. Peter’s we did an exercise where we wrote on stones. On one side we wrote something we’re letting go of in our preparation to launch the service, and on the other side, we wrote something we’re hoping for during the transition. I wrote “fear” and “faith.” I’ve been so gripped by fear. I’ve been gripped by the fear of what would happen if I told my story. What would happen if I was honest with people? Would I be rejected? The answer is no! God wants me to flourish. 

This week marks 23 months of continuous sobriety from alcohol and drugs. That’s a miracle for me. On my own strength, I can’t do any of this. God has been giving me that strength to be honest. I know that my reputation is safe with God. I don’t have to pretend to be someone else anymore, but honestly, it’s still really scary. It’s taken a long time, but God is slowly teaching me how to let go of my ideas and my plans for my life, and truly ask, “Okay, God, how can I do your will today? Thy will be done in this city.” This is just a snapshot of my story, but now that it’s written, I’m actually thankful that I had a chance to share it. All glory be to God.

St. Peter's Fireside