“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both; And be one traveler, long I stood; and looked down one as far as I could; to where it bent in the undergrowth; then took the other, Just as fair; and having perhaps the better claim, because it was grassy and wanted wear; though as for that the passing there had worn them really about the same…” —The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
I just want to start out by saying that this particular post is one that I wasn’t sure I wanted to share. I’m still trying to figure out how I want this blog to work. As I have said, I want this to reflect just what the title says—life according to a millennial in the church. I want it to look professional but also have a balance of stuff God has been speaking to me and a few glimpses into my life as a college senior. I feel like this really should have been one of the first posts I wrote but at the time, there were things God was dealing with me about and I wasn’t at a place where I felt I was ready to share this side of myself. In the past week, God has been speaking and convicting my heart of a lot through two of my Christian Ministry classes—Homiletics and Principles of Biblical Research and Writing.
Since the end of December until now, I have been in what God has deemed a “Season of forgiveness”. There are things in my life that I have self-harmed, purged, starved, and self-medicated beneath the surface. In this time of forgiveness, grace, renewal, and healing, God has moved in so many ways. I feel that in order to better forgive others, I first need to forgive myself of my own shortcomings.
In one of my Christian Ministry classes last semester, we studied Acts 16, which has to do with the conversion of Lydia, Paul and Silas being thrown in prison, and ultimately converting the jailer who imprisoned them, who then tried to attempt suicide because he thought the prisoners had escaped. Until this discussion in our Postmodern Christianity class, I had never read Acts 16 before. When I began studying the role and actions of the jailer, it broke my heart because of how closely it paralleled my own life. I have struggled with forgiving myself for the choices I’ve made in life that are centered around a history of suicidal ideation, eating disorders, depression, PTSD, anxiety, and self-harm. Along the same lines, I have had a difficult time seeing God at work in these dark times in my life.
The account of the jailer’s conversion ends with the jailer crying out, “What must I do to be saved?” I’ve seen this preached several times throughout the years in various churches. The striking thing about it—he wasn’t asking it from a spiritual sense. He knew the Roman Empire would have him killed for falling asleep and the inmates escaping. He was literally afraid of living.
This passage hits home especially hard for me. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I have a history with suicidal ideation and I’ve attempted suicide twice. What I learned from those experiences was the driving force behind why I’m in ministry today. Like the jailer, for the longest time, I was afraid of living without the security blankets my past self-destructive behaviors were. Up until now, I have heard this passage of Scripture preached that the central moment is when the jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved?” In church at one time or another, we have all heard that if we have a relationship with Christ, we go to Heaven when we die. After studying this passage more in-depth, I’ve come to learn that the jailer wasn’t afraid of dying— he was afraid of living. This truth hit me hard. As someone who has a long history and an even longer battle with mental illness, and is considered to be a suicide survivor, I can relate to the jailer.
Until recently, I have allowed myself to be defined by my past. I have allowed past actions and decisions decide for me what my place in the world is and I’ve allowed it to define my relationship with God. I used my own fear, insecurity, and shortcomings to fuel my self-destructive behaviors. Like the jailer, I wasn’t so much afraid of dying as I was afraid of living a life wholly devoted to God, away from my self-destructive habits. I was afraid of living period. I was so used to allowing myself to be defined by these behaviors and was terrified of being free from them. There came a point where I was at my lowest and cried out to God to save me from myself.
In leading up to this point, I feel that sharing this part of my life is integral in the healing process and a large part of fully healing. In order to go deeper in my ministry, I feel like I need to share how I was called to ministry in general. I don’t want this post to be too lengthy and I feel like in order to convey this story well, I need to do it in two parts- my salvation and then how I accepted the call to ministry.
In closing part 1 of this post, I want to encourage whoever is reading this to stay strong. Remember who you are and whose you are. Always remember that you are never too far gone to be forgiven and you are never too far gone to have a relationship with Christ. God’s grace is sufficient and there is nothing He cannot do. As hard as this is, try to remember that it’s not about how big your problems are, but to remember to tell your problems how big your God is. There’s nothing you could ever do to make God stop loving you.
Remember that you’re beautiful. You’re fearfully and wonderfully made. Never forget that you matter.
“…And both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh; somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”—The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Love and light,