People often ask "how I do it all" - how do I remain hopeful and optimistic and strong. This Easter, I wanted to answer that question, because I haven't always had the life I have now.
I remember being as young as seven the first time I felt like I hated myself. I remember never feeling good enough, and always having to try so hard to get people to like me. But it never worked, and the older I became the more worthless I felt; the more worthless I felt, the more my life fell apart.
I remember whispering to myself the little prayer from Forrest Gump: Dear God, please make me a bird, so I can fly, fly far, far away from here…
Through even the darkest seasons, I felt a desire for something more - something better. Maybe if I was just better - or if my circumstances were better - I would finally feel at peace with myself. And so I was always running away. I felt like a caged bird, trapped in a life where I was unwanted, undesirable, unworthy. I would run from my life, thinking the next job, the next friend, the next boyfriend, would solve the problem in my soul. Dear God, please make me a bird…
I thought that maybe I was just a free spirit - songs like Free Bird and poetry like Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings resonated me. Surely, I just needed to runaway from all my problems and heartache, to start over - to be free. Surely, a different community or new friends or a new me would set me free from this prison I felt like I was living in. I knew I needed this freedom so badly, that I even tattooed this imagery on my arm. I wanted to be free. I needed to runaway.
But no matter where I ran, I ended up running into myself.
That was the most heartbreaking realization of all. That these demons I was running away from, were in fact in my heart. The world wasn't the problem, I was. I hit my lowest low of depression and self-destruction. I hated myself more than ever, because I felt like my worst fear was true: there was just something intrinsically wrong with me. At this point, I was a 21 year old single mom, living on my own and struggling to keep it all together - I didn't even have the capacity to tend to my own depression. I was hopeless.
And that’s where God found me. In a place where I was done trying, because I knew I couldn't do it anymore. In a place where I was broken open, desperate and craving freedom from my pain - God found me. He met me in the most insignificant of places, in my car as I pleaded out. “Okay, God, I don't know how this works but I am giving this up to you, because I can’t do this anymore. I don't know how praying helps, because you cant do my dishes, but I cant do any of this. So I’m ‘giving this all up to you.’”
He revealed himself to me, a 21 year old, broken, single mom, in a way that was tangible and powerful. I got home that day, and the roommate I rented out had washed the dishes, cleaned the counters, vacuumed the living room and organized my son’s toys. It was the first and last time she ever did that. God had heard me - he heard me cry out, he heard my uncertainty about coming to him - and He loved me enough to reveal himself, to comfort me and bring rest to my weary heart.
And so I got a bible, and had no idea where to start. What did this all mean? Would my life really change? I had grown up in Catholic School, but faith was never a part of my personal life. So what was Christianity really all about? I opened up the bible, and the first verse I saw was Galatians 5:1.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
I remember weeping on my bed reading this - everything I had been searching for my entire life was answered in a moment. I was set free.
I was free from the burdens of this world, free from feeling insecure and unworthy. Free from the mistakes I had made, free from needing to try hard to be someone better, stronger, smarter. It wasn't a friend, a job, a romantic interest or my own works that set me free, either - it was Jesus. The burden of needing to be more, do more, know more, was taken off my shoulders, because Jesus already did it all. All this time, I had been wanting to be set free - and the answer was as easy as saying yes to Jesus.
It may sound cheesy, and you may have lots of ideas about Christianity because of how you've seen “Christians” behave - I was skeptical, too. But I realized that I wasn't following Christians, I was following Christ.
And so this Easter, remember that you are set free. This Easter, know that you don't have to try so hard. You don't have to carry so many burdens. Know that you are loved more than you could ever imagine, just as you are. That the things that make you weary and disheartened, from the biggest struggle to the slightest irritation, can all be surrendered. This Easter, know that God so loved the world, so loved YOU, that He sent His only son. And His son, Jesus Christ, came that we may have life and have it to the fullest! That Jesus suffered and died so that we don't have to. He fought our battle for us - He CONQUERED the battles you're fighting, He has risen because it is finished. The burdens we carry, the lies we believe, the fears that weigh us down and the separation we create between us and God - we are free from it all.