High School, Hope, and Healing

One student's spiritual journey.

  • by Kelly Bender

Mariah grew up as a really angry girl. From birth, her world was broken with a father who did not want her and a mom who could not provide the sense of love and belonging for which Mariah ached.

Unable to afford a home of their own, Mariah and her mom moved from one friend’s house to another. As she spent most of her time alone, Mariah learned all too early that she had to fend for herself.

“My own parents couldn’t love me, couldn’t protect me. How could anyone else?” Mariah remembers feeling.

Unsheltered from a harsh world, a tough exterior became Mariah’s only defense. Before she even entered high school she was a sexually active party girl whose reputation was—angry. “That’s who I was. I was an angry person,” she says.

All the things that Mariah had turned to for love and a sense of belonging failed her. Her parents had failed her, and she had failed herself.

In search of some kind of healing, Mariah decided that high school needed to be a fresh start, and she needed to change her reputation. That is when she met Rani.

Rani (pictured on left with Mariah) seemed to have it all together, Mariah says. She was always smiling and talking about Jesus. People liked her.

They became friends, and on the surface, Mariah seemed to be doing better. Rani invited Mariah to Cru’s winter conference. She saw the weekend-long trip as an escape from all the stuff still going on in her life so Mariah agreed to go.

That weekend, God gripped Mariah’s heart. She learned of Jesus’ perfect life and his infinite suffering on the cross, but at first she couldn’t believe that God would offer her forgiveness.

“Maybe [Jesus] meant to die for someone like Rani, because she is perfect,” Mariah thought that first night of the conference. “But not for me.”

The next night Mariah learned about God’s unconditional love. That was it! That was what she had been longing for. In contrast to all Mariah had known, there was a heavenly Father who wanted her and would love her forever.

As Mariah gave her life to Jesus that night her broken world was made whole and brand new. She found the love and the sense of belonging that she was created for.

Today, Mariah says that when people ask, “What happened to you?” she answers, “Jesus happened to me.”

If you would like to know more about reaching high school students in your area, go to cru.org/highschool.