Photo courtesy Tara Denton

What Was I Still Searching For?

Tara didn't think she needed God.

Tara Denton

At age 15 I moved in with my father full-time because my step dad had physically abused me one night and he had also been verbally abusive for years. The anger I constantly feel is a direct result of how I was treated in these early years of my life, and as it felt at the time, God was nowhere to be found.

Instead of feeling sad and hopeless, I got mad. I pushed my way through problems with aggression and sarcasm and hateful words. I made very bad choices: Drugs, alcohol, sex… because I had no one holding me accountable for my decisions. I was a great student who got a full academic scholarship to college and who also got whatever she wanted. Life was good I thought, so what was missing? What was I still searching for?

Then religion really punched me in the face. I met a girl my freshman year named Shanell Shoop who was also getting a degree in Medical/Molecular Biology. We instantly connected and I had NO idea why because we are complete opposites. She’s a country girl, I’m a city girl; she is sweet and polite and compassionate and I’m, well, not. We hung out every day for 3 years. Something pulled me towards her. The more I got to know her the more her faith came spilling out. The more her faith came spilling out the more I hated it.

I wanted no part of the hypocritical organized religions. My heart actually progressively hardened to the point where I became an active atheist. Vocal. ANY time religion or God was brought up I would immediately laugh at the idiocy and the naive beliefs of these people. I thought only weak people needed God as their band-aid in order to get up every morning… and I would often tell them that to their faces.

The sad part about this all is, I gave Shanell, my sweet friend, such a hard time so frequently. My responses to her were all out of frustration. But you know, Shanell never lashed out and she always sat and listened to my entire point, making an effort to try to relate with me. She never shoved God in my face and she never ever told me I was a bad person for the way I felt.

Her response was always one of love and understanding. Shanell is that person that showed me what a life with God looked like and what a heart looked like with God in it. She was an exemplary, active Christian. She sinned and she messed up, but she lived every day asking for forgiveness, with God guiding her steps to lead her to do better. She was living in the reality of sin, but at the same time always humbly looking to God to grow.

Once I entered my senior year, she had left to go work with Cru at the Oklahoma State University campus. I had reluctantly come to accept that there probably was a higher power, but in my world, it definitely wasn’t God. Life was good. I was preparing to enter the Doctor of Dental Surgery Program, I have a wonderful family, a wonderful man who I want to make my husband, and all in all, a great attitude. Yet something in my heart was still aching; but why? I’m at the top of my game!

At the end of my first semester of my senior year, I had no idea why, but I texted Shanell and shared this information with her. I told her, “I feel like God is finally punishing me.”

I hadn’t heard back from Dental school yet regarding my glowing application for their program. Also, I was really battling my ability to form relationships. I felt like no one really liked me. Although I have a tough exterior, I ultimately AM caring and kind and I was just confused why people seemed distant from me and too scared or intimidated to ever approach me.

That night I was home alone. In texting Shanell, I asked her why there was still a hole in my heart. Why was I still incomplete? She immediately called me and I poured my heart out to her. She directed me to and over the phone we went through what I now know as the KGP, and I accepted Christ that night.

The consistency in faith from the followers of Christ is what caught my eye. That consistency in His power made me realize the reality of Him. From then on I experienced an overwhelming enlightenment in my life and of the world. I had a spark for God; I wanted to know more.

Looking back, even when I completely turned my back on God, he was there the entire time watching over me and protecting me and loving me when I didn’t deserve that at all. He saw me as I was. I was not worthy of this grace and I will forever spend my life spreading his wonderful news and expressing gratitude for the wonderful, fulfilling life he has given me.

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