Growing up, we were forced to go to church, but the church I went to was more of a "If you don't do this, you're going to go to hell" type of thing and it just wasn't loving.
I was about 16 when I decided to stop going. Over the next few years, my parents separated and my brothers and I were pretty much living in a house by ourselves so that gave us a lot of freedom. That's when I really started getting into drinking and partying.
I saw the faith of my mom and I saw the love and joy in her heart, and I wanted that, too, but I knew I would have to give up partying because I didn't want to be a hypocrite.
I stopped drinking and going out to clubs and whatnot, but things in my personal life were getting worse and I fell right back into it. Looking back, I kind of did it backwards. I was trying to change the things in my life, but I wasn't really seeking God. I really think that is why I failed. My parents finalized their divorce. My mom lost the house. By the end of that year, I ended up failing half of my classes.
I know it's a crazy thing to be grateful for, me being in that state of brokenness, but I was just crying out, "Help me get through this," and He really filled me with the desire to get to know Him.
So, I told a friend [at Kean University] what was going on and she invited me to a Kean Cru event called “Empanadas and God.” People asked questions and others answered and it just really felt like they cared. It was so clear that people just loved me unconditionally, which was a totally different experience than I had at church growing up.
So I continued to go to the weekly meetings and I just wanted more, I was very thirsty. A speaker asked us to all stand up and hold hands. They prayed first and then she said, "okay, does anyone want to give their life to Christ?" and I said, "I do!" It was a great moment. God filled me with that boldness. I'm so glad!
I know I was born a sinner, and I would have been separated from His love forever, but God allowed Himself to die so that I can be saved. I now have a relationship with God through Christ. That just changes my heart and gives me a purpose. I am living life in His design as opposed to mine. He really loves me and the plan I had couldn't possibly have been better than what He has for me.
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When we put words to the hard parts of our stories, we can give those around us a new picture of who Jesus is.
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