I was raised in the church and I accepted Jesus as my savior when I was 3 years old. I grew up with God in my life and in my heart. My story isn’t about that, but it is about how God saved my life.
In third grade, I was blessed to have two best friends. One was named Larissa. I remember my mom talking about praying for her mom because she was sick. I didn’t think much of it though, because things seemed fine to me. In the summer after third grade, my family went to a week long Christian family camp. I think it was in July. I was 8 years old and would be 9 in August. I remember the day we came home, our neighbor came over. This was strange, as they rarely had anything to do with us or anyone else on the street. My parents talked to them for a bit and they left.
My parents then sat me down and explained why they had come over. The day before, Larissa’s mom had done something terrible. She had used a gun that they had in the kitchen to shoot and kill my best friend Larissa and her little brother. My mom explained that she was sick, but not in her body, she was sick in her mind. My whole world fell apart at my feet that day. Because of my age and personality, I was completely unequipped to handle the many and strong emotions I experienced. I was not able to process and deal with this terrible tragedy. I quickly learned, however, that when I wasn’t thinking about her, it didn’t hurt. I remember deciding that I would simply forget about her so that I didn’t hurt anymore. That seemed to work. But, the pain, grief, and anger were all still there, buried inside. It was like putting a bandaid on the nasty knee scrape without cleaning it first. It festered and grew and permeated every aspect of my life like sepsis.
By the time I was in middle school and high school, I was angry, depressed, miserable, and had no idea why. I remember adults who didn’t know me well and didn’t know what I was going through tell me that these were the best years of my life, that it would never be better than it was then, and I should enjoy this time. I also remember thinking, “If this is the best it will ever be, kill me now, because I can’t handle worse than this.” It was then that I began to realize that I really couldn’t handle being any more miserable than I was already. I decided that death was truly the only option. I was so depressed, I believed one of biggest lies that depression speaks. I believed that no one cared about me. I believed that I could fall off the face of the planet and no one would even notice, let alone care.
I began to plan. My first step, was to make a list (in my head of course) of criteria that whatever method I chose would have to meet. I don’t remember them all, but number one was 100% chance of success. There was absolutely no room for failure. I would think about a method of suicide and run down my list of criteria looking for the perfect method. As it turns out, being a perfectionist wasn’t such a bad thing. I didn’t find the perfect method before God stepped in and saved me.
At this time, I was in 10th grade and my brother was graduating from high school. The youth group he went to was putting together a slide show for the seniors. One day we were all sitting in the living room looking at pictures from our childhood. My dad picked up one and quite casually asked me, “Isn’t that your friend Larissa?” It wasn’t and I found a picture of her, showed it to him, then casually got up and went to my room. And then I cried. I cried for months. One casual comment and an old picture had brought all those forgotten memories flooding back. This time, I couldn’t push them away and forget. After 7 years, I finally had to deal with my tragedy. I never sought out help, although I should have, I just tried to deal with it. The anger was the worst. It had consumed my life.
One day I was home alone and in the bathroom. I heard a whisper just behind my right ear. It was quiet, but definitely audible. The voice said, “You need to forgive her.” I knew instantly that it was God and He was telling me that I needed to forgive Larissa’s mother. I’ve been a Christian since I was 3 years old. My immediate response to God was “Um, no.” There was no way I was going to forgive her. But God wasn’t so easily put off. He kept telling me to forgive over and over. At first, I explained that she didn’t deserve it. God responded with “That’s not what I asked. You need to forgive her.” Eventually, God wore me down to the point that I wanted to forgive her, but I knew that I couldn’t do it. That was when God told me to give it to Him. I told God, “Ok, take it, do whatever it is you do and give it back when you’re done.” I prayed this over and over, probably 30 or 40 times a day for months.
One day, I woke up, sat up in bed and looked around in wonder. It was gone. The burden I had been carrying for over 7 years was gone. God had done it! He had worked forgiveness into my heart. I still don’t know how He did it. For years I was in a dark, dark tunnel. Groping along blindly seeing no light. Hope was gone when God stepped in.
On that morning when I awoke with a heart that had forgiven, I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a ways off, there was still a lot of work to be done, but it was there. Hope had found me. I was in a Bible study a few years ago and we were asked the question, what is the difference between hope and living hope. My answer was this: Hope is something I have within me. I hope I get the job, pass the test, feel better, and so on. Living hope, on the other hand, finds me in the dark places when my hope is gone. It gives me hope when I have none. God did that for me and saved my life.
My story wasn’t over then, and it still isn’t. God continues to work in me every day.
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