#31 God’s Open Arms

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff 

I am a sophomore at the University of Kentucky, and four weeks ago on August 1, 2016, my brother passed away due to an overdose. The emotions that hit me when I discovered this were indescribable, and crying with my other older brother is a memory that will forever be branded into my mind. While this moment was tragic for my family, God was able to use this instance to guide me back to Him, and I hope that He uses me in the days to come to aid others with their losses and struggles.

My dad is an associate pastor, and my mom is involved in anything and everything to do with our home church. I committed my life to Christ at an early age, and as a child, I was at church every time the doors were open. My dad was even the one who got to baptize me—a precious memory. My older brothers were always quite rebellious, and in my head I was deemed “the perfect child” at a very early age. This is not something you want to have in your head.

Going into middle school, I went to all the camps. I sang on the worship team, went to all the conferences, and had a daily devotion. I loved going to church and loved having God in my life. While my late older brother during that time was struggling with addiction and choices, I was a prayer warrior for him. There were many nights I wailed, crying out to God for my brothers and their salvation. While things were up and down with them, I considered myself a steady person in a steady relationship with God.

Now enters my desire to please people and for everyone to like me. While this may seem like a trait not as harmful as others, going into high school and college, this is terrifyingly dangerous. All of a sudden, in my junior year of high school I was in a new relationship, and shifted into a different friend group. I wanted to be liked and I wanted to be considered cool by my new set of “popular friends.”

Wanting to be cool in high school means doing and partaking in a lot of things that can elevate your status. I got swept up in being cool, and started going to church less and less. While I may have thought I was becoming popular, my relationship with God was becoming less than lukewarm. I wasn’t praying daily, and probably could not have told you when the last time I had cracked open my Bible.

Rejecting God at this time made me feel like I was achieving an even better status with my peers. All of a sudden, it was senior year and I was committed to go to the University of Kentucky. Looking forward to the start of college, all I could think about was, “Big SEC school and sorority.” I was looking forward to the new adventure, but nowhere in my mind did I even consider God fitting into that plan. Sure, my dad made me visit BCM and CSF on my college visit, but I knew that being 1,400 miles away from home, my parents wouldn’t know if I attended or not.

So going into freshman year, you guessed it—I pledged a sorority and continued on my path of sin. Freshman year was a whirlwind. I rarely talked to my parents, which I now realize was because of the guilt I felt deep down for doing many of the things my brothers had done in secret. I rarely went to church, only going a few times when I had felt I was an extra bad person. When I saw others claiming to be Christians and doing the same things I was involved in, I would laugh to myself and call them hypocrites. But as Matthew 7:3 clearly states, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

That summer I knew I needed to make a change, but due to my own selfish desires, I was not prepared to do that. I wanted all the benefits of having God on my side, without being on God’s side. I hated going to church, knowing the sin that weighed me down.

On August 1, 2016, I lost a brother; but on August 1, 2016, I rededicated myself to God. I cried out, “Lord, I need you. I can’t do this without you.” In the coming weeks, I had the strength I needed, provided by our Almighty God.

I recognize I need God in my life, and that I need God on my side. Every day I wake up and ask how I can be a witness to my friends, co-workers, and peers that day. The day I finally confessed my sin and guilt, it was as if a 10,000-pound boulder was removed from my shoulders. I cried for a while and my heart ached at the amazing and awe-inspiring forgiveness our Lord gives us. My daily devotion was Nehemiah 1:9 where God says, “But if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.”

Knowing that even though I have messed up, and I am not “the perfect child,” God has me and is always waiting for me to return to Him with open arms.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.