I remember when I was younger, I was the girl that all the parents at church told their kids not to hang out with. Sometimes they wouldn’t want their kids to hang out with me because they thought my swimsuit was too revealing, or that I was too loud. Sometimes it was because I sat by boys in youth group, or that I would sit in the back during the lesson. This all gave them the impression that I had problems, but instead of helping me work through the crap in my life, they quarantined me to a place that everyone pitied at a distance.
They were right, I wasn’t a good kid and I did have problems. And because I could tell they didn’t care enough to help, I started to really hate church, and the people in it. They were intimidating, and so unwelcoming. People would say, “Hi, Joylissa.” With their churchy smiles, and I would say hi back with my own smile, and that would be that. There was no further communication, and there was absolutely no relationship.
This hardened me to Christianity which had been something I wanted so much when I was little, but as far as I could see, Mom and Dad fought a lot though they went to church and were thought of as Christians and the people who were supposed to be my brothers and sisters in Christ felt a lot less like family than the friendly kids at school who partied on the weekends.
Slowly I made myself part of the popular crowd and that was nice because they hung out all the time. That meant I could spend less time at home, where yelling had become the most common form of communication.
So I started dating boys and drinking every weekend, as was the norm for the popular kids. I was constantly depressed, but I felt less sad when I was hanging out with my friends or “drinking my sorrows away” as some poetic people would call it.
My mom, who has always been a Christian but has gone through some rough stuff, wanted me to go to this thing call “World Changers” for a very long time. My youth group (that I went to as little as possible) had gone to it for years, and both my brother and my sister loved it when they went in high school. I finally agreed to go to it the summer before my junior year. World Changers in a week long mission trip where a number of youth groups go and work on a certain broken part of a house that the owner cannot afford to fix. The youth groups are split up, where one or two of them is assigned a crew with kids from other youth groups.
It was the night before we left when I smoked weed for the first time. I had always sworn I wouldn’t do it, so when I did it I hit my breaking point. I honestly don’t think I could have hated myself more than I did then. It was perfect because it left me vulnerable, and empty. I was able to be surrounded by kids from other youth groups, my age who had no idea about who I was or what people thought of me. They loved Jesus!
On the Wednesday night of that week there was a concert of prayer, and one part of it was we could come up and write on a big black sheet of paper everything that was between us and God in black pen. This made it so no one could see it. I went up there, and that was the moment where everything changed.
When I got home I told my mom everything I had done, and started taking school online because I knew at that point in my faith, that I couldn’t be around the same kids at school while staying strong in my walk with Christ.
I started playing guitar and writing songs. Before that I had always hated playing guitar, and though my Dad had wanted me to practice, I wouldn’t so we were about to sell the guitar he had bought for me. Good thing we didn’t sell it because I do believe that God’s plan for me is to pursue a career in secular music, and be used by Him to make a difference in the music industry.
A lot of things happened in those two and a half years or so and now I’m in Simi Valley. I believe that God lead me to Eternity Bible College because I needed a good foundation and knowledge of him to be able to do what he has planned for me. I’ve grown in my relationship with Christ so much since coming here, and I’ve become more and more confident and at peace with His plan for me with every break down, conflict, lesson, and word of encouragement that I’ve experienced since coming down here.
I cannot imagine where I would be if I had gone anywhere else, and I’m more in love with Christ than I thought was possible when I was that lonely kid in the back of the church. Not only do I love Christ more, but I am amazed at how much He loves me. I am joyful because of this, and am so excited for what he has already planned out, will do in the future.
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