I Wanted to Be the Best. God Showed Me that Seeking His Face Was Enough.
I am the girl who always wanted to do right and be perfect. If I wasn’t able to accomplish something, whether it was a spiritual act or personal ability, I thought I was a failure. I created a measuring stick for myself which required a perfection I couldn’t match. This impossible standard became the only way I was able to view myself, and since I could never measure up, I wanted to die. I took a bunch of pills at age 13 and waited to disappear.
After I left the hospital, my pastor began to meet with me to teach me the truth about what it really meant to have a relationship with God. His words had little effect on how I felt inside, but during one session he said something that felt like being punched in the stomach. “Rachael, you need to know how selfish you are,” he said. “You have hurt everyone around you, and you need to ask them for forgiveness.”
I was confused. I thought it should be clear that I was the one who needed comfort from pain. My heart was hard with self-pity and I refused to acknowledge that I had hurt God. But God was merciful. He unwound the hard knot inside me with the knowledge of my selfishness and I asked for his forgiveness. Admitting that I had done wrong, however, did not change my life. My relationship with God was very weak and had no depth.
As I got older, my feelings of insecurity grew and I began to build walls in my heart. I started looking for things to make me feel better. I built a collection of worlds inside my head through television. As a result of allowing images of sex, drugs, and addiction into my mind, I lost my moral filter very quickly. One friend, food, accompanied me when I lived in these worlds. The time I spent alone with my food and movies never lasted long enough. I briefly received the comfort and energy I needed to get through the next day until I could come back again.
Deep inside, I hated every aspect of my life and I couldn’t find God. I spent years desperately asking for help from him ‒ all while continuing to live the same way. I was 25 when I finally heard God respond to those prayers: “I want you to stop listening to all the voices in your head. You have never surrendered your life to me. I want you to listen to and obey me.” In that moment, I honestly chose to obey God. My attitude was one of blame and anger, but I stuck with it because it meant my life would change. Being honest about my heart toward God broke me in the best way.
God specifically instructed me to start telling my mother everything I felt and thought, then receive what she had to say. I was convicted over and over by the unconditional love she offered. God showed me he had created me, he loved me, and he wanted to use me.
Little voices continued to pop up from time to time, always saying, “Here are all the lists of things that you will never be.” But one night this summer, God spoke a very gentle command to me in response to my plea for help: “Burn those lists.” I asked why, but he only repeated the command. I cried, not knowing what I would have left if I let go of that measuring stick. His response pierced me like a knife: “If all you have is the ability to seek my face, then that is enough.”
Now, every time God asks me to follow, obey, or love him, my answer is always yes.
Rachael John is a graduate of the UK School of Dentistry who works in Lexington. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org