This past Sunday I had the privilege of baptizing two ladies that God had done a profound work in. Her is the story of one of them. Her name is Rose, which is so fitting, because what Christ has done in her is so beautiful. Our God is a God who chases after us even as we are chasing after other things.
I did not grow up in a Christian family, and my identity throughout my life had been built upon two things—school and gymnastics. I was constantly searching for fulfillment through success in my sport and in school. But even when I had success, I was still left empty and searching for more. I had multiple meetings my freshman and sophomore years with my coach about her concern about me not being able to cope with failure. I was struggling building any friendships and was left in loneliness.
My junior year at school had begun—and I have vivid memories of sitting on the floor in my room crying for hours and days wishing that year would be over. I was completely lost, lonely, and empty. A few weeks into our preseason, I walked into practice holding back tears. I couldn’t hide my brokenness any longer, and I broke down in the middle of practice. My coach walked over, and asked me what was going on. Everything began to pour off my heart in that moment. Life felt like it had no direction. As tears welled in her eyes, she looked at me and said, “Rose, God has direction for you.”
I left practice that day and began replaying those words in my head for weeks. I was completely empty and was looking for anywhere to turn. Using her words, I decided to turn to church in hopes that I would meet people.
I continued struggling through that semester. But one of my teammates Kristen Torres began reaching out to me. She began taking me under her wing with love and compassion–meeting me where I was at amidst my struggles. Torres is currently on a two-year mission trip in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Spring semester came, and our competition season began. About halfway through our season, unable to cope with the stress of school and competitions, I began having panic attacks. Life felt like it was spiraling out of control, and each panic attack was leaving me more powerless, empty, and drained. After having a panic attack mid-competition, I was pulled out of every event but beam for the remainder of that season.
But amidst all of this, two people continued reaching to me—Torres and my coach. They began guiding me, meeting with me, and sending me verses that began stirring my heart. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” Psalm 145:18, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.
As our season ended and summer began, life continued taking turns. I continued having panic attacks, I was living from house to house, I felt like I was alone, and I had stepped away from gymnastics determined that I was not going back. And amidst this I turned my back from God as life continued spiraling.
My teammate halfway through the summer reached out to me and told me that I should start coming out to Crosspoint Gymnastics to work out with her. I resisted for a couple of weeks, but decided to give it a try. The moment I walked into Crosspoint I was welcomed with open arms—and as I looked around, different bible verses were posted throughout the gym, Christian music was playing each day—and it became my only glimpse of hope that summer.
Fall semester came, and God continued reaching for me. Day by day, God began flooding my life with Christians who started investing in my life. I began working at Crosspoint, I was welcomed to church with a couple of teammates, and I started becoming involved in FCA. Through encouragement from those around me, I began reaching into the bible, journaling, and praying for community.
Right before Christmas, Brittanie DeMeno reached out to me and asked me what I was doing for Christmas. My family was leaving Christmas day, so she welcomed me to come to church with her Christmas Eve. As I walked in, I was flooded with love and open arms. It felt like immediate family. Britt and I talked after the service, and with beautiful timing God had placed someone beside me that had come to faith in a similar stage in life.
As I sat at home on Christmas Day, I began journaling and praying for hours. I had looked back at the title of the sermon from the previous day—“God’s Big Story” and began looking at God’s big story in my life. And in that time I was given clarity. God that year had stripped me down of everything I knew and identified with. He had to strip me of my old self to lead me towards Him. Then with beautiful timing, He placed people before me to guide and encourage me as I began to seek.
He has given me new life, and has brought me out of darkness—and I have never felt so much hope and peace. He has revealed himself in love, and continues to write my story. Jesus Christ is my Savior!