In January 2010, I started my first semester of college at FSU as a Junior. I had completed a year and a half at my local community college and felt it was time to book it out of there and experience life on my own. I knew in my heart I needed to leave the comfort of my home and move away to Tallahassee. I was nervous and excited all at the same time. In my mind, I knew it was the best grown up decision I had ever made, but at the time, it felt like the worse.
The first semester up at school was the hardest. Actually hard would be an understatement. It was horrible. Or at the time it felt horrible. Never in my life had I ever felt so lonely, isolated, sad, depressed or miserable. I literally cried all of the time and I’m not one to cry much. I am probably one of the least emotional people and tend to hold things in, so if I’m upset you don’t really notice or let alone cry. My poor roommate probably noticed! I remember walking home from a meeting one day, it was rainy, cold, pitch black and super late at night and I could just not hold in the tears any more, they just came gushing out, like Niagra Falls. I remember feeling so, so alone. I just prayed to God in that moment to get me safely back to my dorm. I can honestly say I had never experienced such sadness or feelings of isolation before in my life. Even though there were thousands of people around me constantly, I couldn’t shake that feeling of being alone.
Truly I was angry. I was extremely mad at God. I constantly questioned him and asked, “Why would you bring me here to FSU if you knew I would be this miserable?” and “Why are you making life so hard on me?”. Before I moved to Tally, I truly had never experienced a hardship in life. I lived a very comfortable life, knowing pain, but not truly knowing pain to that extent. God turned my world upside down and I did not like it. I felt like I didn’t deserve it and just wanted everything to stop. He stripped away all that I held dear.
I missed my family and friends dearly. Living away from my family was probably the hardest part but there were so many factors that contributed to my anger at God that first semester. I remember starring at my bible every. single. day. It sat in the same corner of my built in bookshelf all semester long. I would stare at it, think about opening it and then completely ignore it all together. I was angry and refused to open, or even touch my bible. The answers to all my questions were in that small book and I just outright ignored it. I was denying and rejecting God, every day. And I didn’t even realize it.
That first semester, it felt like life was a never ending tunnel, and there was no light at the end of it. My anger at God never subsided and there were multiple reasons why. About a month into the semester, I got a call from my mom telling me that my grandpa wasn’t doing well and they were trying to move him closer to home. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and refused the care of doctors because he was Christian-Science. Well, within a week of talking to my mom, he had taken a turn for the worse and was placed in hospice care, luckily 30 minutes from our house. The next thing I knew, I was traveling home from school unexpectedly. Just a week before, he was fine, awake, eating and needed a little extra care. By the time I arrived home and visited him, he was no longer talking. I visited him at hospice with my family and he passed away the next afternoon. I went from thinking my grandpa was fine, to driving home within a moment’s notice, to him passing away all within a two week time period. It was a whirlwind of emotions to say the least.
I don’t write this for pity, or for a sob story, I write this because these emotions were raw and once felt so real. I can remember exactly how I felt and how I did not want to feel. What I remember most though is how angry I was at God. That first semester was just tough, I tasted what depression felt like. I missed the comfort of home and my family, I felt sadness for my little nieces and nephew who were suffering, and for my mom who lost her dad within a moment’s notice, I felt complete isolation and loneliness like I never had before. All of this took a toll on my body and it couldn’t handle the stress, which caused rapid weight-loss and sickness like I’ve never experienced before (I lived in an old mold-infested dorm and didn’t find out until later that I was severely allergic to almost everything dust, pollen, and mold related). But the worst part was that I was still angry at God and blamed him for everything. I never stopped asking Him, “Why on earth are you making all of this happen? I just don’t see the point to all this pain God.” There seemed like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. None. Zippo. Just darkness.
That first semester wasn’t all bad but it was very painful and raw. That tunnel felt never ending but I had made it through. Actually, I made it through that first semester with almost straight A’s, new friends and experiences. God gave me so much grace and mercy that semester and I can honestly say that there were moments I would have not gotten through the day without Him. Even if I was angry and the most distant I had ever felt from God, he was always right there by my side. I ended that semester by moving back home for the summer. There was light at the end of the tunnel but the question still lingered in the back of my head, “I still don’t understand why you made me go through all of that?”
God didn’t answer that question right away. I actually didn’t understand the answer until almost two years later. Fast forward to January 2012. It was my second to last semester before I graduated. By this time, I had been at FSU for two years, I had rushed a sorority, made friends, gotten into a routine and ultimately made Tallahassee my home. That first semester was in the past but the memories were still very raw. My relationship with God was no longer all, “I’m NOT going to read my bible because I’m mad”, but there was still work to be done in my heart and I boy could I feel it.
At the time I was reading a book by Francis Chan called Crazy Love. It’s a very simple book that talks about living a radical life and being Crazy in Love with Jesus. God used this book to speak to my heart. One question I do remember from the book asked, “Are we in love with God or just His stuff?”. I remember asking myself, did I love God and have a deep intimate relationship with him, or did I just like Him for what He gave me. The truth was that I desperately desired that kind of radical, life changing relationship with Him that was mentioned throughout the book, but I didn’t that kind of relationship with Him. I knew in my heart I did not have a deep, personal, intimate relationship with God. It was very surface level and lukewarm. I actually wrote myself a note in the book on 1/25/2012 expressing my thoughts on how I felt about being lukewarm:
“I truly do not know God the way I should and it upsets me. I know he loves us and gave His son for us but I do not have that intimate relationship with Him that He desires. The God of the universe is crazy in love with me and I am not crazy in love with Him, but I desperately want to be. I want that deep, intimate relationship with him.” And then I wrote this prayer, “God, allow my heart to open up and let your Spirit in. Do whatever you have to completely turn my life upside down. You are in control and it’s all in your hands, whatever the future holds, I am willing. I want to only want you in this life and nothing else.”
God used that book, and that terrible first semester, and my time away at school and all of that pain, and joy, and growing up to show me one thing. He showed me I was living a very lukewarm life and that in order to move forward and live that radical life I always desired, I needed to have that one-on-one relationship with Hm. At this point in my life, I was saved, but God was using all of this pain to question my heart. He needed to know if I was going to live a lukewarm life or surrender my all to Him. I needed to desire Him more than anything else in this world. It’s been four years since that horrible first semester and I can honestly say God has rocked my world! He answered that desperate prayer and I have not looked back since. I no longer ask God, “Why did I have to go through all of that pain?” Instead, I thank Him for that pain and I tell Him I would go through all of that again in order to know Him more. Huge change in heart I’d say, huh? God can change our hearts, all we have to do is ask.
After that first semester in 2010, when I told myself, “I never want to go through anything like that again”, I remember specifically feeling the exact opposite in 2012 when I was about to graduate from FSU. This time I was so fearful to move back home. I was desperately afraid that I would not grow and my relationship with God would suffer. I feared I wouldn’t need him as much as I did when I was away at school. Funny how things work out, once I gave God complete control, I’ve never turned back. I thought going to FSU was the best decision I had ever made, but deciding to follow Jesus fully and getting to know Him intimately, was downright the best decision I have ever made in my entire life. There’s no turning back. It’s full speed ahead through that once dark tunnel. But now, now there’s so much light and adventure that lies ahead. If God asked me, “Katie, would you go back to that moment in time (or a future moment in time) filled with suffering, just to feel my presence?” There is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t say yes, 100x’s YES! I’ve already said, “Yes, I’m yours, take me where you please”. And you know what he gives me? More light! In fact, the most light I have ever known.
That darkness has been overcome with so much light. I am healed from that pain, even though it was once so raw. I would go through all that pain again, just to know Him more fully. His blessings continue and my joy becomes greater and greater. And his light, it shines brighter and brighter each day.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. John 1:5
in(Courage) one of my favorite sites for daily devotionals just released their Everlasting Light Collection. My favorite two pieces of jewelry from the collection are the “Little Dipper” and the “Shine” necklace. Everything in the collection is made in the USA, which is a huge plus! The collection inspired me to write this post and reminds me that when it seems like the darkness will never subside, light is always on the other side!