After I was hospitalized, I discovered things inside of me were still broken. There wasn't a magic pill that was going to fix everything (although the doctors did send me on my way with several). This time, I knew I had to take full ownership of my pain. I could no longer live in denial of the fact that I needed help or that I could do it alone. Every day I would have to be vulnerable and expose myself to others in order to get better. It didn't happen all at once, but slowly I was able to find new resources that were able to better support me and equip me with the tools I needed to heal. The best and most humbling resource I came to first and foremost, was God.
When I was a child, I had a very strong relationship with God. I attended mass regularly, said bedtime prayers every evening, and knew with all my heart that He was with me. I did not doubt any part of His existence. A few months ago I found a note I had written my grandfather when I was twelve, confirming this unyielding faith. The note said, "Dear Pa, I hope you like the cross I made for you! If you feel alone you are not, because God and Jesus are always with you. I really hope you always remember that! Love, Megan." In addition to the note, there was a wooden cross I had whittled out of sticks. I remember how long it took me to carve the cavity on one piece of wood that would allow the other to fit, just right. As I grew older, I started asking myself how Christianity could fit 'just right' into the various aspects of my life, and I didn't have a clear answer.
I knew that Jesus Christ was our 'Savior' but how could that change or be intimately connected to my circumstances here on earth? As I started experiencing heartbreak, loss, and suffering, I became rather unconvinced that He alone was capable of saving me. I grew quieter in my faith and stopped speaking out about my own personal beliefs because I didn't really know what they were any more. As a child, my heart was pure, but as I grew older, I allowed the cultural norms, materialism, and modern media to draw me further away from the church and from God.
The rebirth of my relationship with Him this year played an extremely pivotal role in my healing and made what was once broken, brand new.
It happened on a particularly difficult day. Two important relationships in my life came to a screeching halt. I drove to my church and took refuge in the only place I could think would give me solitude and peace. The church was empty and I kneeled in a pew in the back and cried. It was an out-pour of my vulnerability. After listing my grievances, I cupped my hands in front of me, as if I was holding something very precious. I slowly raised them upward and said, "Here. I am giving this up to you God because I don't know what else to do with it. You are the only one I can trust. I don't know where I am going, what I am doing, or how I am supposed to fix this mess of a life, but I am giving it back you." It was in that moment that the Holy Spirit unleashed my soul. It was a moment that changed me in my faith. God didn't need me to be this perfect version of myself I had falsely created in front of others. He desired a relationship with me in my brokenness. I begged him for mercy. I asked him to forgive me for not coming to him sooner. I had to come to this place of weakness to fully understand that in my suffering there was renewal and hope. God was my undying hope, and I was capable of leaning on Him for all of my needs, especially the things I did not have answers to. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" -Proverbs 3:5
For many years I relied too heavily on the affirmations of others to know that I was sufficient, and that I was pursuing the right path in life. But God alone is capable of healing our hearts and providing us refuge. I realized that many of us turn away from Him when we are broken because we are either angry with our circumstances or feel insufficient to humble ourselves before Him and ask for help. But He is our loving Father and the creator of all things, and we often forget that He alone knows completely of our individual suffering.
People often ask "Why do bad things happen to good people?" or exclaim "I don't believe in a God that would allow something like this to happen," because I believe it is easier for us to harden our hearts and turn away from God, then to examine the truth the lies within. Sometimes we’d prefer that our lives be a different story than the one God seems to be writing. In our fragile existence it doesn’t make much sense to turn a romance into a drama, or an adventure into a tragedy. But when we push God away, it's more often than not a mere reflection of our own brokenness, pride, selfishness, or insecurities. That was certainly the case in my own life. I had to come to God on my own terms to understand how merciful and glorious he truly is. The truth is that we all have free will. This is both a blessing God has bestowed upon us and an enormous responsibility. Because free will exists in the world, so does sin. And with sin comes evil. Evil that creates wars and death, induces fear, and silences truth. Sin only exists because we all have the choice to either live a life of integrity and love, or use our words and actions to cause pain and suffering in the lives of others. God does not take away life or create situations that inflicts suffering. Suffering and pain is the result of our own sin. And God wants us to turn away from the things that cause us suffering and return back to Him. The word 'sin' in literal translation means to 'miss the mark'. When I began to examine the areas in my own life that I had been falling short of or missing the mark in, I found what was truly important. Love. And in order to truly love, we must also learn how to forgive.
I came to know that the people who had caused me the most pain in my life had also experienced extreme pain of their own. It was not a reflection of something I had done to them, but rather a reflection of their own insecurities, grief, and sin. With this in mind, I started changing my thought patterns and behavior. I stopped criticizing myself and others and chose to pray about it instead. When someone hurt me, instead of wishing they would come to understand the consequences of their actions, I prayed for good things in their life. I chose to forgive and pardon them anyways. It may sound like a naive way of interacting with the world, but it created new space for happiness and more time for letting go of the things that no longer helped me flourish. I gave up social media for six months. The more I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled, the unhappier I was with my own life. Because no one wants to admit they may be suffering too. We only allow others to see the beautiful parts of our lives. But that's not reality. I asked myself, 'how many likes does it take to actually live a happy life?' When I finally created a space without distractions, I discovered God was the only 'like' that truly mattered in my life and He willingly accepted me as I came. I stopped watching Netflix and cable television all together. I realized so much of the content in modern media was disturbing, violent, sexualized, or completely incongruent with the way I actually wanted to live my life. It wasn't until I starting living in this extremely filtered way that I understood how desensitized and brain-washed our society has become. When I stopped listening to pop culture music I became more aware of my own language and use of profanity and I decided to start speaking with more integrity. Because I had more free time on my hands, I read more books then I've probably read in three years. I became a volunteer at my church mentoring teens on Sundays. I cut out alcohol for Lent and gained exceptional clarity about the way alcohol affected my life. I was inspired by the documentary, 'The Minimalists' and decided to minimize my life by cutting my closet in half. I sold my clothes to a local thrift shop and donated the rest to Goodwill.
At first it was really difficult; especially when it came to letting go of parts of my life that were comfortable or familiar. It was easier to try and find a 'quick fix' and a temporary kind of happiness that resulted from buying a new pair of shoes or 'vegging out' and watching TV. But the further I removed myself from the everyday trends of our world, the happier and more at peace I felt with myself. I was on a journey that set my soul free.
The things I did not understand, I gave back to God, and more often then not, He began revealing answers to me that I wasn't expecting. I learned how to forgive myself and be gentle in my own thoughts once again.
I discovered that the world wasn't against me, but that we are born inherently good; sometimes we just get stuck. Things will never be perfect, but as we begin seeking the light in our own lives and the good in the lives of others, God's love reflects brightly back at us.