Everyone has a faith story. Whether you grew up in an idyllic home or not. Whether life has seemed too easy for you or you’ve struggled every day to survive. Whether you’ve fought an addiction or illness, been to the depths of the pit, or not. Everyone has a faith story. This is mine.
I was born into a Christian home. My mother was initially saved at the age of six with a rededication later on in her teenage years. I’m honestly not sure when my dad was saved, but either way I was raised in church from day one. I had a rough start with a post-birth heart disease discovery and the resulting five open heart surgeries over the next few years. Still, I had God’s promise of healing and the testimony of a life repeatedly saved by Him. One of the first things I learned was how to stand on God’s promise for a new heart. Throughout my life, this was one of the easiest promises to believe.
Some of my clearest memories from growing up are related to church, whether it was being in church itself or at a church-hosted function. My mother was the Minister of Music, or worship leader, in our church and as a result, I was part of the youth worship team, even though I was only in Children’s Church. I sang specials on Sundays, I’m sure the other members got tired of hearing me sing “This Little Light of Mine”. I attended Children’s Church camps in the summer. I remember one particular camp where we auctioned ourselves off to serve the adults. I was so disappointed when my parents didn’t auction on me. Or when I wanted to get baptized in the river with others but didn’t have a bathing suit for some reason, and I wasn’t going to get baptized in my clothes. From the way my mom speaks, I was a powerhouse pray-er. I can’t tell you how many times she’s spoken about the times I prayed for her when she had a bad headache and that headache instantly ran for the hills. From the outside, my faith life was on fire. Maybe it was on the inside, too, I was just too young to realize it.
After we moved and my parents divorced, well even then I was different. When the church leaders had their prayer circle before Sunday service, I was the only kid standing there with them. There were times I wanted to be in the back with my friends (it was a small church and not many kids) but I felt like I had a duty to be in that circle. I still remember one of the initial times when I was worshipping and entered that special place and truly felt God’s presence. I did it despite my then-step-sister trying to distract me and laughing about it. It was during one of those times that God healed the hole in my heart. I remember the first time I operated in the gift of prophesy. I believe it was after a service when my pastor called me up to stand behind the pulpit. He asked me if I felt anything different standing there. I told him yes.
“I don’t want you to say what you think I want you to say,” He told me.
So I took a minute then answered in the affirmative again. At that point, God moved and I spoke. I would not operate in that gift again for another four or five years.
It was shortly after that happened that I began drifting. My mom and step-dad divorced, for the better, but there was a lingering spirit of depression in our home and it came upon me. I was in middle school, had just went through a stent placement surgery, and life seemed to be great. I can’t tell you the initial issues, all I know is I was finding myself in a place of pain more and more. A place that no one saw. A lot of responsibility at home fell on me and it felt like I was doing everything at home. At school I had friends but none who were strong in the faith at that time. My closest school friend had a traumatic home life and I felt like I had to help her. I’m not sure how much I truly helped her, though, and the pressure I felt grew. There was one day when she was so stressed and…hurting that she wanted to end it. She began trying to choke herself right there in our classroom. I reached across our desks and began praying for her. As I did so, another friend looked over and asked me, “What have you done to her now, Dacia?” That was my breaking point. That night I went home and cut myself for the first time. I knew I didn’t want to die, I just wanted the pain, the pressure I felt, to get out. It didn’t help. I cried out to God, asking why. Asking Him, where He was. I was so tired of being in such pain and despair. I was at rock bottom. I began asking God to send me someone, a friend who was strong in Him. He sent me two sisters who became my closest friends. I also found help in a book series about a girl similar to me who comes to know Christ and forms a Christian band. It felt like a light had finally lit up in me. One Sunday, I prayed the Prayer of Salvation with intention and purposefully asked Jesus to come live in my heart.
The next year or so was better, but I still wasn’t where I had been. I was almost two different people. I say almost because I still had my foundation of Christ, but I had begun drifting down a different path again. Most of the friends I had were not strong Christians and I began to reflect them more than I did Christ. I was speaking death and anger more than I was life. I was rebellious and defiant. At church, I worshipped but I was beginning to pretend more than truly worship. Then my mom made the decision to move again. I didn’t realize it until years later, but this was God removing me from the destructive path I was on.
We found a smaller home church in our new town. It was really a budding church being held in someone’s home, full of people fresh on their Christian walk. It impacted me for the better and I did a lot of growing, but before that growth happened, the real change came about because a friend of mine died. I call her a friend but in reality we weren’t that close. She sat behind me in our Spanish class so we would often partner up. I don’t even remember what all we bonded over, but I considered her a friend. Then one day I came to school, it was first period and some classmates were talking but I didn’t hear what they were saying until the girl next to me said, “Well Dacia was friends with her,” or something along those lines. My name caught my attention and I turned to them smiling and asked them what was up. Then came the words, “Misty died last night.” Time stood still. Their faces, everything, blurred as I tried to comprehend what they were saying. I managed to tell my teacher I needed to go to the restroom as tears filled my eyes. Whether I made it there before they began or not, I have no idea. Later I spoke with our Spanish teacher and at the end I asked if I could have my friend’s binder. I later learned the tragic details of her death and for a long time afterward, I could not ride over the bridge she had died on, even though it was a main bridge.
Afterward, I began wondering if she had been a Christian, too. I didn’t know for sure but I had no indication that she was, and I found myself questioning if there was more that I could have done. I knew there was. I had not been the Christian witness I should’ve been to her. I didn’t speak up as I should have, I didn’t tell her of God’s Love and Mercy and Salvation as I should have. The tragedy of her death impacted me so much and I determined to not only become a better witness for Christ, but to truly pursue a life after Him. So I did. I still had times when I felt so alone, things I had to work through, such as the hole left by earthly father figures, times of depression and the urge to self-harm, but I always fell back on Christ. I became the witness I needed to be and God brought me the people who needed me, my story, and His Love.
Over the next few years, I grew closer to God and stronger in my faith. It came to the point where I could feel Jesus right beside me. I knew He was there. In those years, my foundation in Christ strengthened, and even when I had times where I felt so lost, I knew He was there waiting for me to come back. There were a few years between then and now where I did wander. I let changing life and circumstances come between us. It hasn’t always been perfect or idyllic, but that’s not where my hope is. My hope is in Christ, the solid rock on which I stand. I know that there is more beyond the beauty of my past. I don’t know where God is leading me, but I know He’s walking with me. Even now I pray that my story, my faith, is a witness to those who need it. That all who need to find Him can do so through me.
Your story is your own and you have lived it for a reason. Whatever it may be, it can still be a witness of God’s goodness. I don’t care if you never got a bad grade or you’ve never struggled with an illness. I don’t care if you’ve spent most of your life addicted to drugs or alcohol. If you’ve been abusive or abused. God’s loving-kindness and salvation does not discriminate, He is for all, needed by all. If you reach out to Him, truly seek Him and His heart, then your story is a good one because nothing beats the grace of God. And the world needs your own story of faith.