In high school, the kids called me Church Girl.
I came by the nickname honestly. I went to church at least three times a week. I didn’t cuss, I didn’t drink, I didn’t go to parties or dances. I also didn’t find the name “Church Girl” all that glamorous.
The year I turned sixteen, I decided my image needed an upgrade. I wore the Church Girl mask to church, but behind the scenes, I formed relationships with kids who weren’t exactly upstanding citizens. Everything my new friends were into was anti-Christian, and though I knew it was all wrong — and I was sure that God would strike me dead at any moment — I reveled in the attention I received from my peers.
Over the next few years, an accumulation of poor choices sent my emotional and spiritual wellness into a kamikaze spiral. I hated being the hypocrite I was, but I felt stuck in a miserable cycle of bad choices and semi-repentance. With mercy I cannot fathom, God kept me from completely destroying my life.
Through it all, I had one thing going for me: parents who maintained consistent prayer lives. They never knew the extent of what I dealt with, but they did know I needed prayer. I’m certain it was because of their prayers that, one day, at the age of twenty-one, I broke down sobbing while driving home after yet another bad choice.
The dry pasture rushed past me behind a blur of hot tears as I told God how sick I was — of being so miserable, of being a hypocrite, of being so far away from Him. After five years of foolish behavior, I was done.
God blotted years of rebellion from my slate. I still had the memories. (I also dealt with condemnation until one day, while reading David F. Gray’s Questions Pentecostals Ask, I realized the condemnation was not of God.) But for the first time, I was truly in love with Jesus. In addition, I felt life burning in my chest! The future opened up to me. I saw light and beauty and good things ahead instead of the dark uncertainty I’d seen before.
All my life I’ve loved to write, but now I have a purpose for it: to help others see that they can know God. There is an abundance of Christian material discussing God’s love for us, and that’s an important topic for our world today. But I find far less books and articles encouraging Christians to fall in love with God.
For the past decade, anytime I’ve had a chance to glorify God with the written word, I’ve taken it. Whether it’s a Bible study series or a book review, I often find myself encouraging my readers to get to know Jesus.
If I could go back, would I make different choices? I sure hope so! But I also realize that God used those dark years to illustrate to me His amazing mercy and forgiveness.
Jennifer attended Gateway College of Evangelism in 2001 and Texas Bible College in 2006. Her dream is to author novels for teen girls. For now, she funnels her writing energies into Link247, Project 7 Bible Clubs, the Dainty Jewell’s blog, and her blog at www.jensmithwriter.com. She enjoys being a stay-at-home mom to her two-year-old son and loves playing the keyboard at her church where her husband is the assistant pastor.