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What Defines You?

Guest Contributor: Kayla Alonso

I have fumbled for words as I thought of what to write. My testimony. It should be easy, right? The story of how Christ found me. But my story doesn't feel easy. It is oh so messy. And many probably won't like what they read. We love conversion stories about a life of sin, hurt, and pain, but then that life goes to church and meets Christ. We love stories about church kids, who have grown up in church, never turned away, have made their faith their own, and are in the ministry. My story is neither of those. Instead, my story is how the church destroyed me, Christ found me anyway, and I'm still here. 

I grew up in a pastor's home, so I have many, many memories of church. However, my first memory of church had to be running through the fellowship hall, being chased by a Sunday School teacher, telling me I was the spawn of Satan. Telling me I would someday be behind bars, I was destined to be a criminal. I was 3. This is one of my first memories in general. I don't remember why I had been crying in Sunday School that day. Maybe someone had taken my favorite crayon. Maybe they changed the Sunday School curriculum. Maybe it was just an off day. But the message was clear, that I was bad. 

I wish I could say that was an isolated incident. But by the time I was 12 I would experience spiritual, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse by members of the church body. The people meant to represent God. And the message communicated throughout the years was, if I could just be good enough, pray hard enough, memorize enough scripture, then maybe God would love me. If I could just be strong enough, say the right thing, serve more then maybe God could use me. If I could just be pretty enough, skinny enough, perfect enough then maybe God could bless me.
 

By the time I was 16 I had developed a life-threatening eating disorder. In the name of striving for perfection, for goodness, for love, I was literally killing myself in the name of God.

It wasn't until I was 18, while on a mission trip that someone finally explained grace to me. The pastor of this small urban church told me that grace is not religion. It is surrender. It is about recognizing that we cannot save ourselves. We could never be good enough. And that is why we need a good God. God sees us in our pit. We are striving and scraping, trying to get out, and we can't. The more we try to save ourselves, the further we sink. But Christ comes down and He sits with us. He does not leave us. And as we surrender to His grace, and stop striving... as we embrace Him, He takes us out. Grace is not about our perfection, our ability to be good enough. It is about His goodness and faithfulness to sit with us and resurrect us from glory to glory. 

That day was a turning point for me.
 

Where I realized I was loved. That Christ was not the church. He didn't want anything from me, just to surrender to His love. And that was enough. 

Since then, the Lord has continued to save me, causing me to surrender to trust that He loves me, He has plans for me, and I do not have to earn that place. The Lord is healing me of those words and hurts that happened inside of the church.  Not going to lie, I sometimes still have the occasional panic attack on a Sunday morning. When I think about the words that were said or things that happened, it still hurts. But those things do not define me. Christ defines me. His love defines me. The plans He has for me are not determined by what others think of me, including those in the church. That is why I'm still here. It's why I still go to church and still love Jesus. Because He loves the church, though it is broken, and messy, and often sinful, Christ loves it, and has a plan for it. He wants to heal it. I'm here to be a part of that!

About Kayla Alonso: I'm Kayla Alonso. I live in Minnesota with my husband and two girls. I am a coffee enthusiast, and lover of playtime. I blog about the Devotions I do with my little ones at www.babydevotions.com.


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