My name is Mariah and this is a little bit about the journey God has blessed me with.
When I was four, my brother Brenden was born, followed by my sister, Sierra Grace, two years later. I was so excited to have a baby sister who I could play with and who I had already bought cute clothes for. But there was something different about Sierra. She was born 33 weeks premature and something was wrong with her brain that would force her to live on life support for the rest of her life.
After eight days of agonizing distress, my parents decided it would be best for her to be in heaven. The funeral was hard for all of us and I remember my mom and dad coming home and sitting me on the couch saying that Sierra had passed away. They said it would be okay because she was in heaven with God. From that moment I wanted to go to heaven to be with my baby sister. My mom said the only way I could go to heaven is if I accept Jesus to be in my heart, so I did. I was only six at the time, so I didn’t exactly comprehend what it meant to have Jesus in my heart. All I understood this to be was being with my sister in heaven.
After losing my sister, my family started to change. My mom got a full time job and always came home tired. I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house. My brother started getting all of the attention because he was the cute two-year-old, and I was just the six-year-old who asked a lot of questions. In the same year, I learned a family secret—the man that I called my dad wasn’t my biological father. My real father was actually a man that I knew casually, who would bring me gifts at Christmas.
In 7th grade, I got super involved in church. I had always been very involved because my mom had been working there for 10 years and I went to break out, which is like small group for kids. We went to Mexico on a missions trip which was super awesome. When I went to Wildside I had already known all the leaders so I started getting comfortable. I was also in the band and loved it. In 8th grade I was in STRIVE student leadership and went on missions trips and my relationship with God was right on track.
Then high school happened. My freshman year was a big transition. I made new friends and wasn’t as close to God anymore. At the end of that year my parents began to act differently. They got a divorce when I was a sophomore, and that left me heartbroken. My dad’s leaving made me feel abandoned and guilty---I thought I was part of the reason that he left. I blamed God for it and all the trust I had in him faded. I drank, smoked and would go to parties with my boyfriend all the time to fill that huge hole in my life. I would wear scandalous outfits because I was so insecure, I thought that’s what I needed to do to be accepted. My boyfriend constantly drank and pressured me to do drugs with him, and it just got too hard to say no, so I eventually stopped caring. At this time my relationship with God was suffering dramatically. I looked like I was fine on the outside and to my parents and church leaders because I was continuing to go to church and be in a small group, but I was living a double life.
The first night I got drunk was the night I lost my virginity to my boyfriend. Being a newly 15 year-old, I was so scared I didn’t even fully comprehend what had happened. I knew that’s not what God wanted for me, and it was just so easy to do. That one time led to an entire year of sexual sin. We fought all the time but the only thing that “worked” for us was our physical affection. We were addicts.
One day I just got fed up with my boyfriend constantly choosing smoking weed over being with me, we had a huge fight, and I said it’s over. Breaking up was the hardest thing I had to do, but it was the most necessary. He had taken God’s rightful place in my life. I felt God saying for months that I need to break up with him, but I just wanted to be in control. This was the most freeing thing I had ever done. But in the next few months we kept in contact and still hooked up all the time. We were still getting our “fix” without even dating.
One tear-filled night, I realized that I really have a problem and need help. I had heard of a program at church called Life Hurts God Heals. My small group leader encouraged me to try it out. I was nervous to go because I didn’t know anyone there. I ended up staying and realized how everyone has a story and we are all hurting without Jesus.
Going to Life Hurts God Heals reassured me that God loves me and He is the only one that I really need. I don’t need to get a “fix,” I don’t need boys, I don’t need things of the world, but I need Jesus! God changed my heart and helped me realize how much I needed him in my life. On December 3rd 2008 I recommitted my life to Christ and was baptized. Being in a small group was so encouraging and all of the girls came to my baptism and continued to show me God’s love. The redemption the Lord brings is beautiful and it makes all of us unique.
I am so grateful for the journey God has brought me on and I love him so much and am fully surrendered to him, today and forever. Since graduating high school I have continued to learn a lot about God and myself. Coming to Crave has really helped my relationship with the Lord grow so much stronger. I am in a Crave small group on Friday nights that is a great place of community. I don’t really like entering new places because I’m afraid of being the one person who awkwardly doesn’t fit it. But this small group was so accepting and loving towards me.
My challenge to all of you is to be willing. Being willing to change is the biggest part. Change can be scary, but it can also be so freeing. God wants us to surrender everything to Him. He wants us to love Him with ALL of our hearts not just a portion. God loves you and wants to use you. I’ve learned that relationships are a gift from God that we should use to please Him. If you are in a relationship that you know isn’t God honoring I would suggest to get out! He wants so much more for you. You are worth so much more than that. It’s not too late to change if you are willing to surrender to God. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "the old has gone and the new has come!"