I have always struggled with self-worth since young.
Being overweight for a large portion of my life and having to endure nasty name calling made for a difficult time growing up.
I looked for approval from the people in church. My roles in church afforded me opportunities for affirmation and approval from my peers and leaders. I often reminded myself to do it for the pleasure of One but that was really just an afterthought.
In 2015, I struggled badly. Self-worth and a heavy internship workload were some of my struggles. I faced envy when I saw how my female friends enjoyed the attentions of guys chasing them. And there I was in ministry, giving my all to a group who were taking my efforts for granted.
But instead of speaking to someone – or even God – I chose to quit. I chose to step down from leading while giving the excuse that I was a better supporter than leader. It was a downward spiral from there on.
I went from from worshipping God in church to getting drunk in clubs. This was when I met J – the guy who I thought was the remedy to my worthlessness.
Things started off innocent and fun, but I began to be afraid of losing him. I couldn’t afford to lose the only thing that assured me of my self-worth. Whatever he requested of me – I would comply. Even if it meant giving myself away just to keep him by my side.
As time passed, I realised I was just being used for J’s physical needs. I was convenient to him. I knew I should’ve ended things with him but didn’t know how – and I couldn’t bring myself to do so.
But one day, I decided not to meet him when he called me over again. So he decided that we should end things there and then over text – like it was nothing. I was shattered.
He chose the cross in love for us, knowing we might never love Him back.
I started questioning myself: Did he leave me because I wasn’t attractive enough? Because I wasn’t skinny enough? I wanted to pinpoint his leaving to something I could change – anything I could work on – just so I could get him back.
I began throwing up whatever I’d eaten in an attempt to lose more weight so I could be more attractive. I couldn’t function normally. I felt ashamed, cheap and disgusted at myself. I didn’t dare to confide in anybody, so I sought comfort from cigarettes and purging.
I grew angry and repeatedly questioned God: Why didn’t He protect me? How could He allow this entire episode to happen? I was so bitter. In the pits, having lost everything within a few short months, I was an empty shell.
I didn’t dare to go back to church because I feared what others would say.
I thought she was a leader? Didn’t she leave church? Why now then come back? It was so easy to think of all the “judgy” things people might have said upon my return. I was mentally preparing myself for the condemnation to come if I ever headed back.
But God spoke to me there and then. He reminded me of the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. God told me that though I may feel ashamed and fearful of heading back home – He would be welcoming me back with open arms. He would wash me clean and clothe me. He would restore whatever was taken away and heal my wounds.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18b)
In August 2015, I decided to go back to church – just to see how things would go. I walked into the church building alone, afraid of familiar faces and darting eyes. I entered the lift and waited for it to reach the fourth level. The lift ride was agonisingly slow.
I had planned on heading into the auditorium and hiding myself in a corner, but that plan was left at the door the moment I stepped inside. I felt warm and I could almost tangibly feel God putting His arms around my shoulder and audibly saying: “Welcome home.”
Over the next few months, God began healing and restoring whatever that was lost. He gave me peace, purpose and the ability to love and trust Him again. I could love those around me too. He made me able me to live again.
As the momentum picked up, I began to serve again. This time, “for the audience of One” has truly become my heart’s cry. I currently serve in church and my cell group together with my new boyfriend.
Whenever I am tempted to think back to this whole episode and spiral, God never fails to remind me that I am His child and that there’s nothing in this world that will be able to separate me from His love (Romans 8:38-39).
I was lost but found. I have been lavished with love, grace and mercy undeserving. Jesus has such great love for us. He chose the cross in love for us, knowing we might never love Him back. I remain in awe at God’s unconditional love, and I am thoroughly convinced that no one but Jesus is able to love like this.
I pray that my story will be an encouragement to anyone who wants to head back home to God but is afraid. He is waiting for you with open arms.
The author’s name has been changed on request to protect her identity.
This is a submission from a participant of our Greater Love Giveaway.