There I was, kneeling before the five-and a-half-foot cross in my parents’ prayer room, but this was no ordinary prayer time. I had in my hand the sharpest knife I could find.
And my words were even sharper: “Jesus, you are a fake and a liar. You are the reason for my pain.”
What brings a person to feel so bitter and hopeless? How had I gotten to this point? Not so long before, it seemed like I had everything—a close-knit family, loving parents, friends, a big house, and money to buy whatever I wanted. Soon I would get my university degree, marry the man I loved, and start a family. Even my spiritual life looked good: I went to Mass every week with my family and knew all about God and his love.
Things Fall Apart. But underneath it all, things were fraying at the seams. My brothers got involved with the wrong people. My parents were struggling in their marriage. And although my life appeared to be going according to plan, I was crying myself to sleep at night—lonely, depressed, and empty.
Then my boyfriend broke up with me. All my plans fell apart. I started going through stages of acute anger, bitterness, confusion, and hopelessness. I blamed anyone I could find—my ex, my family, my friends, and, most of all, myself. I began to isolate myself from everyone who cared about me. And to numb the pain, I began drinking excessively.
Once I got over the initial shock of the breakup, I tried to put my shattered life back together, with my boyfriend as the first priority. Desperate to win him back, I focused on my appearance. I exercised and dieted so much that I developed an eating disorder. I went on shopping sprees and bought expensive clothes and jewelry so that I could show that man what he was missing. But all I acquired was ten thousand dollars’ worth of debt and a deepening sense of misery.
I dreaded waking up every morning. The weight of everything was too heavy. I decided that my life was simply no longer worth living.
“Show Me.” So I came to that big cross in the prayer room determined to end my life. Something in me must have hoped for a reason to live, though, because I found myself not only accusing Jesus but daring him to talk me out of my decision.
“If you really love me, you’d better show me who you are.”
Nothing. I gripped the knife a little tighter and put the blade to my wrist, bracing to make the slash.
I couldn’t do it. Sobbing uncontrollably, I slumped to the floor. I couldn’t get anything right, not even this. I didn’t have the courage to follow through.
As I lay weeping at the foot of the cross, I felt a bright white light shining around me, illuminating the dark room. Even through closed eyes, I could see it. I also felt a warmth I had never felt before, and in my heart I heard a voice:
Wendy, I love you! I have always loved you. I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have wanted you before the foundation of the earth. I love you. I love you.
My heart started to get lighter as these words washed over me, and the weight of the pain receded. I felt comforted and valued. An unexplainable stillness welled up within me. Thoughts of suicide had vanished, and I was filled with hope instead. I wanted to live!
Jesus Lives! This was the first time I experienced Jesus’ presence, and I can honestly say that I met him as my Savior—he literally saved me from taking my life! That night Jesus became someone I knew, not just someone I knew about.
Over the next days and months, I saw my life being rebuilt from the bottom up. I wasn’t throwing pity parties anymore or lashing out at my siblings. I felt deep peace and the love I had been longing for when I cried myself to sleep. Above all, I felt hope. Instead of dreading the mornings, I began each new day with the feeling that something great was going to happen.
I also found myself yearning to be at Mass. How could I ever have found it boring or routine? I wanted to be with Jesus and get to know him better. If he could make me feel so hopeful and peaceful in an instant, how much more might he have in store?
I looked for him in the Scriptures, and they started to come alive before my eyes. Again and again, I found verses that reinforced my awareness of how much God loves me, even delights in me. “You know when I sit and when I stand. . . . I praise you, because I am wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:2, 14). The God who had seemed so distant to me—almost nonexistent—was actually very near, moving and acting in my life on a daily basis.
Becoming His Disciple. Even with this newfound peace, though, the challenges did not magically disappear. Forgiving my boyfriend was a long, hard process. And when the Lord showed me that I had also hurt this man and needed to ask his forgiveness, it took me two years to do it. The bulimia and shopping addiction didn’t go away overnight, either. With the help of my family, I was able to join a gym, get back to eating healthy, and pay off my debts.
Self-acceptance and insecurity remain a daily battle, but I am learning to replace my old view of myself with the truth about how God sees me. Instead of believing lies like “I’m fat, not smart enough, not desirable, or pretty enough,” I’ve begun to combat them by agreeing with God’s view of me: “I am powerful, awesome, blessed, and beautiful.” I found it really awkward to say these things at first, but as I persist, the lies are losing their sting, and I am growing in confidence as a beloved daughter of God.
What has helped me a lot is joining a local prayer group that has many young people who are pursuing a deeper relationship with Jesus and who are committed to growing together in their faith. With the help of these friends, I’ve felt the Holy Spirit changing the way I think and act. And I’ve begun to dream of sharing the news of a living and real Savior with everyone I meet.
Now, in my work at a facility for young people who are at risk, I see the same hunger and emptiness that I used to feel. Every day, I want to live in a way that encourages my students toward a real, true, and loving Savior—the Jesus I met at the foot of the cross.