Shattered Identities

In high school, I was a homecoming princess, tennis captain, speech and debate president, honor society scholarship chair, part of a team that won the community project for Business Leaders of America in the US championship, and salutatorian out of a class of over 400 students. On top of everything, I was involved in church and volunteered over 200 hours. During my high school days, from the outside, it seemed that my life was together. I was raised that I could do anything I wanted if I put my mind to it, and it was true. My family loved and supported me, my friends were right beside me, and my teachers trusted me, but the achievements cost me. I would wake up at 6:30 am and go to bed at 2 am most nights. I was exhausted, rash, angry, and snapped if I felt someone needed to be put in his or her place. I cared and loved people, but I did not have time for myself, others, or for God. I went months without praying or reading my Bible. My attitude was anything but honoring to God.

Senior year was a blur, it was a lot of hard work, but it was also full of great memories. During the year, I ended up applying to over 20 colleges and universities throughout the United States and an endless number of scholarships. Out of all the colleges, my decision was between University of Southern California and Wheaton College, two very different schools, and I had never visited either. One was a secular, party school in the hot climate of Los Angeles and the other was a Christian college in the arctic weather of Chicago. In my heart, I had the peace that I needed to go to Wheaton even though I had no concrete answer for why. I knew no one in Chicago, I had never been to the school, and I didn’t know if I could even afford it. I ended up making the decision to go to Wheaton turning down scholarships for local schools. My mom, my best friend, was heartbroken and did not support my decision.

The summer of 2013, before I headed to college 3000 km from home, we visited Romania for almost two months. In August, I found myself stranded in the Las Vegas airport before finally making it to Wheaton. I started the school year with a clique of friends which I quickly stopped hanging out with. I did cliques in high school, and was sick of it because it excludes people out. Since I had done so many clubs and activities in high school, I joined none my first year of college. I was so tired that all I did was homework. In college, the best way to get to know others is through activities that I did not do. I also felt very excluded because I felt people could not understand me. I came from such a different immigrant background. The only friends I made the first semester were my Hispanic roommates and two other girls. My roommates lived in Chicago and would often leave weekends, so I was alone.

I went from miss popular, who knew almost everyone in my high school to feeling so alone that I would cry in the bathroom, so no one would hear me, in a college campus of over 2400 students. I was shattered and so broken. I had placed my identity in my family, friends, and achievements. I have always been confident, afraid of nothing. If I ever were afraid of something, I would push myself to do it and overcome it. I could not overcome the spot I was in. My family did not support my decision of being at Wheaton, I had few friends, and my achievements meant nothing at Wheaton. Everyone was just as talented if not more so. All I could do was cry to God, “Lord do you hear me? Do you care?” My identities were shattered, but that’s when I truly began to grow. I felt a little like Job. God crushed me, my ego, and brought me to my knees. I hadn’t prayed for months and the first year of college my free thoughts were prayers. It was while I felt that I had nothing that I was reminded of how truly much I had. During the first semester, through the hardship, God transformed me.

After I came back from Christmas break, I joined a disciple small group. Slowly, God began to answer my prayer and bring wonderful people in my life. When I went back for summer break, my mom was amazed at the change in my life. It was during that time that she proclaimed that God had led me to Wheaton and wanted me there. I was no longer irritable, rash, rude, proud, or arrogant. I began to have peace, patience, gentleness, selflessness, and self control. It was through going through the darkness of loneliness and brokenness that God began to shine His light in and through me.

I went from wanting to quit and transfer to leading a small group myself the next year. I went from not having the support of my family, to them encouraging and strengthening me. I had almost no friends, and now I have a family at Wheaton. I began to get involved in extracurricular activities and to give back by interning at a legal immigration office. I began to have purpose in what I was doing. I finally learned that it was because of God that I am where I am. It’s not my own achievements, my own strength, but through God’s wonderful grace.

Currently, I’m writing this blog post in Bucharest, Romania about 10,000 km away from home. Once again, I find myself struggling with the same issues that I did my first year of college, but it doesn’t have the same destroying affect it did the first time. I now know to trust in God and to seek His children for community. Through the good and hard, I am grounded, not in the things that will pass, but in the one true thing that is constant, Jesus. Wherever I find myself, I know that everything will be okay. God has me where He wants me, and I am here to simply love Him and my neighbor with my whole heart.

Below, is a Facebook post I wrote during one of my hardest moments, and the same is true 3 years later and 7000 km away.

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am weak, selfish, prideful, judgmental, hateful, unthankful, and needy. I may seem to have it all together, but in reality I am in need of prayer. For the past year, I have been living in a spiritual desert. There have been months in which I went without prayer. When I did pray, it was to cry out to God (feeling all alone). I knew Jesus was my savior and Lord, but I chose nonetheless to carry my own burdens. My walk has slowly transformed from upright standing to slowly bending and being on my knees. I am sooo blessed. I have family members who would sacrifice their lives for me; I have friends who endlessly remind me of their love; I have met people at Wheaton who have been a constant reminder of Jesus’ love; I go to a Christian college when thousands would put themselves at risk for a chance at education, yet I felt abandoned. I am blessed beyond reason, yet my pride prevented me from seeking help or realizing my need. This past couple of months, God has humbled and convicted me. Through the grace of God (even though it wasn’t pleasant), I have reevaluated what is important to me. As I mentioned, I am all of the above. I clearly struggle and need assistance, yet through God’s grace I am slowly learning to trust and love.

Brothers and sisters, I do not share this to bring attention to my life, but rather to the faithfulness of our Father. God commands us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). To all of you who struggle and carry unnecessary burdens remember that, “He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry” (Psalms 147:9). If he takes care of the beasts and ravens, how much more will our dear Father provide for (us) his children.

Dear sons and daughters of God, trust God, pray to your Father who loves dearly (not only for yourselves, but for each other), and love your neighbor; remember that God is faithful no matter what desert you are in or what burden you care. Don’t be afraid to ask others for prayer; God made community intentional. 🙂

With love in Christ,

A humbled sister and daughter

No matter wherever you are in life, be encouraged that you have someone greater than any guiding your way. The King of kings cares for me, and for you intimately.