Rachel Awtrey

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My life: death, loneliness, and victory

I was raised in a great home with a wonderful family. We prayed over meals, watched Veggie Tales, went to church every Sunday, we were involved in multiple church plants, we prayed for the missionaries we supported as a family, we met the "Christian criteria" and I thought that was enough. I played the part the other days of the week too, had great friends, never touched alcohol, had an occasional boyfriend but that was about it. So when I'd hear about forgiveness and Jesus died on the cross for my sins, I was frustrated because I had a hard time grasping at anything in my life I needed forgiveness for. (HA!) I only saw sin as the things kids my age were doing on the weekends, not the pride and lying and disobedience in my heart. 

I also heard all about how God was our comforter in time of need. I had a hard time with that one too because I had never really been in a "time of need" where I had to lean on the Lord more than the day before. My life was "normal", my family was together, I got along with my friends and I didn't really have any regrets. The only "catastrophe" I could ever think of was one time when I was in a car accident.

Because my "lack of tragedy," I was left really confused. The confusion led me to lean heavily on my parents as my rocks and providers when it came to faith and what I knew about it. There was no pursuit on my own, nothing that I was really initiating on my own because of my own curious desires. 

Then one day I woke up, got dressed and headed to the orthodontist with my mom to get my braces removed. We went to lunch afterwards to celebrate and order and eat all of the foods that I hadn't been able to enjoy before. My mom's phone rang, it was my dad. Actually, it was my dad's phone but it was his friend. My dad left for a rock climbing trip the morning I was headed to the orthodontist. On the other end of the phone came some news that we are never prepared to hear.  News that still to this day is hard to believe it actually happened because it happened way too fast. 

My dad past away in a rock climbing accident three days before my 17th birthday. All I remember is all the flowers, all the smells of food and meals being brought over when I felt nauseous. I remember that huge birthday party my friends threw for me in the backyard so that I felt celebrated in the midst of tragedy. I remember the bagpipes at his funeral and all the support and love that came that week. 

I remember laying in bed the next week, house quiet, thinking "so this is life, huh? This is what they talked about, needing God as comfort." It was sort of humorous to me that when things were well, I felt him near and when I was closest to despair, it was hardest to know He was comforting me. 

I used this confusion as an excuse to grieve unhealthily. I turned to things to take my mind off of what was really happening. I pushed away my friends, pretended to be someone I wasn't, made some really poor decisions that progressively impacted me until I got to a point I just didn't care anymore. 

Obviously my family life looked a lot different and some people came into the picture that really hurt me when I was vulnerable, they too were capitalizing on the situation. It was all too much. It became much easier to be silly and immature than face what was really happening. I started to pity myself. It got to a point, my freshman year of college, where I started to feel like I was in a box and I was watching other people, outside of my box, have a lot of fun, they were free. I was frustrated and pouting in my box watching them. I became bitter towards them and realized it was easier to stay in the box than it would be to get outside of it and join in on the celebration. 

I then realized a lie that I had always believed. I saw Christianity, Jesus and faith as rules and regulations and the things I can and can't do. I saw it as a restriction on my freedom to live the way that I wanted to live my life. I'm giggling even writing this because it's just the opposite. 

Jesus came to set me free, to take off the chains that were holding me down, to pick me up out of the box that I just went and climbed back into again. A relationship with Jesus is the definition of freedom. I was being held down by my own grief, my anger, my confusion, my obligation to continue to be this fake person and live the way I thought I was expected to in the midst of tragedy. I was held down by depression and bitterness. I was held down by my inability to forgive.

I realized the only person that was holding me to that box was me. 

I had always considered my relationship with Jesus to be me, Jesus and my dad. Or me, Jesus and my mom. Or me, Jesus and (whoever). When really our relationship with Jesus is just between the two of us. The day has come where my dad is no longer able to support that relationship here on Earth. There will be a day when I lose someone else that has had a huge impact on the way that I view Jesus. But, if the way I see Jesus is based on the emphasis of someone else, I will never have ownership of my own faith. 

Being a believer isn't meeting the checklist. Because I'll be the first to admit many days pass by where not only does the checklist not even get marked, I forget the checklist exists!

Thank God for a graceful and forgiving God who just wants us to want him back, that picks us up out of our misery and who fixes the typo we made from "victim" to "victor."

The coolest part, my story isn't over-my heart is still beatin'. So I say, "bring it on!" Who knew death could bring so much Life?

This is not meant to intimidate to you. The last thing I want is for you to read this and get to the end and think, "gosh, I don't have a testimony like that" because that is not my heart. I once was that girl. I was the girl that would hear and listen or read someone's testimony and think that my life wasn't extraordinary because my story wasn't extraordinary like the one I was hearing. If you're nodding your head in agreeance, you're story isn't over. Your story is extraordinary no matter how many details it contains or how many details it lacks. There's no way we can compare our testimonies to the other and think that somehow one is more marvelous than the other because the God that wrote my story is the one writing yours and He is marvelous, therefore your story is marvelous and that should be enough.

This is for my friends who think that Christian music is boring + those that just want to dance out of their box.