In 2005, I was a mess.
I failed my bar exam (By one point! Are you kidding me? What kind of sick twisted crap is that?), was fired from my lawyer job, my boyfriend left me for a Chinese lesbian (True), and I was forced to give up my apartment and move back in with my mom.
No job. No man. No home of my own.
Shamed – I retreated from the legal field and got a job as a cocktail waitress in a bar a couple of towns away. I didn’t want to see anyone I knew. I was humiliated.
I was the worst kind of waitress – bitchy, sarcastic, mean. I stood embittered by my fall from grace and horrendous circumstances which (looking back on it) were predominantly the creation of my own poor life choices.
It would be months before I could re-take the bar. Night after night – I lay in the futon in the spare bedroom at my mom’s house and watched Sex & the City re-runs until I fell asleep. The physical pain I felt in my chest during this time was excruciating. I drank to make it go away. I was a horrible person to be around. I don’t know how my family dealt with me.
To rub salt in open wounds – my car broke down and I could not afford to fix it. No longer able to commute to the bar, I took up a job at a local shopping mall. I rode my bike to work. In the dead of winter. In Chicago.
It was during this time that I found God. Or rather, that God found me.
I was not raised in a Christian house. I was raised in a good house – with good people in it – but I was not raised in a house that read the Bible or attended church (save for Christmas and Easter – the product of Catholic guilt). God was cool. There was no problem with God. But the whole God-factor was not a part of our day to day lives – unless we were using his name to swear over some sudden physical manifestation of pain.
But then. There was this night – where God came to me – and I knew with complete certainty – that he was real.
I was lying on the futon after a particularly pathetic day of working at the mall. I had just gotten off the phone with the collection people who were screaming at me because I could not afford the mortgage payment on the small mansion that was my student loan debt. My white DKNY coat was destroyed from riding my bike through the black slush. I had just tried to cut my own hair and failed miserably.
I could not handle the pain. My misery was tremendous. Not knowing what else to do – I cried. And I prayed. For the first time, I really prayed. I hit my knees and begged for anything. Anything that would make this agony go away. Anything that would give me strength to carry on. Anything at all.
Then “it” happened. I felt what I described as a warm hand touch my face. A peace came over me and I knew that I was not alone. I knew that it would be okay. Someone was there with me – someone strong and powerful who loved me and was not going to let me fall – and I knew without a doubt – that someone – was God.
And for you skeptics out there – no. I was not drunk. I couldn’t afford to buy booze that week. I bought bar exam books instead.
What I do know – is that I was able to fall asleep. For the first time in months, I slept a deep dreamless sleep without nightmares or midnight panic attacks. I woke the following morning refreshed and ready to conquer the day. I was strong. I knew, deep down, that everything was going to be okay.
I also felt crazy. Seriously? God? Where the hell (or rather heaven) did that come from? My kind of people didn’t buy into that God stuff. God was someone you visited from time to time at the Catholic church. Not someone who hung out with you on your crappy futon.
But here is where I was wrong again. That is exactly who God is. He seeks us out – no matter where we are or who we are or what we’ve done. He even seeks out neurotic blonde girls who watch bad tv on cheap futons from IKEA.
This was the beginning of my relationship with God. I say “relationship” because having a relationship with God and recognizing his existence are two separate and distinct things. I knew “who” God was from a logical place – but this was the first time I felt his love and presence in my life.
My story is not unique. Many people are raised in a home where a relationship with God is introduced and nurtured from infancy. In these homes, God is no different than a beloved family member – albeit much more powerful and significant. However, there are many people, like me, who must experience loss and hardship to find Him. It is only when we are stripped bare – and have nothing else left – that we are forced to cling to our Father who created us.
History, literature and even the Bible itself are overflowing with testimony of people who found the Lord in their darkest moment: Paul the Apostle and Elizabeth Gilbert come to mind. There exists a real palpable reason for this testimony.
Now, after this “night” – I did not run to the nearest river and beg to be baptized. I actually would not come to know Jesus until sometime later.
Truth? I was put off by what had happened to me. I didn’t tell anyone about this experience for years because I was embarrassed. I mean, how would people look at me if I said I felt a “warm hand” touch my face in the middle of the night and felt comforted enough to fall asleep? They’d probably think I was drunk, high – or nuts!
But this experience made me curious. Curious enough that I used the cash I’d typically spend on vodka to purchase a Bible instead (the Bible I still use today). That’s when things started to get good. I read that Bible from cover to cover. It was (and still is) the best most common sense practical advice book ever. As I dug deeper, that’s when I truly discovered who God was; what his Son did for me; that I actually deserved his love; and that together, there is nothing we could not conquer.
2005 was just the beginning of my faith story. After accepting Jesus into my heart – I was no longer embarrassed to tell my “I failed the bar exam, got fired and dumped by my boyfriend and then felt this warm hand which made me curious enough to buy a Bible which lead me to Jesus” story. I am proud to tell it.
My greatest failure got me to God. Which was probably his plan along.