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Never in my life have I doubted the Creator’s existence. The question was, did I care to follow Him? Is He far away, running this world through rules and fear? Or is He something else?
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.Psalm 23:4 NKJV.
This verse is part of a prayer/song written by King David. My journey with God started with a prayer as well.
I was five and shared a bedroom with my older sister and younger brother. As I lay in my bottom bunk, I eavesdropped on a conversation between my Mom and sister. I don’t remember what it was about, but it must have been about Jesus, because after listening I asked Mom if she would help me pray.
She got my Dad, older Brother, and baby sister so we could pray together. I don’t remember the words I repeated after my father, but it’s not the words that matter. I realized Jesus was someone I need. Did I completely understand the journey I was starting on? No. But I knew where I was going.
When little, I could spout biblical facts the kids in high school didn’t know and was proud of it. I could tell you all the Sunday School bible stories by heart. My friends and I would discuss how we would never be like those teenagers. They were horrible.
I had memorized the bible verse Proverbs 16:18. Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall (NKJV). But I was too busy being proud to realize it was for me.
At twelve, my world turned upside down. I became a woman by reaching puberty, but the medical issues I still deal with began. I started gaining massive amounts of weight in a brief time, and no one knew why. This changed how people interacted with me, and how I saw myself.
At fourteen I was baptized at a public beach with many passersby watching. A proud moment for myself. A public statement of what I believed. I wouldn’t have had a proud attitude if I could see the future. Did I really mean what I had just promised?
It wasn’t long after my baptism that the diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome came. This condition caused my sudden weight gain and also came with hormone imbalances. That same year, I entered my first battle with depression. I can’t really say when it started, it was gradual, like growth.
My body was changing, and not in good ways every woman expects. I was lost and trapped in a fleshy shell. The idea of the good christian girl everyone had of me was not who I was anymore. I was deepening, hurting, and felt God was not listening to my prayers. I wanted to be accepted, be enough. People always called me too fat, too weird, too melancholy.
I related less to the people in my life and turned to online forums to find friends. I fought with my Mom like crazy. It breaks my heart to think of the pain I put her through. But in the middle of my mess, God never forgot me, even when I couldn’t see him.
I prayed for people who wouldn’t give up on me, who couldn’t be scared away. I met a quiet, thoughtful, accepting, and totally wonderful boy online. He is now my husband and was one person who pulled me through the days of wanting to end my own life. He was my answered prayer.
While we were dating, I knew he was the one I wanted to be with forever. But one day he asked me, “Mary, are you still a Christian?” I answered honestly by saying I wasn’t sure. I was still angry that I was in emotional pain, while other people experienced the “peace that surpasses understanding.”
The next thing my boyfriend said to me stunned me to silence. “Mary, I can’t marry you if your not a Christian.” What? But we were in love! Would he really give that up because I didn’t follow his God anymore?
It was time for me to make my choice. The choice to follow Jesus Christ isn’t something that starts and ends with a prayer. It’s a journey. During that time was when I heard my favourite bible passage for the first time.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.Psalms 84:5-7 NIV
As I sat there on the church pew feeling lost, God spoke to me. His whispers don’t always come in words, but in moments of revelation. I realized I was walking through my barren Valley of Baka. But God had given me springs. I had prayed to die, and I thought he had ignored me. I had looked past the good he had placed in my life, too distracted by my inner pain. But no longer. I now look for them. I made the choice to keep travelling on my journey with God. Now I know I do not walk alone. He has given me so many travelling companions, and moments of beauty.
I still struggle with my mental health. That first battle with my inner darkness lasted for 5 years. I have had more battles since then. The last started 3 years ago, with the birth of my third child. The battles have taken me right to the edge. But I have a God who holds my hand. Though the gravel under my feet crumbles away, he will not let me fall.
Mary Grace van der Kroef was born in Northwestern Ontario and currently resides in the Niagara Region. Her love of writing started in her teen years and has never left. She is a wife, mother, poet, artist, and follower Christ. She believes the gift of words is precious, and endeavors to use it to encourage others. You can follow her writing at www.marygracewriting.ca, or find her on twitter at @MGWriting.
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