“Within the same year I accepted Christ into my heart, my whole life kind of fell apart,” said Taylor Ray. “I was only seven years old, but quickly rushed into more adult, mature problems with my family. Emotional abuse and manipulation filled our household, and I really had to grow up quickly. I tried to do everything possible to keep my younger siblings out of the chaos.
“I started to believe that either God was not good, or He just wasn't powerful enough to fix my situation. At home, love was a manipulation tool. It was conditional based on what you could get from another person. So, when I went to middle school, I started searching for affirmation and for true love, anywhere that I could find it – with friends, sports, and academics.
“As time continued and my home life was not improving, I was full of so much anger at my situation and my parents. I was desperate to feel loved and to feel purpose in my life, so I started to seek affirmation from guys in high school and through a lot of inappropriate relationships.
“I tried to find fulfillment in my life, but nothing gave me the sense of purpose or affirmation I desired. Everything I turned to for happiness left me feeling more empty than before. I was filled with so much anger because my home was so dysfunctional.
“There came a point when I woke up one morning, and I just didn't feel anything. I didn't feel like there was anything good in life.
"I was so depressed and so empty that I just didn't see the point in doing anything anymore. I kept thinking I had to end my life to get rid of the pain. This escalated to the point where I couldn't even get in my car and drive to school without ideating suicide.
“Eventually, the thoughts became a plan, and the plan turned into a date.
“I was going to go to school one morning and pretend like everything was normal, but on the way home I had a plan to end my life.
“I had one friend who kind of knew what was going on in my life. And that specific day, she was persistent in asking me how I was doing and what was wrong. I finally told her what I was planning and left before she could say anything about it. Within the next hour, I was pulled into the counselor's office. My friend immediately asked for help after talking with me.
“The counselor told me that my friend didn’t care if I hated her after that day. She just wanted to care for me and make sure I was safe. There was something about that that struck me. Until this point, love was always conditional, but my friend’s love and care felt unconditional. She didn’t care about the consequence of getting me help – she just cared about my well-being.
“As time went on, that same friend invited me to church, and I was surrounded by more people who truly cared about me. They didn't know me or my story. They had no obligation to me at all, but they saw that I was in pain and loved me simply because Jesus loves them.
“I was so confused by their kindness and love, but God really opened my eyes. He showed me that this isn’t how people love – it's how He loves. He was loving me through His people. I remember realizing this and just feeling the Lord's presence. I thought, ‘If You're a loving God and if that's what you're about, then I am all in.’
“I was desperate for love, desperate to feel some sense of worth and affection, and after recognizing God’s true love for me, I felt completely lavished with it.
“That day, I recommitted my life to Christ. I admitted how much I needed God as my Savior. Nothing about my circumstances had changed, but life was so different because for the first time I had joy, I had peace, and I truly felt loved. And to this day His love is incredible to me. God’s love is unworldly. It's beautiful, and it's breathtaking and life-giving.
“Since then, I’ve been able to reconcile with my parents and work on our relationship. By no means am I out of the woods or struggle-free. I still very much deal with depression and hard things, but by God's grace, I know I can trust God with my life eternally and on this side of heaven. It's been a hard battle, but it's really sweet. I don’t regret the scars that I have because God has brought me to a place where I understand His love in a sweeter and deeper way. And for that, I am eternally grateful. I am God's beloved child. No matter what happens in my life, no matter what circumstances come my way, and no matter what hardships happen, I will always be beloved by God. That will never change.”