“When I went to college, parts of my life just fell apart,” said Emily. “I realized I didn’t have a true relationship with the Lord.
“From an early age, I knew who Jesus was and that He died on the cross for my sins. I accepted Him as my savior in middle school, but I would not have a personal relationship with Him until much later in life.
“My family lived in a small town, and my parents were really well known. I put pressure on myself from a young age to make it look like I had everything together. I wanted my parents’ approval and wanted to succeed in all areas of life. I excelled academically and athletically in high school as the valedictorian and one of the best basketball players in Louisiana. I was the vice president of my school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, too. This all created a clean, picture-perfect image of myself.
“When I started playing basketball in college and was injured my freshman year, things started to really change. Because of my injury and inability to play, I didn’t have the same weekly accountability I was used to on a team, so I spent my time in other ways. I was introduced to alcohol and boys for the first time, and that spiraled into heavy drinking and inappropriate relationships.
“Even when I recovered from my injury, my lifestyle was filled with unhealthy patterns that continued through my college career. During basketball season, I would be very disciplined, but in my off-season, I would party, drink, and binge eat.
“As college continued, I got into a relationship with one of my female teammates. It started as a friendship but quickly turned into an unhealthy, intimate, and codependent relationship. When I tried to get out of it, our relationship turned abusive. Verbal, emotional, and physical abuse towards me marked our also extremely secretive relationship. Because of the way I grew up, I wanted to maintain my image. I knew what I was doing was wrong and I knew it wasn’t healthy or safe, but I thought I couldn’t talk about it. I lived in a dark, isolated, and depressed state for the rest of college.
“When I graduated and our relationship ended, I had the opportunity to continue playing basketball professionally, but I decided to move to Dallas and start a business career instead. Shortly after moving, I was invited by a coworker to The Porch, Watermark’s ministry for young adults.
“Watermark was so different than the church I grew up in, and that was terrifying to me! The church I grew up in didn’t talk about sin or struggles at all. When I was encouraged to talk openly and authentically about my past, it felt like a foreign language. I was so scared and ashamed about my past and didn’t think anyone would understand.
“I had a wrong perception of who God was because I thought He only forgave me for certain sins. I didn’t think He would forgive me for what I did in college, especially for being in a homosexual relationship. Because of this wrong view of God, I hid a lot of my past from the biblical community around me. I shared surface level things about my life, but I didn’t tell them about the harder things I’d struggled with.
“I was compartmentalizing my life, and it became exhausting. I wasn’t sure who in my life knew what about me, and it was hard to keep track.
“After two years, my community group decided we wanted to go through re:generation together, Watermark’s biblical recovery ministry. I was still keeping certain parts of my past hidden from those around me, but I remember praying and asking the Lord to let me be open and honest with Him and my community.
“It was hard, but the Lord used re:generation to break me down. Through confession, I was able to be fully known for the first time. I shared my past hurt and sin with these women, and I was met with love, grace, kindness, and compassion. It was in this moment that the love of Christ clicked for me, not only in my head, but in my heart, and I saw in a tangible way who Jesus was through His people. My eyes were opened for the first time. Christ didn’t die for some of my sins. He died for all of them.
“I gained a new and different perspective on what a relationship with the Lord looked like. I felt so free for the first time in a long time. I didn’t feel tied down to the sins of my past. I thought for so long that God was mad at me, but I learned that I don’t have to live with guilt and shame. I am grateful the Lord showed me a different, better way.
“Sin is deceptive. It will show itself in a lot of different ways. For me, I often idolize comfort and control. In college, I found comfort in my relationship and alcohol, and then after, I found comfort in food – anything to mask emotion for me. Now, with the help of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, I can be aware of when and where I am seeking comfort apart from the Lord. Now, finding hope and rest in Him is my ultimate satisfaction”