Extravagant Love

apex anthologies

That promise of purity was long forgotten as I gave my one body to boys who whispered tight-lipped proclamations of love and who went out of their way to smile at me; boys and sex became the primary motivator behind everything I did.

apex anthologies

I was baptized in the 6th grade; I remember being immersed into the water - feet flailing and head resisting the going under. Looking back now I realize those seconds of baptism would come to define my relationship with God, or lack thereof, in the coming years. After being baptized I was given a promise ring by my parents; I promised to remain chaste until I was married. To say I was pure in the years to come would be an expansive understatement.

Shortly after being baptized and making a promise, I allowed a boy to go too far, too fast; but I was still technically a virgin - that's why I told myself over and over again. I got through Junior High and arrived on the front step of my freshman year with my technical virginity intact and a very passive belief of The Lord in my heart.

In January of 2003, the Lord caught my attention in a monumental way; He removed someone I loved deeply from this fragile life. My 15-year-old cousin was killed in a car accident. For a time, I threw myself into attending church and earnest prayer, convinced that the combination would remove the pain and questions.

Then not even a year later my handsome grandfather was called home and the fold of family strength still clinging by its hang nails crumbled beneath the weight of confusion, devastation and sorrow. I became enraged at a God who would step into the ring of my shaky existence and knock me off with these one, two punches. With the death of two of the finest men I will ever know, I flung myself at any man who would look my direction.

That promise of purity was long forgotten as I gave my one body to boys who whispered tight-lipped proclamations of love and who went out of their way to smile at me; boys and sex became the primary motivator behind everything I did; relationships with the only people who actually did love me, when the lights were up and the air wasn't thick with sweat, began to unravel. My early twenties were predominated by figuring out who wanted me, how much, and when.

I feel as if everything came to a really fine breaking point in September of 2012; I had just graduated and was online dating and, overall, feeling remarkably poor about myself.

Growing up in a farming town allows no room for encounters with strangers - just the boys starting varsity under the lights every Friday. But online dating brought a very new and very dangerous endeavor - the one night stand; I struggle to admit that far too many decorate my 25th year.

In the midst of my online dating escapades and then becoming serious with someone, I accepted a job. I began working at Ruskin Elementary and was quickly placed in an after school classroom with a beautiful woman named Emily - she was kind, gracious and smart. Shortly after we began teaching together, Em invited me to a night of prayer at Apex - I recall being emotional over the music, words spoken and the people I met – I could feel the pull of the Lord on my heart strings; He was showing me what a life could look like if I allowed Him back in. I left that Friday night feeling a new lightness.

But God needed my full attention. Saturday morning brought the realities of unfaithfulness from the man I was seeing and there is no chance of coincidence that Emily Riggs was the only phone call I could get to go through.

I know that Jesus Christ saved me - He died for my filthy sin and looks past the number of sheets I've allowed myself to get tangled in, but He worked through the Riggs’ that weekend, and continues to, to save me from myself.

Soon after the night of prayer and the subsequent breaking my spirit needed to cling to Jesus, I found out what being part of community truly meant. My house church and quad have come to be some of the best friends I could hope for and the Lord’s love, grace, and promises are clear and tangible through each of them in the ways they pray with, and for, me, love me, and remind me that He doesn’t change His mind about His children.

The idols of sex and male attention litter my past, along with loss, but my walk with the Lord has shown me that the beauty of this life is framed by grace, redemption, and accountability. So every day when I’m quick to forget that those moments don't define me, I try to remember that I'm not the author of this story - and the One who is doesn't require revision.

 

Author: Stephani Duff