“You may have traveled long and far, across states and time zones to make it to this moment. You may have only traveled a short distance. Maybe you have been looking forward to this week all year, or maybe a friend invited you, and you’re still not quite sure how you got here. But I do know one thing is true of each woman in this room right now– You were pursued here by a loving Heavenly Father.”
This is essentially, in of course a more brilliant and captivating way, the words with which Marian kicked off Redeemed Girl Institute this year and last. But for me, it was different the second time around. Because of this time; I firmly and fiercely believed it to be true.
It was equally true both times. But the truth is so rare, so precious, and so empowering that Satan guards it always with a heap of lies.
He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. John 8:44
For years I believed all of his lies. I allowed my self-worth to yoyo based on the opinions of others. I believed my own self-acceptance and outward reputation hinged upon my performance in school and work. I thought, in some twisted way, that if I wasn’t able to keep the love of a man that it must mean that I’m not all that loveable. I tried, in a million lost & weary ways, to find a place where I felt like I belonged.
The version of Christianity that I grew up in didn’t provide any covering for or comfort from these lies. The stale and disjointed string of theology and Sunday school stories that I carried with me to college made me believe that if I couldn’t be perfect; that I should just disassociate with church altogether.
And so I did. All throughout college. And so the lies grew and began to fester, pouring over my paralyzed existence and dimming my perspective.
If I could just be more, do more, look better and build the best version of me possible- then I would find the fulfillment and acceptance that I craved in my heart.
Little did I know, God was about to rip the rug out from beneath all the idols I was building my so-called life on; and begin a remodeling process from the heart outward.
The extremely condensed timeline of God’s miraculous redemption plan went something like this:
My life was a mess & a half. It mostly manifested itself relationally. Inwardly, I was heartbroken. Bubbling over with unrest and anxiety.
And not like heartbroken like “Mandy Moore pop song” heartbroken. Like heartbroken in a way that I don’t think even the most gifted of lyricists could articulate. It’s like everything I resolved to keep me limping through my day came back to haunt me in the morning. Pain. Regret. Isolation. Shame. My heart was drenched in a weight of fear that seemed to crush my spirit and settle in a permanent knot in my stomach.
I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. Ezekiel 34: 16
Then one day in October 2014, I came across Marian’s ‘Sex and the Single Christian Girl’ during my lunch break at Barnes & Noble.
It rocked my world. My shattered world. That at the time was ever off-balance, constantly dangling by a thread of what the culture emptily screamed would fill my hurting heart.
I read the first few pages, and felt a stirring rising within me when my eyes met the word ‘cherished.’ Tears began to fill my eyes as I became aware of just how deeply rooted my self-hate had become, and how fiercely I instinctively rejected that I could ever be ‘cherished’. I had, one moral compromise at a time, landed myself in a place where I didn’t know who I was, what I believed, or where I was headed. I was a stranger in my own skin, insisting that I wouldn’t be what grace had already said I was: intricately known, fully forgiven, fiercely loved.
I took the book home and through its pages, Jesus began to pour truth over me; breathing new dreams into my jaded heart.
Shortly after I made a decision to fully surrender my life to the Lord. And surrender is truly the only appropriate word to explain what happened next. Because I fell heavy; a heart so weary from carrying for too long the burden of distance from God; into the arms of the everlasting.
I attended Redeemed Girl Institute for the first time a few months later. It was the perfect setting to fall deeper in love with the one who caught me.
What a privilege, when I was in such a vulnerable place- to disconnect from the busyness of life for a few days to reconnect with our Creator. What a blessing to meet and pray with other girls who struggled with and desperately needed healing from some of the same things. (James 5:16) One of the girls said, “I think this week is the closest I’ve been to Heaven on Earth.” And it couldn’t be truer.
Jesus was as much my anchor when I ran vehemently from him in the opposite direction as He is today. A firm rock to stand on in times of great trouble. And trust me, my trouble was great. But thank goodness for Marian and RGM! If it wasn’t for them, I might still be wandering; parched and without hope—in a desert of sin and stubborn rebellion.
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” (Mark 2: 17)
The message of Redeemed Girl Ministries is so important. I love their mission not only to reach and rescue the lost but also to restore the redeemed. To grow up a woman, rooted in the word of God; whose lives leave a trail of love and tell the story of grace to the world that so desperately needs it. Women who are empowered to pursue their passions with excellence; not only in trade but in character. Women whose words leave a wake of truth in a culture of lies. Women who dare to love God first and most. A woman who dare to love what God loves because they know He has something immeasurably more in store. (Eph. 3:20)
Not a day goes by that I don’t praise God for my collision with grace on that October Day in Barnes & Noble.
Before Redeemed Girl, I was just a lost girl. Hoping beyond hope that one day a love story would be her’s. Not knowing what love had already won for her.
It’s a tragic story. A story hidden in the hearts of too many girls with smiley Instagram photos, picture perfect dating profiles, and the ‘dream job’.
And I hope we find every last one of them, so Jesus can softly whisper to their heart, “come home, beloved.” Just like he did to mine.
What a story we have to carry.
For His Glory,
You can follow Emily on Twitter + Instagram, @emilyfernie
Redeemed Girl Institute Photography: Justin Ellis Designs
Cover Photo by: Kimberly Scaff