I absolutely loved that little church. It was awesome.
Every time I went, I felt closer to understanding who God was. Who Christ was. My heart would swell as I sang joyful words to Heavenly Father each Sunday. I loved Him—and He loved me. I could feel it so strongly as I raised my voice in loving praise. The roots of our relationship grew deep as I got to know Him personally as my loving Father in Heaven.
I truly came to understand my worth as a child of God.
I had heard these words vaguely before but never understood their deeper meaning. I remember when my brother and I were young, my mother told us if we ever had nightmares, we simply needed to face our fears and say, “I am a child of God and nothing can hurt me!” With these words, she promised anything bad would be forced to disappear. This lesson was quickly put to the test when I had a childhood nightmare of a witch chasing me. As I recited the words, the witch shrieked and cackled back, “No, you’re not!”
After that, she grew to the size of a skyscraper and I’m pretty sure I died.
Goes to show how much I understood about God!
But in all seriousness, as I went to church, I truly started to grasp the understanding of what it meant to be a child of God. God was my Father and He loved me. Like any good father, He loved talking with me and wanted so badly to have a deep, close relationship. He wanted to help guide me to happiness. As I got to know Him through prayers and scriptures, I felt His loving hands in my life everywhere.
In getting to know God, I also gained a better understanding of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. I recognized Him as my brother who was the epitome of kindness, hope, and love. His healing arms were open to anyone and everyone who would receive Him. His names were endless and His goodness infinite. But above all descriptions, Christ was and is my Savior.
It was Christ’s healing touch I felt on the days my heart sank. It was His peace that filled me when I ached to be understood. It was His healing that brought brilliant light back into my muddled world. I simply do not have enough words to describe the way Christ’s love healed my heart.
Letting Christ into my heart felt like bursting out after being held underwater for years. Everything that had once seemed muffled became vibrant with colors and life. The numbness was melting and I was no longer sleepwalking. The love of Christ woke me and filled my lungs with sweet, new breath.
His love was limitless and shed light on my true value.
Sure, I still struggled with comparing myself and I still stumbled with hard days. Fear and shame often battered inside me as I compared myself to my friends posting pictures from college while I lived at home working two part-time jobs. My future was no longer clear and my four-year plan for graduation was thrown out the window. I’m not going to lie—there were days it was nearly impossible finding value in myself. There were the days I burned in embarrassment as I ran into old high school friends who were surprised to see me no longer in school. I remember gritting my teeth into a smile and attempting to sugarcoat my mental health breakdown into some romantic break from school.
(Also, for the record, the dorky visor I had to wear for work did nothing to help the pathetic college dropout look.)
All in all, there were days it was just plain hard. My plan was shattered and I had no idea what I was doing anymore! But despite everything setting me back, I found hope through Christ. He taught me how to look past the things that did not matter and value myself for who I truly was.
Loving myself became easier when I learned to view myself the way Christ always saw me.
No, I was not in school, I was not working an incredible job, and yes, I was harboring a laundry list of mental health issues. But these things did not define me. I was a daughter of God and regardless of my current place in life, I had infinite value in His eyes. I was worthy of love and acceptance, and through Him, my life could be healed.
I also learned to rely on Heavenly Father’s plan. He had guided me home. This is not where I had seen myself when I graduated high school, but here I was. And although it was not what I had expected (or even what I really wanted), I learned to trust that His plan was better. He knew and understood me more than anyone else. If I followed His guidance, I would find grace. This was my guiding light that I clung tightly onto when insecurities ravaged my heart.
After attending that little Christian church for three months, spending time getting to know myself better, and praying constantly to God for guidance, I received another blessing.
My best friend whom I had grown up with worked for a river rafting company in Moab, Utah during the summer months, and she encouraged me to apply for that summer. I had never been to Moab before and knew nothing about Utah, but I went out on a limb and applied for a job at the company’s storefront. Forgetting about the time zone difference, I was an hour late to my Skype interview. Frazzled and embarrassed, I had no idea if I would get the job.
I remember weeks later when I received the call. My phone lit up with an unfamiliar area code and my lungs leapt out of my chest as I answered.
“Hello, Lauren. How would you like to take the job at the Moab Adventure Center?”
And just like that, I packed up my things. God was sending me to Moab for the greatest adventure yet.
As a homegrown Portlandian feminist, Lauren Mckinnon sometimes wondered how she fit in as a new member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — but through her testimony and everyday experience, she realized that no matter how different we may feel, we all belong in Jesus’ flock.