I remember working on homework in my parent’s basement one night when my dad walked over to kiss me on the forehead and whispered, “I love you more than life, and I want you to know that there is nothing you could ever do that will make me stop loving you.” I smiled and continued to work on my homework. This wasn’t the first time he had said something of the sort. However, in my head I was thinking, there’s no way you would still love me if you knew what I did.
You see, I had made a promise to myself, my parents, and God that I would wait to have sex until after I married. And at just sixteen years old, I had already broken that promise.
During my first years of high school, I deeply longed to be loved and accepted by someone or something. I had plenty of friends, was active in various sports throughout the school year, and came from a loving and supportive family. Despite having several statistics for success in my favor, I could feel my heart yearning for something to fill its void. I was looking for love in all the wrong places, and forgetting my identity as a loved and cherished child of God.
This led to some poor decisions and dark times in my life. I started dating a guy who I thought was capable of giving me the love and attention I craved. I found every opportunity to hang out with him and would ditch my friends in order to do so. I ignored all of the red flags that proved he wasn’t somebody with whom I should be committing so much of my time. I believed that if I gave everything I could to this person—my heart, my body, my purity—that he would return those same emotions and commit himself to me forever.
My heart was shattered the day he decided to end things between us. I cried myself to sleep every single night, and suicidal thoughts rang through my head every day. I had failed God and my parents, and I believed that I did not deserve to ever be loved again. Though I knew it was wrong, I would have done anything to be with him and find the temporary satisfaction in my heart that he once provided. These emotions ran so deep, I found myself looking for anything to replace what I felt was missing. A few weeks later he expressed a desire to get back together, and I took him in immediately. Once again, I thought the void had been filled and life seemed good. I was fully committed to him, and I trusted he wouldn’t break my heart this time.
But then he did. In the midst of our chaotic and unhealthy relationship, he decided that other things were more important than being with me. I was left alone. I was so angry and disgusted and hurt that I didn’t know how to express my emotions appropriately. And despite the signs and symptoms pointing toward a pregnancy, I was in denial about what my body was telling me to be true. I didn’t feel as though I had anybody I could talk to about what I was going through. My friends wouldn’t understand, and I thought that if I told my parents, I would lose their trust forever and they wouldn’t want anything to do with me.
A couple of months went by and I realized I needed to own up to my mistakes and move forward with my life. After taking a pregnancy test in my parent’s bathroom, I handed the stick over to my mom; the sixteen-year-old me had no idea how to interpret what was right in front of my eyes. My mother cried and my dad gave me a hug, confirming everything he had whispered in my ear just a few nights before. Despite any mistakes I had made, I was deeply, deeply loved.
But the difficult times did not stop there. I shared the news about my pregnancy with family members, friends, teammates, and other peers. My high school was very supportive as I made the rapid transition from teenager to teenage-mother. I spent a lot of time at home on the weekends preparing to bring a child into this world, but it didn’t feel as lonely as I thought it would because I had the company of the sweet, healthy baby girl growing inside of me. I began to bond with my baby as I listened to her heartbeat in the doctor’s office and saw her body move during an ultrasound. Eventually I felt her kicking and could see her arms and legs move across my stomach. I started imagining what she may look like—would she have blue eyes or green eyes? Blonde hair or brown? Would she be tall or short? Would she like art or enjoy playing sports? I was so excited for the day that some of these characteristics would be revealed.
Now that the truth had come to light and everyone knew about my pregnancy, the burden of guilt was lifted from me. I found myself recognizing the unconditional love that only Jesus can offer. Instead of looking for love in all the wrong places, I started investing my heart in the lasting satisfaction that only Jesus’ love can fulfill.
I was forever changed the day my baby girl was born. The nurses laid her on my chest and I immediately felt a love and connection that I never understood before. All of my life I hadn’t realized my potential and purpose, and suddenly this little baby instilled in me the motivation to discover who I was. I was determined to become the mother that my baby needed.
Having a child, finishing high school, and working through college was not always easy, but it was good. The responsibility I gained for somebody other than myself forced me to dig deep and determine that I was no longer willing to settle for anything less than what I believed my daughter deserved. I began to look for God’s direction in my life and rely on His plans rather than my own. After my pregnancy and birth experience in the hospital, I developed a desire to pursue a career in nursing. I recognized the powerful impact that a nurse can have on her patients and realized that I wanted to be there for people and their families throughout their greatest times of need.
While in nursing school, I met my future husband. He displayed the compassion, kindness, and integrity that’s expected of a father, and took my daughter into his life immediately. After dating for a few years, we got married and began life as a family of three.
Becoming a parent has given me a brief glimpse of how deeply God loves each of His children. His love is truly unconditional, no matter what mistakes I have made. I do not need to pretend that my life is always perfectly put together or hide any of my heart’s insecurities. Just as I want to be there for my children as they face difficult times, God will always be there for me through whatever lies ahead. Jesus loves me just as I am, and He wants to be invited in to the messy areas of my life.
I have learned to rely on God’s promises instead of looking to find satisfaction in someone or something else. No other relationship can completely provide the love and affection that we long for. Only God can deliver the lasting fulfillment of our hearts when we submit ourselves to Him, instead of the things of this world that do not last.
I want you to know that you and your child are cherished and loved. There are people who want to help you not only walk through this dark and difficult time in your life, but also succeed and achieve your dreams. Please know that whatever mistakes you may have made, there is nothing that will ever separate you from the love and satisfaction that only Jesus has to offer.