I'm not an exceptionally emotional person. In fact, my lack of emotion is one of my biggest insecurities. Not a tear fell as I read the final pages of Fault in Our Stars and even after listening to countless women share painful testimonies; somehow, not so much as a sniffle escapes.
However, I remember the first time my heart broke. I was an boney sixth grader with springy curls sporting my coveted tattoo necklace. I didn’t have a ton of friends, but I had plenty of middle school drama. I loved decorating my locker with stickers and pictures of my favorite tv characters. I read American Girl magazine & shopped at Limited Too (the old Justice). I was average to my core.
In 6th, I read Rachel’s Tears, a book written by the father of Columbine martyr Rachel Joy Scott. I remember selecting the memoir from the local Christian book store and after turning one page, I couldn’t stop. Each night for a week, I sat on my butterfly printed bed surrounded by carefully arranged stuffed animals; and wept.
I was raised in a Christian home and attended a Christian school, but reading the words of 17 year old Rachel’s journal, broke me. For the first time, a relationship with the Lord resonated. I remember weeping because this young girls’ relationship with Jesus was so passionate, so pure. I didn’t understand. The Christian life I knew was full of rules and far-fetched fantasies. The God who heard my prayers seemed distant and uninvolved. When good things happened, it meant God was happy. When bad things happened, I must’ve done something wrong. I had an incredibly skewed view of the Lord.
But when I read Rachel’s words, I felt something. It would take another 7 years of questions, straying, and trials before I fell into that love affair with Jesus. Rachel’s story was impactful for shy sixth grade Whitney. I knew there was something different about this girl and I craved her passion. Conviction hit as her final moments were in defense of her faith. I shuddered because I knew I couldn’t say “yes.” I knew I loved my life far too much to lose it for Christ’s sake.
Fast forward over a decade later as I kneeled at the Columbine memorial weeping. My boyfriend and I drove 2 hours from Estes Park to Littleton, CO this weekend. We spent most of our drive resolving conflict, but as soon as we arrived at the beautifully kept memorial, we wept. Steve kneeled before one students’ memorial and cried over the brevity of life. Tears streamed my cheeks as I read of several of the victims’ passionate love for Jesus. One girl wrote a poem describing her desire to kiss Jesus’ wounds.
I wept because even after all this time, 6th grade Whitney turned into college graduate Whitney; still with many insecurities and many fears. College Graduate Whitney is different, though. Over the past 7-ish years she’s changed. She’s walked through painful trials. Walked away from her faith. Forgotten that curious 6th grade girl. She’s made innumerable questionable decisions, but somehow, even through seasons of shame and darkness, she’s stumbled back to the Lord and He’s brought her to this place of healing.
I sat by Steve at the marble memorial and reflected on the beauty of our God and His overwhelming love. I begged Him for a radical relationship. I don’t want to love my life as much as I love God. I want to know who I am and Whose I am, and let that identity carry me through my minutes on this planet.
Yesterday, I reflected on the story the Lord wrote for me. I looked back on the past several years of heartbreak and rebellion, but in the same breath I looked into His eyes and felt His saving grace. My life, my trials, seemed so small as I prayed for the families of the 1999 massacre. I am ever so thankful for His redemption. How He broke sixth grade Whitney’s heart over the pain and courage of the 13 victims and how he brought 22 year old Whitney to Littleton, Colorado to feel. To cry. To remember.
I am ever-so thankful for Jesus and His precious gift to me.