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The Paths We Choose

by Kirsten McTernan

Just like many of us who believe, the Lord captured my heart at a time when I needed Him most. He was there all along, whispering He loved me and gently guiding me. I just didn’t see it until I was faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

My parents were good moral people, but not church goers in my younger years. Up until ten years old, the only spiritual exposure I remember was my Grandma teaching me the Lord’s prayer and my mom reciting by my bedside the very unsettling prayer: “Gentle Jesus meek and mild, look upon a little child, pity my simplicity, suffer me to come to thee. If I die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take.” As a child I viewed God as a distant being that we sometimes prayed to, who may or may not accept me into Heaven if I died! That was it. I didn’t have an understanding of God as my Heavenly Dad who made and loves me.

When I was about ten years old, my parents became what they called, “born again Christians.” They received the gift of God’s salvation, and our family started attending worship regularly. I began learning Bible stories, and who Jesus was. I enjoyed the worship songs and meeting friends, but I didn’t have a heart change like my parents did. As new believers, my parents left it to the Sunday school teachers to teach me about God. At home we prayed before dinner, but didn’t have a discussion or Bible study. I thought going to church was just something good we should do, but didn’t know how to apply it to my life.

At 15 years old, I was becoming increasingly independent and wanting more freedoms. I had a lot of conflict with my mom. I tried to be good, but I felt I could never measure up to her expectations. I felt like she was always angry with me, and was too busy to spend quality time with me. I wonder sometimes if I had been accepted by her, and the freedom to communicate openly, if that would have persuaded me to make better choices. I was the oldest of four, so my mom gave a lot of attention to my younger siblings, and I longed for that closeness she had with them. Although I know now my parents loved me, the lack of attention and love I felt then combined with hurtful words shot at me out of anger produced a lack of self-esteem. I felt the only one who cared for me was my best friend from school, who was not a good influence. She had her own troubles. She encouraged me to sneak out with her while our parents were sleeping to go check out the nightclub we heard about from upperclassmen in our school. Although scared, I decided to go with her. It was thrilling, our parents didn’t find out, and this led to many more nights of sneaking out.

We were just 15 years old, but managed to get into nightclubs which made us feel grown up. We loved the attention we were getting from young men, and were naïve to the dangers. I was so unaware of what could have happened to me. I just loved to dance and get positive attention! Well, one night after dancing at a nightclub, my friend asked me to go with her to a party she had been invited to at a hotel room. I didn’t want to go, but she begged me to. Not wanting to let her down, I went. I will regret this decision the rest of my life. Once in the hotel room we were stuck with men who wanted us. I fought a man who was very strong, and he covered my mouth so I couldn’t scream. Against my will, I lost my virginity. I was 15, scared, bleeding and bruised, and felt shame come over me immediately. Satan told me it was my fault, and I was worthless. A precious gift that should have been reserved only for my future husband was mercilessly stolen from me and I could never get that back. And the most bizarre thing happened. Even though this man could care less about me and treated me horribly, I felt an attachment to this stranger, as if our souls connected. I know in my spirit that that bonded feeling I felt should have been for my future husband. I never wanted to have sex before marriage. That was never my intention when I went out that night. I innocently and naively just wanted to dance, because it was there I received what I craved for: attention and admiration.

The next day, I woke up and looked at my body in the mirror. I was heartbroken to see bruises all over my body, proof of what had happened the night before, yet I couldn’t bring myself to tell my parents, for fear of getting into trouble. I thought I’d find consolation in my friend, but she wasn’t a help. I suffered with this pain for years before telling someone. Because of the damage done to my body and mind, with no healing advice or help, I believed Satan’s lie: “now that you lost your virginity you are worth nothing. Who cares if you have sex with men now? You are used up. Worthless and dirty.” I truly believed this.

But God was working even though I didn’t know it. My Dad lost his job unexpectedly when his company downsized, forcing us to move, removing me from that toxic environment. My parents felt God leading them (through a series of events) to send me to a particular boarding school in England. The school was not Christian, however. I was placed in a dorm with the only two Christians girls that I knew of in the dorm of about 75 girls! One of my roommates encouraged me to go with her to Christian union and sing in their worship band, and the other inspired me to read God’s Word every morning before school. I was not an early riser so couldn’t understand why she would get up early to read her Bible, but because she challenged me, I did it. And the first time I opened that Bible, I received an answer to a nagging question I had. I wish I remembered what that question was, but I do remember being amazed, as if God was talking directly to me!

In the course of those two years at boarding school, and through the love of my Christian friends, I started to heal and develop a personal relationship with God. But I still had this nagging doubt that I was good enough for God or the Christians I met. After graduating (after two years of high school in England), I attended college in the US, and my relationship with God wavered. I struggled with culture shock coming back into my own country, and the relationship with my parents was still strained. I attended a Christian college, but unfortunately I was let down by many “Christians” there (including some of the professors!). Their un-Jesus-like behaviors disgusted me and I remember thinking and believing another one of Satan’s lies: “if these are what Christians are like, I want nothing to do with them!” So I deliberately decided to venture on a journey without God in my life. At first, I loved the idea of being in control of my own life, without God or anyone else telling me what to do. I shared an apartment with two friends in Manhattan, and did whatever I wanted. It was exciting, but at the same time I felt empty inside. I thought the emptiness I felt was a deep desire to be truly loved by a man who would eventually be my husband. But looking back, I realize I longed for the fulfilment only Jesus can fill. I moved in with a guy who I had met through a friend, and we ended up dating by default. I cared about him, but the relationship wasn’t healthy. He was an alcoholic and pot-smoker, and had a lot of issues. He cared about me, too, but because of his own problems, was often hurtful and roped me into some crazy situations. Not too long after I broke up with him, I found out I was pregnant.

This news halted my life and my plans. I was so close to graduating from college (I had one course left!), and so close to feeling freedom from this relationship I knew needed to end sooner. I felt like the world stood still, and all I could think about was this life growing inside me. I couldn’t believe the reality I was facing, and had no idea how I was going to break the news to my parents. Since my parents still had me under their insurance, they received the letter from my Doctor with the positive pregnancy result! It was not how I wanted to break the news, but it forced me to have this much-needed conversation, no matter how uncomfortable.

My parents were shocked and upset, naturally, but welcomed me back home to live, and took care of me. They brought me to a pregnancy resource clinic where a caring counselor explained that at my early stage the baby already had a heartbeat and showed me through a diagram what the baby looked like. I was in awe by God’s miracle of life, and felt loved and cared for there. The counselor gave me hope that I could do this. Although my pregnancy was rough emotionally, I was determined to keep the baby and do whatever it took to care for him. My mom was with me at the birth, and my parents hearts were softened and helped me raise my little guy.

Having my baby was the best thing that happened to me. It allowed me to witness a miracle through the birth of my baby, to be made aware of how self-centered my life was, and to discover God’s great love for me. It was through the deep love I had for my baby son, that I realized how much Jesus loves His children – you and me. I consider my son’s birthday my spiritual birthday. I asked God to forgive me of my sin, and renewed my relationship with Him.

It didn’t happen overnight, but little by little I started making choices for Him, rather than what pleased me at the time. And when I did, God blessed me beyond what I could have imagined. I believe He was rewarding me right away to encourage me to keep depending on Him. Recognizing my need for a Savior was humbling, but also freeing. God opened my eyes to see the lies the enemy had been convincing me of, and revealed what He thinks about me: precious, valued, and without blemish because of Jesus living in me. As His child, the Lord has been so good to me; providing me with everything I need. I tear up when I look back and ponder all the ways He has been faithful and gracious to me! He protected me many times, healed my broken heart, helped me forgive those who took advantage of me, blessed me with a wonderful husband and father to my children, gave me purpose and meaning, and has restored my relationship with my parents. He’s opened doors for me I never dreamed possible, and helped me make the dream of becoming a published author a reality! Life is never dull when you are trusting the Lord with your life! God made you, loves you, designed you for His good purposes that will fulfill you, and desires to have a relationship with you no matter what you’ve done.

I have had many doubts in the past, and thought at times God could never forgive me, but let me assure you, you can never run too far from God’s love. If you are looking for more in life, if you feel empty, betrayed, disappointed, lacking purpose…seek the Lord and He will be found! It’s the most important choice you will ever make and never regret.

If you desire to have a relationship with God and experience the peace and joy that come from knowing Him. I encourage you to pray to Him wherever you are. Tell Him what’s on your heart and mind – He already knows so it won’t be a surprise. But He would love for you to come to Him with empty hands, ready to receive the incredible gift of His salvation. John 3:16 says, “whoever believes in me shall not perish but have life everlasting.” Don’t wait another day! Accept His unfading love for you, His dear child.

If you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I’d love to know so I can pray for you, and welcome you to God’s family! If my story has encouraged you in any way, I’d love to hear from you, also! You can email me at: kmcternanwrites@gmail.com.

God bless you!

Kirsten McTernan
Author, Writer, Speaker
My book
phone: 631-903-0781
site: www.mcternan.com
email: kmcternanwrites@gmail.com



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