“God saved you for something big,” Aunt Barb said after I recounted my story. Her words agitated the lump in my throat. I voiced a quiet affirmative before dashing off to check my pulse and locate my EpiPen.
Three months prior, my body had succumbed to an anaphylactic reaction while I served in Peru with my youth-group. Adults raced me to an emergency clinic while my lungs begged for mercy and my throat swelled. I struggled to maintain consciousness as Spanish and English words flew around the clinic. The darkness eventually won, and my heart stopped. Quick hands provided chest-compressions and medication. My heart restarted.
In the hours after, I focused on just surviving. Each breath shot pain through my chest. And even once the physical pain waned, the trauma of death reverberated through my body to my mind. Fear strangled me. I feared the unknown allergen that had stopped my lungs and heart. I feared losing the oxygen my body craved. I feared reliving the dying process.
But then, a new and unexpected fear showed up.
As news of my brush with death spread, well-intentioned people assured me God saved me for some grand purpose. But they never did say what exactly. And neither did He. So, as I stumbled into purposelessness, I feared God saw me as unworthy of living.
Earlier in my life, God had lit a fire within me to care for kids. So in the months after my heart stopped, I fanned those ministry flames with fear. Desperate to avoid God’s disappointment, I started orphan care clubs in high schools, initiated a sponsorship program for 900 kids, edited videos for a foster care nonprofit and fundraised for adoptions. Chasing my worth, I traveled multiple times to China, Haiti, Guatemala and Peru to support orphan care. While other people might have viewed my efforts as commendable, I viewed them as frantic.
Then I graduated from high school and moved on to college for a nursing degree. As I lost myself in textbooks and tests, I believed God would reveal His grand purpose for saving me. But He remained silent, and eventually my dream job rejected me. So I yelled at God in a parking lot, wondering if God should have let me perish in the back of that clinic.
During the years that followed, I never stopped clinging to God. But in my late-night prayers I wrestled with deep insecurities in my relationship with Him. I believed when death knocked again, I would stand in God’s presence and His disappointment would overwhelm me. I saved you, He would say, And you blew it. I had devoted my entire life to God, yet I just knew He would reject me.
After repeated leadership failures during my 20s, I stomped angrily to a conference. Once again, I had attempted to tether my worthiness to something unstable. With crossed arms, I sat in a session where the speaker read these words from Romans: There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The words of Scripture struck me in my chest. My heart skipped a beat, and I sat breathless again – but this time in joy. God’s infinite kindness pierced my embittered heart.
Condemnation—guilt and feeling unfit for God’s use — had plagued me. But Jesus changed my reality. Jesus lived guiltless and perfectly fit, yet He offered Himself over to death. He allowed his heart to stop so mine could start.
His heart also beat again. It restarted three days later and without any chest compressions. Belief in His resurrected breath removed the burden of condemnation I had carried for eight years. Later that night, tears wet my journal and I penned fateful words: I give you everything, Jesus.
Over the course of the next three years, I willingly released my dream job – which God would later give back – along with my house, my ideal future, my relationships, my body and my heart to God. But I didn’t do it to prove my worth. Instead, I discovered my loving God deserves everything I have to offer.
Today, my expired EpiPen hides somewhere in my closet. My fear of worthlessness languishes beside it. Now, I yearn to stand in God’s presence for eternity. The Father’s compassionate eyes will behold me. When Jesus walks towards me, I may just reach out and place my hand upon His pulse. To feel the reverberation of His heart restarted for the sake of love.