Erica's Grace Story
I was born and raised on the east coast in Fort Pierce, FL. I was a cradle Catholic, baptized before I was even a month old, and I attended Catholic school from kindergarten to twelfth grade. My mother was the choir teacher at my school, and the choir director at my church, so I was immersed in the Catholic religion. I started singing in church on Sunday once I hit second grade. My faith journey was fairly solid up until eighth grade when I had enough God and just decided to walk away from it all. That was the first time I had abandoned Him. A year later I found myself as the youth representative for my church on the Diocesan Youth Council. I served all four years of high school, and then a year after as a mentor. Throughout high school I let God rule my life. I sang at church on Sunday, taught Bible School to the 3 and 4 year olds, and was extremely active in my youth group. I was a walking image of what it meant to be Catholic, but in the back of my mind I had looming questions. I didn’t understand a lot of the rules that came with the Catholic religion. I had the mentality that if someone could show it to me in the Bible, I wouldn’t question it, but every time I asked, I never got answers.
I graduated high school in 2007 and moved on to community college. Since I could no longer be a member of my youth group, I had become part of our adult core team. We were in charge of planning youth group activities on the weekends and chaperoning trips, with the occasional teaching. Everything was fine for me until it came to be my weekend to teach. I never really opened my Bible unless it was my weekend to teach, and at that, it didn’t stay open for very long. I was ok with the scripture itself, but would struggle with the plan that we taught from. How could I be teaching these things if I didn’t believe them or live by them myself? I had been in a relationship since my senior year of high school, and I was living in sin. I realized again that I had slowly been pulling away from God for a few years, and then I abandoned Him a second time.
I ended a seven-year relationship and went off the deep end. I would work back-to-back shifts in the operating room and emergency room, go out every night with friends (not coming home a lot), and then sit in church on Sunday morning. As soon as church was over, I’d fall right back into sin. I needed to get out. It had been almost five years since I graduated with my associate’s degree, and it seemed like the perfect time to go back to school. I left my job and found myself at FGCU in January 2015. I didn’t plan on staying long, but little did I know, God had other plans for me. Instead of transferring to UF that summer like I had planed, I found myself sitting at Ignite. A friend had invited me a few times and I finally gave in. As I listened to Adam preach, I realized that I was getting answers to things I had questioned for so many years. I went up and talked to him afterwards, and that’s where my journey began.
The Fall 2015 semester had begun and my friends invited me to Fall Retreat. I didn’t really want to go, but I signed up anyways. The first night there I was a bit disconnected. It was my high school’s homecoming game that night, and high school football is a big deal in my hometown. As Adam preached, I sat on the far side of the room watching our homecoming game on my phone, not really listening to what was being preached, but I nodded my head every once in a while so it looked like I was participating. Saturday rolled around and I kind of felt empty, so I stuck to myself for most of our free time throughout the day. The Gators had a big game that Saturday, so I was holed up in my hotel room watching the game while everyone else was out at the beach. I was still a bit lost going into Saturday night’s session, but that was all about to change.
Adam started reading a poem called The Dash and I could feel the tears rolling down my face. The same poem was read a few years earlier at the funeral of a teenager that was in my youth group. All of these emotions were rushing through me. I knew in that moment that I was supposed to be there. This was God’s wake up call to me. The next morning I sat with Adam at breakfast and told him my journey. I had been on a religious roller coaster for so many years, abandoning God twice. I had a choice to make – keep riding the ride, or get off and never look back. I was turned to Ephesians 6. I read it over and over again until one day it just clicked. I finally got off the ride.
I was a broken sinner. Despite my past and my sins, I came to see that I was worth it. Here was the Son of God, a man that came to earth to be nailed to a cross and shed His blood so that my sins could be washed away. I didn’t do anything to deserve that kind of love. I couldn’t do anything to deserve that kind of love. So here I was, crying out to God, asking Him to pour out His grace and mercy on a wretched sinner, and He did.
My life reflects who I am in Christ, and He has truly blessed me over the past year. I am part of the worship team and Ignite Staff, I lead my own small group, and a few weeks ago I declared my life to Jesus and was baptized. I have found the most amazing group of friends along this journey, and so many people have invited me into their lives. There have been struggles and hard times, but that is to be expected. I know that I am a child of God. I know that my sins have been washed clean. I strive to life for Christ every day, and I thank Him for the life He gave so I could live. I know He’s not done with me yet, and I can’t wait to see what my future holds.