I grew up with hippie parents; I’m sure my name, (pronounced Asia), might have given that away. It was just the three of us and we were very close and still are. My mom was a Catholic-turned-atheist and my dad was into the occult, needless to say there wasn't a lot of exposure to God or church. In my teens I used drugs and sought my value through relationships with men. Bitterness from my parent's separation and simple rebllion contributed to an extensive list of bad choices. During this period I also developed an unexplainable hate for Jesus. I was obnoxious, extremely opinionated and absolutely above all else - I hated Christians. On occasion, I’d toy with the idea of “God”, when it was convenient for me, but Jesus Christ and His "followers"... that was nonsense and I wanted nothing to do with it.
I fell completely in love with a guy I met at 19 years old. The kind of love that makes you totally oblivious to world, the kind that makes you feel like nothing else matters - that becomes an idol so big that it feels like the other person is the air you breathe. God used this relationship to change my life. From it I experienced a fullness like I had never known, and eventually a sorrow so profound that it ultimately brought me to the truth of Jesus Christ.
My mom started attending church with a man she was dating and shortly after gave her life to Christ. I was furious and horrified, what did that even mean? When I wasn’t being distracted by my consuming relationship, I was verbally abusive about her new choice. There was even an incident where I physically tried to prevent her from going to church because it repulsed me that she was a “born again”. I wanted her to stop, I was her daughter and her best friend, and she had to listen to me! But, she chose Jesus. Not long after being “saved” she told me that she decided to stand for her marriage to my dad and ask him about reconciling. They had never officially divorced and it had been over 15 years that they were apart. She felt it was necessary to be obedient to God. It was a shock, the separation had been her decision, my dad had a new girlfriend, and my mom didn’t even love him anymore…what was this church doing to her?
This is when God got my attention. Soon after I endured one of my deepest heartaches. The guy that I treasured with every ounce of who I was started not coming home at night. Long story short, he was cheating on me and decided to try life out over at the other girl's house. The whole process was obviously a lot more dramatic than that, but what infidelity story doesn’t involve complete brokenness and punching, right? He was my world, I lived for him, and nothing else mattered to me now that he was gone. I was still alive, my heart still beating, blood still running through my veins, but I was lifeless. How can someone cry so many tears, how can you feel such intense pain in a body that is so numb? I didn’t eat, I could barely sleep and there was nothing I could do to change anything. He was gone and the void in my life was immeasurable.
This is when God’s Word started penetrating my heart. At the time my closest friend was a Buddhist, she saw my struggle and suggested that I start practicing her religion. But every time I was sobbing to the point of being unable to breathe, crying and gagging for air, the only consolation seemed to come from the scripture my mom was speaking into my ears, and in those brief moments I would feel some peace. Sometimes they would even give me a glimmer of hope that I might actually get through this. My Buddhist friends’ chanting didn’t really help me, but her shoulder was still nice to lean on. I wasn’t converted to a Christian and I didn’t start going to church, but I started yearning for God’s words like they were oxygen to my soul. I was the shell of a person, but when my mom spoke His words to me; I was more… be it only for a moment. The guy I was so desperately in love with called me from the other girl’s house and asked me if I wanted to make secret plans to spend his birthday together in Disney. I agreed.
This was where God said to me, “Aja, I AM your Savior, only Me”. I was blissful, how could I not be, I was with the man I loved, in “the happiest place on earth” and now watching my first Cirque du Soleil show live! But then, in an instant, I couldn't breathe. I started squeezing his hand and in barely a whisper I said, “Help me, I cant breathe”. He asked what he should do, did I want to leave? But I couldn’t answer; and I didn’t know what to do - run outside, call an ambulance - nothing seemed like a solution - I was dying right then. I’d had some intense anxiety/panic attacks before, but NEVER this extreme. So there I was gasping quietly for air and thinking, “Great! I’m going to die in the middle of a packed theater of tourists at Disney’s Pleasure Island on a covert date with my sort of ex-boyfriend.” But then, so strangely, it came to me, just like that, the thought that altered me eternally. The thought that wiped a huge ugly slate of sin clean in just one second. In my thoughts I said… “Jesus? Jesus, um, if You’re real… please hear me. I have heard my mom say all I have to do is accept You into my heart and You'll help me... so uh, I accept You Jesus, I accept You into my heart, please... please help me.”
And with that… He did. I did not speak of what happened, but I started having some second thoughts about the way things were. My boyfriend and I got back together and decided to move into our own place… I know, brilliant right?! It was fine at first, but I really missed my mom, and not long after our move he started not coming home again. I was desperately lonely and wanted to spend more time with my mom, but the only time we could get together was Wednesday nights when she went to church service. So I met her there, not to listen to the service of course, just for her company. Yet I couldn’t help hearing and learning about God. I started to really like Him and I wanted to get to know Him better. After I got baptized something in me shifted greatly. My flesh lost the upper hand that day and the Spirit took over. I started taking Bible college classes, still unsure of this whole Christian thing, but optimistic. My boyfriend wasn’t thrilled at the changes I was making, but he was still the center of my world and I was afraid of how much I needed him.
As my mom continued to stand for a marriage God started miraculously healing deeply rooted wounds. I was given this amazing chance to actually watch God labor in the lives of my parents. As I stood on the cusp of making a decision to really give my whole self over to the Lord, He gave me a chance to see His work first. The Lord was showing me that He was real and that He had the power to restore anything.
This was when I actually started believing. I walked up to receive Jesus Christ Easter Service 2005, and my boyfriend also did too. Though I had accepted Jesus a full year before that day and had even been baptized I wanted to do it publicly and devote my life to Him completely. I must admit it was also a bonus to stare at the tear-filled eyes of the man I loved while he also committed his life to Christ. It was a beautiful day permanently etched into my memory. I thought maybe he and I would have a chance to resolve our past hurts and move forward, but God had a different plan. It was only a year or so later that he left me again pursuing grass that seemed greener. Though the pain was immense, a depth unexplainable, I knew Whose arms held me now. He was a branch that God needed to prune in order for me to grow stronger. Instead of moping around the house this time I decided to get the focus off my own problems and help those with a greater need. I joined a Big Sisters mentoring program a month after he left, and I started new believer classes soon after. It was the beginning of my wholehearted walk with God - just Him and me. I suppose He decided that no other man was going to have my attention at that point in my life, except Him. My sweet Jesus had already put in quite a bit of work pursuing my heart, and now I would use this new free time He gave me to seek His.
So the thing is, my fairytale love story turned out to be utterly true, I just had the characters mixed up.