To be honest, my story is not gonna be sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. It is going to be real, raw, and unfiltered. Fair warning, this is not a BC (before Christ) then everything changed when I met Jesus' story. You still there? Great. Now let’s begin.
I was born and raised in the church. Both parents were devout Christians. There wasn’t a Sunday growing up where I was not at church whether I was in Sunday school or in the main service with my parents and all the adults. My parents forced me to go to church. I just wanted to sleep in on Sundays but mom was not having it. I would even try to sleep on her shoulder if she made me sit in the adult service, but she would nudge me or elbow me to wake me up. Growing up in the church, you learn all about Jesus, who he was and what he did, all the bible stories, etc. By the time I was in middle school, I had most of the main bible stories that every church talks about down by heart, but I was not saved. I knew a lot about Jesus, but I did not know Him (it turns out I didn’t till I was in college). In the summer of 7th grade, I went up to Tennessee for a church summer camp and it was there that I got introduced to Jesus for the first time. It was a night session and this worship band (Calling Levi) was playing their song “Stronger”. As I was singing and reading what the lyrics were actually saying, all of sudden I start to get emotional, started crying, and ran out of the room. My youth pastor followed me and we talked about Jesus and what his sacrifice means to me. I’ve heard this before several times, but this time it was different. We talked and prayed and I accepted Jesus into my heart that night. Though I accepted Jesus into my heart, it wasn’t some life-altering moment.
After that camp, however, my life did not change. I still pretty much acted the same as I was before, which was live a double life: one at home/church, where I am the good Christian kid who knows a lot about God and the bible, and one at school, where I would act completely different and cussing all the time in almost every sentence I would say. Throughout middle school and as I was entering high school, I started experiencing loneliness and suicidal thoughts/tendencies. I did not have any friends and people did not like me at all. I was made fun of because of my weight, my height, and mostly because of my skin color. I was so alone that I had to annoy and bother people just to get their attention and get them to look at and talk to me. They would insult me for like 30 seconds to a few minutes, but it did not matter. They were giving me attention and that is all that mattered to me: being seen. I never told my parents about it because they wouldn’t understand what I was feeling.
Every time, I tried to express how I felt, they dismissed it by saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way”. Never truly understanding how much pain I was in. How most nights I would cry because of how bad days were. It was then, that bitterness towards my family (mainly towards my dad) began to grow. Growing up, my dad made me feel not good enough. One minute he’d say he was proud of me, and then I would do something wrong or bad and then he would give me that disappointed look on his face. No matter what I did or what award I would receive, he made me feel like it was not enough, like I was not enough. My father indirectly taught me that men don’t cry. So every time I got emotional or was about to cry, I would hide myself or wipe face a lot so that no one would see me. I believed that crying makes you weak.
Throughout high school, I felt so alone and empty that I attempted suicide 4 times. Every summer, I experienced what is known as “camp highs”. “Camp highs” are when you are at a Christian camp and you experience God and are on fire for Him and have that attitude and mindset of “nothing else matters but Jesus” for like a few weeks. I had one every summer up until I graduated high school. I felt like a fake every time I showed up to church on Sunday or Wednesday. I never felt like an actual Christ-follower because my life did not really change and I really didn’t have a transformation in my heart. But the summer after my sophomore year, I went on a mission trip to Germany with my mom and a friend of ours to help lead a summer camp. My mom asked me to lead a small group for teenage boys and I was hesitant at first because the year before that, we went to Germany and partnered with a pastor there to lead a camp and most of the boys I met there that were coming back this year did not care about Jesus. They just wanted to hookup with girls at the camp. But my mom insisted and so I agreed.
I led the group that week and we were studying the friendship between King David and Jonathan. I talked about how they were best friends and closer than brothers and I tied it to how Jesus is the ultimate best friend anyone could have. I wasn’t expecting anything to come out of it, but at the end of the week, 3 boys came up to me and told me that they learned more about Jesus/God this week than ever before. On the last night, the pastor of the camp was asking us what did God showed us this week.
Before it got to me, I got a vision (I didn’t know it was a vision until a few years later) of me on a stage with a mic in one hand and a bible in another. It wasn’t until later I realized that that was the moment God called me into full-time ministry.
I ignored it for the rest of high school but every other possible career choice I thought of or chose, closed on me. I don’t know what it was but none of the career paths I was interested in made sense to me nor did they fulfill me. After graduating high school, I finally stopped ignoring what God was calling me to and I accepted the call. I applied to a Christian university called Southeastern University that a bunch of people from my church went to, got accepted but couldn’t afford it because it was too expensive. A month into summer God got a hold of my heart as I was doubting whether I gave up on SEU too easily. For the next month, that was all I thought about. So I went to a few buddies and we prayed about this and for the first time in my life, I acted on faith. I told God, “God you pick, whether SEU or FIU (Florida International University), I know you’ll put me where I need to be”. A month later I get a call from my mom telling me, “If you still want to, you can attend SEU in the fall.” She told me how after looking at my grades from high school, SEU could cover half of my tuition for the whole year. I knew in that moment that God opened a door and was calling me to SEU.
So I go to Southeastern in the fall and I had no idea what kind of journey I would be on. My life was still same as it was: still having loneliness issues and dealing with suicidal thoughts. As I started this season called college, I made friends for the first time. Some of those friends I’m still close to to this day. It was through one of those friends that I discovered that I had depression. The first 2 years of college was not a fun ride. I was depressed all the time, lonely, trying to impress people every chance I get to make people like me because deep down… I didn’t like me. I was in a dark place till 2018. But it was during those 4 years of college that I learned and discovered who God is to me, and more importantly, how He made me. God spoke to me and showed himself to me a lot through the people around me. The depression and suicidal thoughts/tendencies worsened each season in college. During winter break of my freshman year in 2015, I went home and it was not a great experience for me. My dad and I got into an argument and he tells me the same thing he has said to me for years: you’re selfish, ungrateful, spoiled, and you don’t care about anybody but yourself. It hit me to my core. That night, when everybody was in their rooms, I went to the kitchen, took a large knife, went back to my room, and decided that I was gonna kill myself. I was hurt and depressed and felt alone.
Right as I was about to slit my wrists, I hear a voice screaming, “NO!! Don’t do it!” There was no one around me and I didn’t recognize the voice. But I kept hearing it say over and over, “NO!! Don’t do it!” I realized it was Godtalking to me so I put the knife down. All of sudden, I found myself texting my friends from school in our group chat about what almost happened, not knowing how they would respond. But then the unexpected happen, well at least for me. They all replied at once with long paragraph messages and multiple audio messages. I listened to the audio messages and I heard people crying in each one. It was different wording but they all were saying the same thing: “Kendall, we are so glad you are still here and that you did not go through with it. You have no idea how much you mean to each of us”.
That night, God showed me that I am loved and wanted by people and most of all, by Him. He reminded me of one of His promises in the book of Deuteronomy: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
I can honestly and proudly say, that that was the last time I tried to commit suicide. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time I thought about or consistently thought about suicide nor experience loneliness. That is something I’m still struggling with today! In the summer of 2018, I go home to spend the summer with my parents working with my mom. It was the first I’ve been with my parents this long since high school and it was not always pleasant. We got into arguments about literally everything. Whenever I talked to my parents whether it was on the phone or in-person up until that summer, I try to keep it short. When we have long conversations, that is when patience runs out and we start arguing. I expressed my feelings a lot that summer and it felt they were neglecting me when I did. By this time, my bitterness towards them, mainly my dad, grew a lot and kept on growing. Every time my dad and I argued, I kept throwing in his face how he doesn’t understand the pain and hurt he has caused me. After every argument, I would be thinking, hoping and praying that one day, he will realize how much he hurt me over the years and that he would apologize. But I knew that would never happen. Until one day, I’m in my room and my dad knocks on my door and comes in. He says he’d like to apologize to me for everything that he ever said and did that hurt me or caused me pain, and then he asked if I would forgive him but understood if I didn’t. He left my room and I was shocked, asking myself, “What just happened?” I walked out to the kitchen and saw him and my mom together and asked if we could talk. As soon as they looked at me, I just unloaded everything that I was feeling for the last 5+ years. It was then I discovered that the root of the bitterness that I had towards my dad wasn’t that I a was angry with him, but that I wanted to make him proud of me. That I wanted his approval. That underneath every accomplishment, every achievement, and every award I got, none of that mattered if my dad wasn’t proud of me. Throughout college, I would try to get so much approval from peers and friends thinking that that will fill the void and replace the approval that I desperately craved from my dad, but it didn’t. I realized that I pushed some of that bitterness on to my mom and who wasn’t deserving of any of this. I knew how much the bitterness I had was weighing me down and holding me back. In that moment, I decided to let it go and give it to God. I forgave my dad, for everything.
As I was getting towards the end of my college experience, I am learning more and more about God than ever but still not knowing him intimately. During my last year at the school’s annual conference, God spoke to me and said 3 words, “Come find me”. He just kept saying those three words for the entire conference. For 3 days, I kept trying to figure out what that meant. Then all of sudden, I found myself standing still in worship settings. I was looking around at an entire sanctuary of young adults wondering and asking myself, “why are their hands raised in worship, why are they on their knees with their head to the floor, why are they dancing, what is going on?” It’s not that I didn’t know what they were doing, but I didn’t know why they were doing it. I would hear the worship leaders say stuff like, “let’s raise our hands to heaven, lift up your hands in this place, and press in”. And I would be asking myself, “what does that mean? Why are we doing that?” I was still hearing God say “come find me” and I realized what He meant. I realized that my relationship with Him and my faith in Him was not truly mine. It was my parents, my pastors (past and current), my Professors, my friends’ faith all wrapped into it. I realized that I needed to make my faith and relationship with God my own. I had to know what “I” believed about God. So I started the journey of finding God for myself and it has been a fun roller coaster of ups and downs.
All throughout my life I have seen one crucial and recurring theme and fact that can’t be denied: God was and is with me. Even during the moments and seasons where I feel most alone and think that there is no one there for me, God never left and showed up when I needed Him. I’m at a point in my life where for the first time ever, not only do I like who I am, I beginning the process of loving who I am. Loving who God created me to be. It is awesome! Is it bumpy? Yes. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wouldn’t learn something or appreciate it if it wasn’t. Your story and your faith is just that: yours. For those who are dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts or tendencies, I see you. More importantly, God sees you. Depression is a real thing and so is contemplating suicide. Don’t ever let someone convince you that what you are feeling is nothing! It is ok to not be ok, but it is not ok to stay that way. There is a way out. I’m living, daily proof of it. There is more to my story that is still being written and that needs to be written. And I wholeheartedly believe, that there IS more to yours.