by Maggie Wesolowski
I had a difficult childhood. My parents were divorced before I could even remember them together. My dad struggled with a drug and alcohol addiction until I was 5. Although I only remember him as sober growing up, his past struggles were always at the forefront of our relationship. In fact, alcoholism on both sides of my family was a source of a lot of suffering in the years to come.
I was bullied in my elementary years. I remember a conversation with my best friends where they told me that I wasn’t “cool enough” to be seen with them at school. That paired with high expectations from my parents. I turned to doing well in school to prove my value and worth. Not only to my friends and family, but also to myself! The summer after fifth grade, my mom and I moved from Ohio to Florida. I remember very clearly the weekend before we moved: my aunt Linda sat me down on a bench swing in her backyard and shared the Gospel with me. It was in that moment that I truly believed in Jesus as my Savior. However, starting over in an unknown place and being separated from all of my friends and family, I began to struggle with a lot of dark emotions and extreme loneliness. My already rocky relationship with my mom grew into a bitter and distant one. We moved a lot, and I transferred schools multiple times until we landed in Melbourne, Florida for my high school years. It was in my sophomore year of high school that my aunt Linda and uncle Dave moved across the street from where we lived. I later found out that it was intentional—that God called them to do so, so that they could be there for me and show me the love of God that I had long forgotten. High school turned out to be the darkest season of my life. My need to feel accepted and valued led to me being duel-enrolled in college while heavily involved with extra-curricular activities, and I began to struggle with an eating disorder. When my dad suddenly passed away my junior year, a result of health complications related to his past struggles, I spiraled even further. I questioned the point of existing and wrestled with suicidal thoughts. My aunt and uncle were an amazing support system through it all, always reminding me that God loved me. Even with their encouragement and faith in God always felt out of reach. Freshman year of college, I was introduced to an on-campus ministry where the members spoke so freely of the joy and freedom of life with Jesus. I didn’t get it. I pursued numbness because it was easier to be numb than deal with my issues. The following summer, there was a lot of drama in my family. I turned to alcohol as a distraction, convincing myself that I was having fun, while fighting to keep my head above water from the weight of my emotions. It was a sleepless night at the end of that summer that changed everything. I had spent the night out bar-hopping and drinking excessively. On the way home, riding on the back of my brother’s motorcycle, my life flashed before my eyes as we ran a red light. I tossed and turned all night thinking, “Is this all that I’m living for? Is this all that my life amounts to? There has to be something more than this!” I saw my life trajectory following the pattern of so many of my family members, and I couldn’t stomach the thought of what my life would look like if I kept repeating the generational pattern. I decided that I wasn’t going to keep running from God. I kept remembering the things my friends from the campus ministry had said—“get involved in community”, “give God a chance, He won’t fail you”, “do whatever you can to grow in your relationship with God”. I resolved that I was going to go all in with Jesus.
I had no idea how to do it, but I knew where to start. Returning to campus for sophomore year, I joined a Bible study. I was terrified. I felt like they were going to judge me, or kick me out because I didn’t know anything about the Bible. What I was met with were women who genuinely cared about me. Instead of turning me away from my lack of knowledge, they brought me closer and showed me how they walked with Jesus. They taught me how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to grow and heal and find freedom in Christ. I learned that my worth and value come only from God (1 Peter 2:9-10), that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14), that I don’t have to be perfect and have it all together (2 Corinthians 12:9-10), and that even at my worst, Jesus died so that I could know Him (Romans 5:8).
And through those experiences I felt the call of God on my life: to help other people know and walk with Jesus, finding the fullness of joy that life with Him offers. I became a leader within the college ministry, getting to be an encouragement and bring hope to other women with similar life experiences. I began to see God using me to help other people grow and find freedom in Jesus. In those moments, I began to see the beauty of God’s plan—while my brokenness and grief is not God’s plan, but the result of a broken and sinful world, He turned those dark and challenging seasons of my life for good. I’ve had so many opportunities over the past 10 years to be a part of people choosing Jesus over the ways of the world. I’ve seen my story help countless women walk through difficult life seasons with unwavering faith. I’ve gotten to sit across the table from people and show them how to read the Bible for the first time. I’ve even been able to hear my mom proudly declare that she is now a child of God. My life has not been perfect, not even close. But all that Jesus asks of us is a surrendered heart willing to be used.
If he can use me, he can use you too!