Telling People How Much You Suck…

….so that God can be glorified. That’s the point of testimonies, at least to some degree. And Sunday, I get to do that in front of our church body and a bunch of college students who want an iPod. I’m pretty darn excited. And a shade nervous – I haven’t done this in a while, and while I am great at making myself vulnerable (here is my sleeve, and pinned to it, my heart…), there’s something particularly nerve-inducing about sharing how God has made His presence known in your life, often through your flounders.

Flounder is a really cute fish in The Little Mermaid. It is also a tasty fish. But mostly, it’s me flopping around on stage, blathering and bumbling. Get me back in my fishbowl, man!

For those of you who read this and won’t be at 5 Stones Sunday morning for the sweet iPod promo, (“and you thought only your mom would bribe you to come to church…”) here’s my shpeel in writing. It will likely not come out of my mouth this way, (oh if I were only so eloquent in speech!) but this is what I’m going for. It is just the beginning of my God-tale. There’s so much more he’s done and continues to do. I could write a whole series.


I was a sarcastic, self-conscious, introverted, egotistical, over-achieving high school band dork. I strived for perfection on every turn. I was angry that God would even consider loving someone like a murderer or rapist or popular person in my high school – He should be the righteous judge and condemn them all to hell. Obviously, the concept of grace was foreign to me.

I also struggled to merge what was taught in science classes about evolution with what was taught in church about creation. These are two specific roadblocks that Satan used to try to deflect me from meeting the true God. As a senior in high school, I had been studying other religions, reading books about evolution and creation, and trying to resolve this battle. One day, a switch was flipped in my brain, and I went from saying, “Psh! Those creationists are nuts!” to looking out the window of my car as I drove down the highway and saying, “How could there not be a God?! Look at the trees! Look at the sky! Look at the birds!” All the research I did helped me know about micro-biology and evolutionary principles, but only God can open up eyes like that. The scales fell away.

The third distraction came in the form of a boyfriend I met and fell madly in love with after graduating from high school. Eric was romantic and exotic, a Parrothead in search of his very own Margaritaville – the perfect distraction in my hunt for the real God dwelling in the real Paradise.

By random draw and God’s providence, I ended up roommates with my best friend from high school. She invited me, yet again, to Bible studies, the Well, and FCA on campus. She was a persistent little evangelist! I remember the first time I went to the Well – I could FEEL a presence in the room like I’d never felt before – that calm, peace, and strange movement of the Holy Spirit. It was breathtaking.

Eric and I got physically involved really fast. By October of my freshman year at AU, I thought I might be pregnant. While I worried and fretted that everything I had ever strived for was all for nothing, it finally occurred to me that I am out of control. I do the things I do not want to do. I cannot do life the right way on my own. I have no control over my plans, my future, my life, and there is only one person who does – Jesus Christ. At a Bible study one night, I confessed all that had been happening with Eric. For the first time in my life, I understood grace. I understood mercy. I understood forgiveness. As Paul says in Romans 7:24-25 – “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Like any other new believer, I expected all things to be better immediately. But I still loved Eric, I wanted to be with him even though he wasn’t a believer and had no interest whatsoever in Jesus Christ. Through His gentleness and firmness, God gradually removed Eric from my life, first moving him to North Carolina, then sending him off on some wild trip to Thailand and Vietnam that did not involve missionaries in the mountains… like he said it was going to. In the end, God made Eric fall out of love with me, and that is what it took for me to let go, and let God be God of my heart.

About six months or so after God ended my relationship with Eric, I had finally felt like I was okay with being single. About a week later, I met my husband. Brandon and I have both been down similar roads with our scarring relationships, but most importantly, we both believe in a God who is merciful, just, loving, forgiving, constant, mysterious, and real – and without that foundation, our relationship would have been destroyed fast. Enough evil and unfair events happen in our lives to turn people with common interests against each other in a heartbeat, but if you have faith and have faith together, God who “began a good work in you” will carry it on to completion, together.

During my tumultuous relationship with Eric, a friend of mine gave me a verse to rely on. So often I have felt bewildered at where I am in life or where I was going. My anxiety levels were high – should I transfer colleges to be closer to Eric, should I move, should I marry, should I take this job, should I stay at home with my kids – and this verse among so many others like it in Scripture has kept me grounded. From Isaiah 42:16 – “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, down unfamiliar paths I will guide them. I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” This is a promise God makes to each of us if we’d just let him take over. It will be okay. We will make it through this, one way or the other. And it’s probable that the end results will be the most unlikely place you ever thought you’d find yourself, but better and more amazing than you could have imagined.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

2 thoughts on “Telling People How Much You Suck…

  1. You will be awesome on Sunday, Sarah! Let God guide your words (even if they are not exactly what are written on your page) and speak to the students who may be struggling in those same ways. I miss you!


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