Cristina Pena

Bologna, Italy

My Worth

I grew up in a traditional Catholic home in South Texas, but I had no personal relationship with God; none. My siblings and I got baptized as babies, we had our First Holy Communion, and rarely attended some Sunday school classes. Throughout the years, I learned about God, but I always viewed Him as a distant God; one who would only tell us how to live good lives. My high school years were full of fun experiences because I had a diversity of friends, and I was passing all of my classes. My academic life looked great, but life at home was not a pretty picture. At home I was rebellious and dishonoring to my parents. I always found a reason to argue back with them because I wanted to be right. I was prideful, and bitter. I tried to mend my relationship with my parents; I wanted them to be proud of me, but I seeked to do that in the wrong way. I joined sports to try to gain their attention, but it only hurt me the more I tried, so I acted out in anger and bitterness towards them.

Towards the end of my high school years, I started dating. I thought that being in a relationship would encourage me to give my affections to someone that desired it (since I thought my parents didn't want it). I felt like I was in a healthy relationship. I felt cared for and respected by this person. Even though I was in a relationship, my parents still implemented strict rules on dating. I was a teenager, so I hated all of their rules. Their rules affected my relationship because I could not talk to this person after a certain hour, and I didn't have permission to be alone with them. This person still showed their interest in me, regardless of the obstacles. At the same time, the person I was dating enlisted in the US Army. A year later, our feelings grew stronger. I loved this guy. I genuinely cared about him and he has expressed the same back in the letters we exchanged. For the first time, I had let my guards down, and emotionally, I let a person love me back. Things were going great in my relationship and even with my parents right before graduating high school....until the pretty picture began to shatter. The guy I was dating and was madly in love with, stopped talking to me from one day to the next, without any explanation. He was still overseas at the time, so I assumed the worse; that he was killed. I wanted answers, but I wasn't getting them. Days and weeks passed, and still no answers, just profile pictures updated on his Myspace profile. My heart had been broken for the first time. I had loved someone with everything I had, and it was gone without any explanation.

I graduated high school, and moved away from home so I can distract myself from the pain. I started college and I started dating random guys because I wanted to numb the pain from having a broken heart. I thought that was the "normal" way to get over someone. I didn't find happiness in dating, and I felt worthless in the process. A specific relationship after that affected my view of relationships. Having only dated for two months, I kept getting pressured by him to have sex. Every time, I said no. I explained that I wasn't ready, but the pressure kept coming, and it got to the point that I didn't even want to be alone with him. I decided to end things, but his jealousy literally haunted me. He showed up at my dormitory window, asking me to take him back. I was afraid to say no, so I took him back. Many weeks later of abusive comments, and saying no to sex so many times, he broke up with me because he found someone else. You can only imagine how worthless I felt. I felt like something was seriously wrong with me. I felt like I couldn't keep anyone happy. No boyfriends, no parents, no one. 

During college, I was introduced to Campus Crusade for Christ by my resident advisor, Charity. I was skeptical about attending their meetings because I felt unworthy and my religious experiences weren't the greatest, but I decided to go anyway. The first time I went, I was blown away on how much fun I had playing games, and eating pizza with strangers. I hadn't felt that loved in a while, and I desired that. I didn't attend CCC meetings regularly, but I knew that Charity cared about me. Soon she graduated, and Cru needed new leaders. That's when I met my now best friends, Lisa and Jocelyn. They built up the movement, and made me feel cared for. All the while, I still had no relationship with God, but I was glad that I  knew people who did. Years later, Jocelyn invited me to a bible study. I really enjoyed the company, so I accepted her invitation the next time she invited me, but the next time, I found myself at church. I had no idea I was going to church, so I showed up in a t-shirt and jeans. There was something so different about this church though. I won't lie. I was scared. The church was dark and in a warehouse (my Logos friends will laugh about this). People were friendly, and warm. I found myself going back and learning more about who Jesus was. I learned that had died for me, and that I was forgiven by Him. I had never heard that before. On June 26, 2011 decided to live my life for Christ.

Starting a relationship with Jesus wasn't easy. I had so much emotional baggage, but I truly believed that He was my savior. I learned to trust Him. I began to find my worth in Him, not in relationships. The process wasn't beautiful either. It was messy. I was still bitter, hurt, prideful, and angry. The more I learned about Jesus, the more I wanted to let go of all those things. I wanted to give Him my whole heart, and the emotional baggage I was dragging along. Through convictions, I began to surrender the areas of my life that were painful, and I began to trust that He was fully in control of my life. I had to forgive the guys who hurt me, but most importantly, I had to find my worth in the One who paid my debt. Jesus pursued me, and accepted me where I was in my life. His love began to transform my heart. Throughout the years, I have seen the Lord shape me to be more like Him, forgiving, graceful, and speaking truth into other people's lives. He has given me eternal joy, through His suffering.  

My biggest desire for each person in my life is for them to know the love of Jesus. Once you encounter His love, you will NEVER be the same. You won't want to be the same because His love is relentless. He will transform your heart. He will continue to pursue you, and welcome you with His loving arms because He knows you are worthy. Find your worth in Him!  But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

— Read more —
Contact me Learn more about Jesus

Similar stories