A Place to Belong—Discovering a Perfect Fit in the Family of God

08/07/2014 .
Lisa Fontaine  .  Saddleback Storytelling Ministry

From a young age, Nydia Rodriguez’s life was overshadowed by loneliness and depression. A childhood marked by the shuffle of divorce, a secret of molestation, and an environment of substance abuse bred profound emotions of sadness, confusion, and anger. More than anything, Nydia wanted a place to belong. But when her self-esteem vanished, she was alienated by her peers and felt even more lost and alone. Searching for fulfillment, she headed down a road of destruction.

By the time Nydia was a young adult, a deep hatred filled her heart. She dropped out of college and scraped along in an existence of suicidal thoughts, anxiety, partying, and drugs. When a group of friends used her as a lookout during a burglary, Nydia was arrested and spent 107 terrifying days in jail. That was her wake-up call. She realized her life was off-track and she needed to do something about it. “I knew that if I didn’t get my act together, I was going to eventually die from drugs or being at the wrong place at the wrong time,” she recalls.

Nydia turned her life around and created financial stability for herself, but even success and accomplishments didn’t matter. She was still empty inside, feeling as though there was a void in her heart. Trying to explain how she felt to friends and family only made matters worse. When no one understood, her feelings of isolation grew and a struggle began inside of her that questioned the reality of her suffering. Not knowing what to do, she buried herself in her work and, when that was not enough, she slept to escape the sadness that haunted her. There seemed to be no hope for things to change.

 In the midst of emotional darkness, Nydia recalled the words a friend had said to her, “Maybe God is what you’re missing.” Out of options, she decided to give God a try and attended a weekend service at Saddleback Anaheim. That day, Nydia invited Christ into her heart, and her life changed forever. The lifelong weight of depression she had been carrying was lifted, and the seemingly permanent void in her heart overflowed with hope, unconditional love, and significance. “That was the best day of my life,” Nydia says. “I knew at that moment, my life was going to be better than it ever was before.”

Nydia continued to attend Saddleback. Within a few months she became baptized and began volunteering in the children’s ministry, where she now serves in a leadership role. After hearing Pastor Rick talk about the importance of being part of a small group, Nydia made the decision to join one. Through her small group, she experienced the comfort of being supported and cared for, as well as the joy of supporting and caring for others. She developed strong, healthy friendships with women who never judged her and always gave her a good laugh and a safe place to cry. Between friends from church and small group, Nydia says, “I never realized how much family I could have without being related by blood.”

Today, Nydia says that she no longer walks alone—she walks with God. He used her years of pain to develop a sensitivity and understanding that now allows her to encourage other women through the painful feelings of loneliness, isolation, and broken relationships. Although her story is not yet finished, Nydia knows that through Christ, there is hope, healing, and freedom. After a lifetime of suffering, she finally found the place she belonged—in the family of God.

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