I read somewhere that 28 is a pivotal year in a man’s life, but I’m guessing the same applies to women. At the time of discovering this tid-bit of invaluable knowledge, I was twenty and in love with a man who had those extra years on me.

Maybe by ‘pivotal’ they mean that this is the time in a man’s life when he will finally choose to love another with all of his body, heart, mind and soul. Maybe this year he will finally choose me- my naive little post-teenaged brain wanted so desperately to hold on to.

Turns out it wasn’t- at least not for that guy. Now that I’m the one closing out Year 28 on this planet, I kind of have a new perspective:

First of all, I think I finally solved the mystery today of why I will never love anyone the way I loved Matt, my Prince Charming from nearly a decade ago. See, back then, I looked to mortal men for the deliverance of Love in its ideal form. See, back then, I didn’t know there was another, more effective way of knowing what it’s like to experience an ideal relationship. See, no man will ever come before my Love for God- the one who provides me with all that.

I just couldn’t say the same back then.

So, I will never again idolize a man. Love him, yes. Worship him, yes. But idolize him above everything else on the planet earth? No. Absolutely not.

Anyway that’s just one of the many fascinating discoveries 28 has brought me. I feel a constant spiritual collision between my Christian and former self. But instead of being faced with the pain and turmoil and utter brokenness that has written my past, I’m remind of all of the good parts. For example, I always had a hunger and thirst for knowledge and new experience- and it’s back in an Upgraded 28 form. I’ve always had a passion for writing, for living, for preaching what’s on my mind and heart- and here I am doing exactly that. I always loved people- loved interacting with them, studying them, letting each of them (regardless of what they bring to the table) take away a little piece of my heart. And even after that infamous organ of mine has been put through a blender, I can say that amidst fear and confusion I am doing exactly that. I’m as open for love as any 28-year-old-woman with half a brain can be. I guess the difference is that when I hear Broadway tunes I no longer picture men standing on street corners holding flowers, but rather see them holding my hand inside a church, working 9–5 to support a joyful God-worthy lifestyle, being the natural-born problem solvers and leaders they were created to be.

I’m just blown away today by the love I’ve received from God through Christ, his human form. I know I’ll forget about this, probably as early as tomorrow, but I write to remind myself of the moment, the feeling, just as I used to write to document the pain of a former chronically lonely, clinical depression.

See, God has loved me so much that my plans for myself just weren’t good enough. He had something so much more special and beautiful designed for me. I thought that all those nights I cried myself to sleep, praying for better, praying for fulfillment in another human being or experience- well, I thought that they were unheard and spoken in vain. The truth is, he heard.

He has taken a lot of the pain away.

When I was heading towards any type of statistic- drug addict, pregnant teen, divorced single mom, suicide victim, promiscuous vixen, obsessive workaholic, adulterer, gold digger, trophy wife, vain manipulator, etc.- he steered me away from those paths and misplaced goals. See, my plans were 100% about my status in this world. He protected me from that trap and saved me for a deeper, more spiritual and eternal purpose.

I discovered him my senior year of high school. We were stripped from our English IV Honors class and shoved into an auditorium to hear about a speaker on the Columbine massacre. In 2006, not a soul gave a shit about Columbine anymore, and I remember rolling my eyes at such a pointless assembly. However, the voice of God spoke through my stubbornness. He told me to pay attention- I might actually learn something.

And there I was- I remember it like it was yesterday. I tuned out my friends. I gave the speaker 100% of my focus. Rachel Joy Scott- the first Columbine victim to die- spoke into my heart with her obvious conviction and spirit. And there I was, Miss Too Cool For High School, attending the second assembly that was held for parents a couple of hours later.

And I bought her book. And I read her words. And through it, the old me began to surface, showing her worthlessness, demonstrating her flaws. And in the one last breath of her, she mumbled: is this really God? What am I waiting for here? Is it a fucking sign? Am I going to see my god-damn name on the next page or something?

And there it was: God’s first recognizable miracle in my life. At the very next page- page 112–113- was the name Jessica, that didn’t appear in any other part of the text. (I checked). And I was born 1–12, while my due date was 1–13.

And thus began my adult relationship with God- which has been slow and steady and intimate. And going to church allows me to put time in our marriage. And preaching about what he’s done in my life, allows me to show a small measure of thanks. See, he has protected me in ways that a future-husband will never hold a candle to, bless his heart. See, he has guided me in ways that parents can only dream about. See, he was and IS the relationship I’ve searched for my entire life. It took 28 years to really realize that.

When I think back at my former self, all the worlds colliding, my heart is heavy. My heart is full. Inside it dwells a hopeful spirit- an inquisitive young girl who used to write because she was all alone and sometimes the words would pour out of her and she wouldn’t even know what she wrote until she read it back, astonished. See, she didn’t get that the Holy Spirit was working through her even then.

And then, I see the angry teen. The girl who left the keg party underneath the boardwalk and stormed away from the beach and her friends because they just weren’t good enough. There was no Godliness to be had during those youthful nights of drinking. And she was over it. And she cried the entire walk home, blasting Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit in her defiant, unfriendly head.

And then, I see the young woman who made every mistake in the book- even the ones she KNEW were mistakes just because she was so desperate to find a mate and put things into a void that only Christ could fill. And during the summer of 2011 she met a boy who she thought completed her because they really did have a connection and were on the same wavelength. But, in the bottom of her heart she felt that familiar feeling of something missing. She expressed it to him during that breathless summer, and his reaction to her chaos and depression, was to be spontaneous and throw her into the harbor so they both ended up laughing. And she was grateful for that and confused that gratefulness for Love at it’s highest form and agreed she’d spend the rest of her life with him.

And then there’s the 25-something chick who finally thought about being responsible, determined not to fall into any more traps or make any more mistakes because the previous one almost killed her (literally). She swears she’ll never be that vulnerable again. She’ll never allow herself to see suicide as the only option. So what does she do? She creates impossible standards so that every man who draws close to her will eventually fall short in the process and she’ll get to reject them, or fight for them to meet them after they give up in realizing they wont, or both.

And here she is now for the first time in 28 years. She sees it clearly. She is a child of God with the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead and entered her life over a decade ago deep in her heart. And she realizes that her relationship with God is the marriage and family she’s always wanted. She’s spilling her guts now. She’s laying it all to bare with the same prayer in mind over and over: search me, break me, send me.

And there’s a new prayer from tonight that goes something like: Christ will knock on the door of your heart- but he’s a gentleman. You have to invite him in. When you reach your hand to the Lord, the Lord recognizes its uniqueness in the 10-digit fingerprints that no other soul possesses. And Satan won’t reach me- not today. Stay the hell away from my marriage and my family in the Lord Christ, my husband and savior for all of the spiritual world.

See God has been there for every high and every low- for every triumph and learning moment- for all the times you feel guilty and seek forgiveness- he was there saying: I love you Jess. I created you. Yes, I know you screwed up, but there’s nothing in the entire universe that would change how much I love you. And for the first time in all of history, a man meant it when he said: I will love you forever.

And I want to love my man the same way-with ever fiber of my soul- I want to return that love I know I’ll fall short of every chance I get. So what could a mortal man do for me? Well, I’m open to options….

Only this time, and for the next 28 years if my breath allows, I will know that I don’t need flesh and blood to echo the kind of Love I’ve always had for every moment on this awful, magnificent, lonely planet.

I need Jesus.