Searching For Your Satisfaction
By: Hannah Emerson
“Harder sacrifices and surrender have since come along, but God’s grace and kindness have always been there to meet me with patience and open arms.”
Time for another guest blog entry! Next up: Hannah Emerson.
I first met Hannah at an acting studio we were both attending. After discovering we had so much in common, we quickly became friends and ended up having a weekly bible study together to motivate each other through Christ.
Here is her story:
I grew up in the faith and accepted Christ as a small child. I always loved the Lord, but I never knew how to make my faith my own. I saw a genuine faith in my parents throughout my childhood, especially my father, and always knew that being a Christian carried a lot more weight than just salvation. But throughout high school, I had some negative experiences with youth group that began to sour my impression of the church and took some college level courses that caused me to question a lot of what I believed. Was there really a God? Did He really create everything? Could there be only one road to heaven? I have always been an optimist with an analytical side, and it scared me to question everything I had grown up knowing. Fast forward a bit, and I ended up foregoing the college I had committed to study musical theatre at in Nashville to move to Los Angeles after high school. Growing up a theatre nerd, California had never really been on my radar; I had always seen myself moving to New York City. But the summer after graduation, door after door began to open out west so I said goodbye to my life in north Texas and crammed my life in a U-Haul to find my part of it all. (Title of Show, anyone?) I set out to pursue a career in music and acting, working as a barista to pay rent - doing the typical La La Land thing. My dad moved with me for the first month to help me transition, and with the few connections we had, helped me find a Bible study and a church to check out. I objectively knew that I needed to find a community of believers around me if I wanted to survive on my own. I think part of me wanted to “do my part” for the Lord so that He would bless my career, though I would never have admitted that. I did love the Lord and wanted to have that authentic relationship I had seen so beautifully exhibited in my dad’s life, but I still wasn’t sure how to prioritize it, address the questions I still had, or surrender my own hopes and dreams for myself. I am an all-in kind of person, and I didn’t want to keep playing “Christian” if it wasn’t where my heart was.
In the fall of 2012, I walked into a Bible Study on a studio lot and encountered Jesus like I never had before. I heard about His love for me in a new way. It was personal, not just the general “for God so loved the world” chant that I could have quoted in my sleep. I began to attend that study on a weekly basis and met some incredible women who loved the Lord so genuinely. They took me in like a little sister; never talking down to me, but affectionately answering my questions and encouraging me to keep seeking. I also found a home church, the first church I ever went to in LA, just a handful of weeks after moving. At the same time, I was also making some terrible decisions in other aspects of my life, more out of a sheer desire to do something stupid than anything. I have no oppressive parents or trauma to blame for this season of my life; it was more that I wanted to know what the other side of things looked like, having lived on one side of a line my whole life. I think there was a part of me also resisting the change that was beginning to take place in my heart through the Word of God; a spiritual extinction burst, so to speak.
A lot of these poor decisions were made in the guy department, and I’ll never forget how clearly and gently God spoke into that. There was one night when I was driving to go meet a guy I was seeing and these words just came into my mind: “What are you doing?” Simple as that. It freaked me out a bit. And I wanted to reply, “Nothing...” But then there it was again: “What are you doing?” The words went on, “Stop it. I have someone for you. Don’t ruin this.”
I wish I could say I turned around and went home after that. But I didn’t. I continued to make choices that hurt more than just myself for the next couple of months. But I couldn’t shake that encounter. Had God told me that He had a husband for me? Did that mean in, like, ten years or what? I ended up writing a song after that to my future husband called “Perfectly Imperfectly.” The chorus of that song goes, “I believe that you’ll find me. I believe that you’ll love me perfectly imperfectly.”
I love romance - I always dreamed of having a love story that rivaled Elizabeth Bennett, but to me, the career that I wanted and marriage were borderline mutually exclusive things. But God told me He was going to satisfy that desire, so surely there was a way.
Like I said, I was leading a bit of a double life in this season - going to Bible study on Thursdays, getting drunk on the weekends. My work made it difficult to attend church on Sundays, so my time in the Word and around believers was primarily through this Bible study. In fact, I had stopped going to my home church for almost six months. There was finally one night at the study where I just gave up. I didn’t want to keep talking out of both sides of my mouth. I wanted to be all in. And I asked God to help me. Two weeks out of the month we would have worship, and that night happened to be a worship week. It was a very simple set-up - just a speaker playing a few mp3s. They usually did somewhat cheesy renditions of older worship songs; that night it happened to be “Draw Me Close To You” by Michael W. Smith. Simple as it was, it was one of the most powerful nights of worship I had ever experienced. That song became my prayer: “Draw me close to You. Never let me go. I’d lay it all down again to hear You say that I’m Your friend. You are my desire; no one else will do. Because nothing else could take Your place, to feel the warmth of Your embrace. Help me find the way, and bring me back to You. You’re all I want. You’re all I’ve ever needed. You’re all I want. Help me know You are near.”
As I drove home that night through the winding Hollywood Hills on Laurel Canyon Blvd, all I could get out was “Lord, I need You. I NEED You. I really, really NEED YOU.” It was that night that the Lord made it so clear to me that I was not going to find satisfaction in anything but Him. The career of my dreams wasn’t going to be it for me. The man of my dreams wasn’t going to be it for me. It was going to be HIM. He would be all the portion I needed.
I ended up going back home to Texas for a couple of weeks after that. I knew that when I came back to LA, things were going to change. I was going to take my faith seriously - it wasn’t just a religion anymore. As I spent some of that time in prayer and healing, I felt the Lord prompting me to go back to church. I had my marching orders. When I got back to LA, it was time to make a change.
My first Sunday back at the church I had started going to was the day that a certain gentleman walked up to me and asked, “You’re Hannah, right?” I had met him briefly when I first started going the previous fall, and he remembered me. In fact, he had been looking for me ever since I had stopped attending five months earlier.
Well that man is now my husband and has been the answer to desires of my heart I never even knew I had. The rest of our story is one for another day, but I am so grateful for the path of singular pursuance that God set me on that day. It’s been four years, and I haven’t looked back. Harder sacrifices and surrender have since come along, but God’s grace and kindness have always been there to meet me with patience and open arms. He has astounded me time and time again with His faithfulness.
My life looks nothing like I thought it would. I definitely did not move to Los Angeles from Dallas, Texas with the intention of marrying a pastor at twenty-one. If anything, I was probably fleeing from a life like that. But here’s what is so cool: when you delight yourself in the Lord, He fulfills the desires of your heart. In my case, it was desires I wasn’t even aware that I had, but each gift of His grace has brought me a deeper satisfaction and contentment in Him. He knows my true self much better than I do.