By Desirae Schneider: There are no rules, obligations, or tests to receive grace. It’s freely and unjustifiably given, and that’s what makes it the most radical love there is. When you’ve fallen in a hole, still reeking of the mess you’ve created, and someone looks in and says, “You are loved, you are forgiven, and you matter,” you learn about the true depth of grace.

Two weeks before a friend and I were to move into a duplex together, I caught her making herself throw up.  I remember it like it was yesterday -- she was white and shaky, and it was a fear I’ll never forget. She confessed her demons and made me promise not to tell anyone. Not her dad.  Not our friends. No one.

And I didn’t.

Shortly after moving in together, things got worse. I became consumed with watching for binging and starving behavior. I even counted the food in the pantry and refrigerator. And I watched the sickness consume her gorgeous soul.

I had a deadly poison brewing inside me that I never released to anyone, and my pride told me I could make her better. Instead of confronting my pride, and honoring my friend and my God, I “created” a pen pal for her, to talk to her and give her advice. She came to love him, and eventually became obsessed.

There was warning sign after warning sign that this was a terrible idea. That it was gross and broken and a consuming fire of pride. But I ignored them. I let it develop, because things finally seemed to get better, or what I thought was better.

It’s by far the most disgusting thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

But the day after Christmas that year, everything changed.  My sister was killed in a car accident and my life went numb.  I could barely walk through the molasses of grief, let alone keep up with my friend’s electric personality and the imaginary world I’d created around her.  And so within two weeks, I was backed into a corner and finally confessed.  After that, everything fell apart.

I lost my sister, I lost my best friend (not that I was much of a friend to her), I lost my job, I lost my living arrangements, and I lost my boyfriend.

I lost everything. And I had it coming.

I entered into a desert that would last for two years.  I went to counseling twice a week for months and months.  It took many small victories for me to find solid ground.  And they were the most painful, yet most gracious years of my life.  I learned what God’s grace really is, and I’m still learning every day.

Years later, I’m a totally different person, and the lessons still stand out:

That God could see me stripped of my pride and laying in the muck I created… and still call me His?

That he could reach down into the hole I’d created, and pull me out?

It's still hard to believe sometimes.  But those lessons showed me that God’s grace is limitless – and that I’m loved and beautiful even in my ugliness.  I am utterly thankful for my story; not because of the hurts I created, but because I can show people how deep and wide God’s grace is.

What part of your story are you thankful for?