What is having strength to you? The definition of strength is the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure. Sometimes it is hard to determine what strength we have, and how much hurt and pain we can withstand. For Lelyn Stewart, a Swainsboro native, God’s grace and will has become so much more to her through the trial and tribulations of being a teenager and blossoming into a young professional.
Stewart has always had a relationship with God. He has always been present and has played a role into who she is. “Growing up I went to church. I remember my parents helping build my childhood church. Some of my fondest memories are in church,” she explained.
Since she was a young girl, Stewart always remembered actively attending church with her family but for a while died out because of not finding the right “home.”
“At a young age, my family and I were very active members in church, but when I got older, we weren’t for various reasons. In middle school and high school, I would go to youth groups, but my family and myself did not have a church to call home. My family visited several churches but didn’t find one that we felt like was home. Finally, when I was in college, and we visited Nunez Baptist quite a few times. Just this past year, we became members there.”
Fast forward to Stewart’s junior year at Swainsboro High School, she was invited to attend a youth trip called MOVE. On this trip, Stewart had a moment where she knew that it was time, and she was ready to give her life to Christ. “The band Rend Collective was playing, and they called lost people to give their life to Christ. I felt a sensation in my body telling me I need to confess that God lives in my heart. At that moment, I decided I was giving my life to Christ,” said Stewart.
When Stewart came back from MOVE, she was once surrounded by people who were on fire for God and returning to a reality called high school. “Coming back from the MOVE conference was definitely the scariest times of my life. You come back on this what they call a “Jesus High.” You have been surrounded by nothing but God’s goodness and are ready to live your life for the Lord, but then you are put back out into the world full of sin and temptation. Within the next four weeks of being home, my world as a teenager felt like it was falling around me.”
Everything seemed to be falling apart. She was constantly being bullied for who she was and not being the “party girl.” She was being bullied for her weight and as well for being the “teacher’s pet.” Stewart just couldn’t catch a break from the negative outside forces weighing in. A relationship she had been in over a year crumbled into pieces while she received news from a best friend that rocked her world.
“At this point, at 16-years-old, I felt like my entire world was falling apart before my eyes right after I had given my life to God. I felt like God had left me. One night driving home from dance, I felt extremely depressed. I decided I had enough.” Then, Stewart made a decision that she wanted to end her life right then and there in the moment, she was going to wreck her car.
As Stewart was going jerk the wheel of her car, she heard God’s voice. He said to her, “What are you doing? You are loved.” After hearing the Lord’s voice, she decided to not go through with her plan.
It wasn’t until a year later that Stewart decided to tell her family and others. “I have Romans 5:8 tattooed on my ribs as a daily reminder. The verse states, ‘But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ It reminds me that God loves us even at our darkest times. God is truly the one who helped me overcome my struggles.”
Today, Stewart continues her walk with God. “With the right mindset and surrounding yourself with people who encourage your walk is how I continue to my walk with God. I’m not saying my walk has been a straight path, but I try to keep my eyes on Him.”
Stewart is now a teacher and even though she is not allowed to teach her faith to her students, she tries to exemplify how God wants us to treat one another by showing it through her own actions.