Gabrielle’s Personal Battle with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
After being diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, high-school student Gabrielle found comfort with members of the Young Life organization. She found purpose and motivation through her renewed spiritual connection.
“Right after I got diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and figured out I could not play volleyball, I truly was devastated. I felt like I was missing out on something beyond myself, and it was one of the worst feelings in the world. I knew God was there, but I was not happy with Him.
I had grown up going to PSR (Catholic Sunday school) and had always heard that God loved me from my parents, but I was still pretty mad at Him for punishing me- an innocent Christian- for doing nothing wrong. I always played by the rules (or at least I thought I did). I got good grades, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t do “bad stuff.”
I remember hearing about Young Life in the beginning of the year, and thought it sounded okay, but I had volleyball every night and didn’t have the time to go to YL events and do my homework after practice or a game. Now that I wasn’t playing volleyball I really had no excuse not to go except I knew nothing about it.
One day my best friend Lydia and I were at my twin brother’s YMCA basketball game when a senior girl from my high school walked up to us. Terrified because we were just freshmen and she was a senior, we watched as she plopped down next to us and began to ask if we went to Liberty High School. She explained that her name was Madeline, and she assumed we were freshmen so she came over to talk to us. Confusing, right? Why would a senior girl care about some random freshmen? After that day Madeline began reaching out to us and eventually invited me to Young Life. She had been friends with a Junior girl Mallory, who happened to be the daughter of some of my parent’s closest friends. Because my parents knew Mallory, they allowed me to go to my first Young Life club with two senior girls (something any freshmen would be incredibly excited to do). I remember feeling so cool that two upperclassmen wanted to hang out with me, and even better genuinely wanted to get to know me.
The rest was history. I began attending Young Life club meetings on Mondays where we played fun games and sang and watched funny skits, and Campaigners on Wednesdays where we dove into the bible and had real conversations about who Jesus was and what He meant for our lives. My sophomore year I even joined a small group led by one of my awesome leaders Ruthy. Throughout the rest of high school I continued to go to Young Life every week. When I was able, I attended events such as Fall Weekend and camp, times I can truly say were some of the best of my life. I still struggled immensely with my health problems, and even ended up missing over 100 days of school my junior year and my senior year. Throughout those years though, I found comfort and fellowship through the opened armed community of Young Life. I learned how to make lasting relationships with people, not the crappy friendships you make in high school just because it’s convenient. I was loved so well by the leaders and the older kids around me in a way I had never experienced. No one there cared if I played a sport or if I missed almost every morning of school. I found myself feeling motivated to get out of the house on days when my body was in pain, and even better, I found myself learning more about God then I ever had before. Young Life taught me that a relationship with God is something that is personal. Being in a relationship with God is a living, occurring thing.
The way my Young Life leaders and fellow peers in YL treated me was such a good representation of this crazy love. We are all called to the mission of loving others and spreading the good news of God’s truth. Although no human will ever come close to loving me as much as God, the way I have been loved through Young Life is such a picture of the way God wants us all to love. Yes, Young Life has flaws, as does every single person or organization on this earth, but it brought me closer to God and brought me friendships that I can truly call eternal. I am currently in training to become a Young Life leader at a high school, so I can hopefully impact kids through Young Life just as it impacted me. When I look back on my freshmen year of high school and my anger towards God, I laugh a little at His irony. The best thing that ever happened to me was getting diagnosed with EDS, because without it, I never would have been able to attend Young Life and learn what it truly meant to follow the Lord.” “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
If you would like to get involved or learn more about Young Life, please visit www.younglife.org
Gabrielle’s new-found friends and renewed faith are helping her through the struggles that she will face with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
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