Brennan shared openly about his ­forty-​­year struggle with alcoholism and many of the ways he destroyed his life. But he reiterated again and again that as humans we must find our identity in something greater than ­ourselves—​­something that cannot be taken away.

I didn’t find the answer until I was very broken over the direction my life was heading in college. Actually, that is an understatement. My life seemed to fall apart. My freshman year at Vanderbilt, I went to the hospital with alcohol poisoning. I finally realized that it wasn’t just an “Oops, I didn’t eat enough” or “I didn’t pay attention to how much I ­drank”—​­there was something deeper behind that night. On the exterior, I was just another freshman who partied hard, studied like a maniac, and kissed a few guys. But after the music stopped and I was alone with my thoughts, I was miserable. I felt like someone had scooped out my insides. I started drinking ­more—​­and hurting myself in other ­ways—​­to try to quiet the volume of my thoughts. For me, it took waking up in a hospital emergency room with a cross doctor shaking his finger in my face to realize something needed to change.

I avoided alcohol thinking that would “fix” me, but to no avail. I didn’t just have a drinking problem or a moderation problem. As determined as I was to figure it out without a God I had sworn off, my worth couldn’t be pieced back together by even my most valiant efforts. I needed more. I surrendered to the notion we were never meant to walk through all the pain of life alone. Life didn’t work without God.

It was hard for me to come to this realization because I always felt condemned by religious people, and I didn’t want to dress modestly or kiss dating ­good-​­bye. When I was in high school, I told God I would never be a Christian because he allowed such terrible things to happen to me and Christians were boring, frumpy, and went to bed at 9 p.m. Would I have to attend prayer meetings and use words like sanctification, accountability, and submission? Would I need to be educated on issues like predestination and women in church leadership or swear allegiance to some ­big-​­name pastor? I loved dancing and alcohol and short skirts and cute ­guys—​­how could I ever be a Christian? What I discovered changed everything for me. When you compare who Jesus really is with who Christian culture tells us he is, you might discover the two are quite different. Jesus spent the majority of his time on earth with nobodies and prostitutes and others who were considered ­outcasts—​­and he really didn’t spend much time around “church people.”

The message of Jesus is that everyone has profound worth, and neither sleeping with every man who gives you attention, nor lying, nor hatred of others, nor divorce, nor a failed ­career—​­and certainly not poor dating ­decisions—​­can take it away. As it turns out, God accepts short ­skirt–​­wearing sorority girls just as much as he does missionaries or those who have perfect dating track records. I found the acceptance and purpose my soul was longing for and began a relationship with God. He gave me hope in a hopeless world.

Regardless of where you stand spiritually, the truth is each of us holds intrinsic worth. If you believe what popular culture says, we are merely made up of our accomplishments and ­relationships—​­but that feels devastating to me. Then rejection and hookups define us. And all the demons from our past void us of worth. But Jesus declares that you, dear sister, are deeply, thoroughly, and fully worth loving. Not because of your promises to never allow another man to treat you with disrespect or your courage to end a bad ­relationship—​­but because of who created you.