Aleesia Isom once found her identity in being a student athlete. After being injured during her senior year of high school, she followed through on her plan to run track at the University of California’s Davis campus. But track wasn’t as rewarding as it had once been.
“It just wasn’t in my heart anymore,” Aleesia said. “I couldn’t make that commitment. And I just didn’t want to run anymore.”
Without the thing that had defined her for so many years, Aleesia was left reeling.
“I was completely lost,” she said. “And the girls in the dorm just went out and partied all the time. I found my identity in that because I so badly wanted acceptance from people.”
Aleesia’s search for validation didn’t end there.
“Temporarily [affirmation] came through alcohol, but I was so desperate to find full satisfaction I would do anything, so I turned to men,” she said. “I thrived off of the attention I received from them and became sexually active. I went from man to man, giving them my body and trying to make them like me.”
Aleesia moved to Texas after her mom got a new job in Plano. She transferred to the University of North Texas, got her own place and continued searching for significance.
“I met this guy and the next weekend, I was like ‘Well just come over,’” she recalled. “And he came over and he brought his friends with him.”
Although Aleesia was annoyed about the guy bringing his friends to her apartment, she later ran into one of them – Dominique – in what she now describes as a divinely orchestrated meeting.
“I was just walking to the bus stop. I remember thinking, ‘Oh it’s such a beautiful day out. I’m just going to go out and enjoy it.’ I was walking to the bus stop and ran into him,” Aleesia said.
They exchanged phone numbers and became friends.
“I just remember thinking, ‘There’s something different about him,’ because every man that would be in my life only wanted stuff from me,” Aleesia said.
Their friendship formed during a particularly hard season in Aleesia’s life.
“By this point I was completely broken….There had been so much to happen between my parents’ marriage and my ex-boyfriend,” she said. “I was just ready to give up. I remember telling [Dominique] ‘I just need to become a better person.’ He was like, ‘Oh, so how do you plan on doing that?’”
Aleesia didn’t have an answer. But Dominique not only took opportunities to share his faith with her but also introduced her to his Christian friends.
“They were talking about the gospel, and I couldn’t understand anything that they said. I just remember little things they would say like, ‘If Jesus came back right now, I’m 100% sure I’m going to heaven.’ And I remember thinking to myself, ‘That’s not me at all. I can’t say that.’”
“After that, [Dominique] was walking us back to our apartments and he was like ‘So when are you going to open your Bible?’ And he kept asking me that every week.”
Aleesia had never been to church before. Her only experience with the Bible was in high school when she attended the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Although they talked about Scripture, Aleesia said she couldn’t understand what the people around her were saying, so she figured it wasn’t important.
She tried to convince Dominique that she didn’t have time to read the Bible because she had finals to study for. However, he persisted.
“He was like ‘Read something out of Romans and text me something you learn.’ I didn’t even have [a Bible]. But I didn’t want him to know that,” she laughed. “So I looked on the Internet for the Bible and read it. I Googled ‘Romans,’ and it popped up.”
In God’s providence, Aleesia read Romans 8:6: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
When she told Dominique what she had read, his excitement surprised her. “I felt satisfied because he was giving me attention. I was like ‘You’re really changing my life.’ And he was like ‘No. That’s God,’” she said.
“The Lord truly gave me the Holy Spirit then because I bawled….It was like, the Lord knows me. I was aware that there was some relationship between He and I,” she said.
Although Aleesia believes that’s when the Lord granted her faith, she thought being a Christian meant she had to be perfect.
“So for me, that was not having sex,” Aleesia said. “My ex-boyfriend and I got together, and we fell back into it so easily. I felt like I wasn’t a Christian anymore. And Dominique was like, ‘That’s the gospel! That’s why Jesus came and died – because we’re not perfect!’”
And, for the first time, Aleesia got it. Dominique invited her to go to The Village’s Denton campus with him.
“I kept going. I kept reading the Bible and going to Bible studies. It all started to click,” Aleesia said.“I’m learning God uses all things to work together for good. He used every hardship in my life to strip away my idols and bring me to the point of complete surrender,” she said. “He had to take my own father away so I could accept my real God and become His daughter first.”
Though she was growing in the Lord, Aleesia found herself idolizing Dominique and doing things for his approval. However, Dominique graduated and moved back to his hometown.
“The Lord had to take him out of my life. We still talked, but He actually had to move him to a different state so that I could just be alone, be single and make this my own walk, my own salvation, my own personal relationship with the Lord.”
Earlier this year, Aleesia was baptized. Her relationship with her earthly father has also been restored.
“In the second year of my walk, I’ve just really been focused on the Lord, growing intimately with Him,” Aleesia said.
The fruit of the Spirit continues to grow in Aleesia’s life, right before her eyes. She sees forgiveness, peace and joy changing her heart. She is content to be defined by God – His and His alone.