There are certain things I know; things I know with assurance. I know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28) I know that I love God. I know that he called me many years ago with purpose and in promise. I know, rely on and rest in the truth that God is not Man, so he does not lie. That he is not human, so he does not change His mind. God has never spoken and failed to act or promised and not carried it through. (Num. 23:19)
Nearly two years ago, I completed 10 months in a faith based rehabilitation, Christian discipleship program. It was, and is, a place where God moves mightily and daily. What follows is a story of my life and pieces of my journey. More importantly, it is the telling of God’s grace and power to save. This was written soon after my departure from my place of healing. It is my introduction to today.
I’m 30 years old and, while I was raised in Northern Vermont, I am most recently from Dallas Texas. I’m the second oldest in a family of 6 children. While I was fortunate to be raised in what was, for all intents and purposes, a Christian home my childhood memories are limited and most of those I do have are not fondly recalled.
When I was 7, a local 14 year old boy from a troubled home came to live with my family. Chris would be the first in my memory to rape me, beginning a cycle of sexual abuse that would last for seven years, ending with my father when I was 14.
Growing up, my parents were always involved in one church or another. It wasn’t uncommon during these years of my mothers search for her own answers to switch churches, denominations and sometimes even religions without notice. My mother was generally involved in the ministry, leading womens groups and Sunday School. God was discussed, known and available but, in light of my life at home and the continuing search for what was truth, He seemed vague and disinterested at best. Still, inwardly hurting, angry, and rebellious, and while our home steadily deteriorated – outwardly and in public we all presented as the perfect Christian family, well trained to perform our roles.
At 14 I was still living with two of my abusers and unable to discuss either the abuse or a subsequent suicide attempt with anyone in or outside of my home. With so many younger siblings, sharing what had happened to me with anyone, even a counselor, would be asking the the state to step in and divide our family. I understood the reasons butI grew increasingly resentful toward what I viewed as the decision to sacrifice my well being for the “greater good”.
At the age of 17 I made a personal commitment to Christ and, following in the footsteps of my mother, began involvement in leadership. About this same time I also began experimenting with marijuana. The double minded standards I had perfected as a child flourished in my adult years – with every forward step in Christ followed by a deeper plummet into the world of alcohol and drugs. By the age of 23 I had spent time as a worship leader and a children’s pastor and begun to struggle with bouts of addiction that included marijuana, alcohol and ecstasy.
After a time, the initial fulfillment I had found in church began to wear. Without knowing enough to build my life on a relationship with Jesus and move toward healing, I instead looked for an answer to ending the pain that grew within. In time, I became disillusioned enough to walk away from the church entirely, confused about who it is that I was, nevermind God.
At 23 I moved to Dallas, Texas and by 27 I was fully immersed in addiction and depression. For three years I bounced from bar job to bar job and from relationship to relationship. I was continuing to search for something, anything, to find myself, fulfillment and relief from my hurt. On the surface I seemed well maintained. I was living the single girl dream of life in the big city. I had a closet full of designer labels, a great place, a ton of friends. Everything society told me I needed. The truth was, I was slowly coming undone. I began to use cocaine on a regular, and mostly daily, basis. My alcoholism worsened until I was experiencing nightly black outs and intermittent bursts of violence. I was arrested twice on alcohol and drug related charges. I partied as hard as I could for as many hours and days as I could. It wasn’t about searching for the way up anymore – I was looking for the way out. I gave up on the struggle to find and understand God in the midst of my chaos. I stopped fighting to overcome an eating disorder that was threatening to destroy me. I no longer recognized the girl in the mirror. I craved the finality of death and pressed toward it with a passion that overruled anything else.
Late in March of 2008, I woke up in the middle of the night in the bunk of an 18-wheeler driving through the Texas countryside. I had no idea where I was or where I was headed. I didn’t know who the man driving the truck was or even how I had come to be inside of it. To this day, the last thing I remember from that day was sharing Easter dinner with a friend and his family. Finally I was ready to accept that I needed help. I called my mother back home in Vermont and my family made arrangements for me to go into treatment at a Christian center outside of New York City, the Walter Hoving Home.
For me, this was the first step towards my redemption in Christ and the beginning of my journey toward healing. Looking back over the things I have done and the places I have put myself, the protecting hand of God becomes so clearly evident. For ten enviable months I was able to learn firsthand about the grace God offers freely, His endless faithfulness, mercy and provision. After a lifetime of wounded hurt and confusion, struggling through everything to find love, I have been able to accept – to truly embrace and know – the unconditional love of God that I can do nothing to earn and nothing to lose.
Most importantly, I have been liberated from the confines, tradition and hollow legalism of ‘religion’ and learned the beauty that is my relationship with Jesus Christ. I had a lot to unlearn. Faith is so simple and yet so very hard to give in to. I chose at first to believe and trust and watched as my God came alive in my life. In the last ten months, without income, I have truly wanted or needed for any one thing. I live in a place of trusted commitment with God that I never before thought possible (or even desirable), knowing that only He has the power to affect lasting and real change.
Today I am poised on the brink of rebuilding all that I gave up and allowed to be stolen from me. I have been set free from the addictions that tormented me for so many years. I am winning the fight against an eating disorder. I have learned to allow God’s love to heal wounds that I thought never to be rid of. I have never before been so joy filled, at peace and excited to see the future. I know the girl in the mirror today, I am grateful for everyday that I live and breathe.
I am loved.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any power, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”