Note to Reader
This is a twelve month project which aims to bring to light the individual pain experienced by young women and to show how their unique stories make them who they are. We ask you to feel with an open heart and respect their stories.
I realized that forgiving isn’t permitting.
So I was thinking okay, I can keep carrying this and being really miserable, or I can decide to go all in and try this out. I can remember just kind of laying it down to God and just saying, “Okay, here’s my whole heart this time, I need You to take it all. I have a full understanding of what happened, what’s going on, and I just need You to take it.” And I felt this release. And I’d love to say since that moment that I’ve never dealt with anger or bitterness ever again, but we’re human. It was something I had to walk through, I had to forgive family members, and I finally got to a point where I realized that forgiving isn’t permitting. Forgiving someone is releasing them to let God take over, it wasn’t saying what happened was right, it was saying that it was out of my control but if I hold onto this it will hurt me even more.
I love the quote, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.” And that’s what I realized I had done for so long. Yes, the abuse was wrong but I was still being a victim to that abuse even after it had stopped. I would still be playing it in my mind and I would get angry and bitter. So I had to say, “It’s done. God took care of it on the cross, not just for my sins and for me to have a good life after I die, but for now, on this earth.” I just had to release it to Him and once I released that, I was able to walk through true wholeness, healing, and walk it out. I have to constantly say, “No, I’m not a victim, I’m victorious.” God has restored me. He is a Redeemer in every aspect of the word. It was a process and there are still times when I have to remember my identity. I went through the pain but I’m not a victim anymore.
My past doesn’t dictate my future.
People say, “Oh, you were a victim of abuse,” but once you really come to a full understanding of who my God is, you’ll see that I’m not a victim. My past doesn’t dictate my future. And I love that God took my pain to the cross with Him. He saw that little girl and He saw what she was going to go through, and He knew that He had a better plan for her. And some people don’t come into that knowledge of knowing that they can be free from their past. They don’t have to let their past dictate their future and be miserable. So it was a choice I had to make. I could always bring this baggage with me, I could always use this as a crutch, or treat it as a cross to bear. But no! That’s discounting what God did on the cross for me! If I take this on as my identity, I'm saying that what God did on the cross for me isn’t big enough, isn’t good enough. So I had to decide that the abuse isn’t my identity, my identity is in Christ. This happened to me, and I can’t choose what will happen to me, but I can choose my answer. So how am I going to answer to this situation?
I love that God takes your problem and He makes it a platform. Because working with teenagers and young women, I’ve had a chance to look them in the face and say, “No, I do know what you are going through.” It’s one thing to say, “I’m so sorry that happened to you,” but to then be able to say, “I know exactly how you feel, I’ve been in your shoes, and there’s hope. You are going to get through this and I’ll help you.” It’s just really cool that God takes what you saw as shameful, dirty, and horrible, and God gives you a voice to say, “Nope, this happened to me but look at the redemption!” That’s just so cool! Because I remember thinking I could never tell anyone, that people would look at me different, and then getting to a point to talk to girls who have been where I was. So it’s so cool to just take a step back and see if you really give it to God what He’ll do with it.
It’s one of those things where if I could go back and changes things I would, I wouldn’t want that to happen to anyone, but at the same time I know that God works in every situation. He didn’t cause that thing to happen, there is sin in the world, and mean people in the world, and hurt people hurt people. So it was one of those things where I look back now and can see that He restored it, He redeemed it, and He’s given me a voice through all of it. So I guess that has brought me to where I am now, that I’m not a victim, I’m victorious. Now I can use this pain to be a voice to the voiceless; for those who don’t know what to do or don’t want to share it with anyone. I’ve gone on mission trips and shared my story and girls have come up to me crying and saying, “I didn’t know this happened in America!” They thought that they were alone in their country, but no, it’s sad to say this happens everywhere. So to get to see people walk through healing, it’s like, “Okay, Lord, I didn’t want to go through that but thank You that You redeemed it so I can get healing for myself but then help someone else find healing too.”
Who am I now? I’m a child of God, I’m a wife, a mother, and a people-lover. I do love people, and I’ve always loved people, but then after going through something that caused a lot of pain, to love people and to see past their actions and ask, “What have they gone through that has maybe brought them to where they are in life?” I just really love people.
One of my favorite words to describe God is that He is the Redeemer. It’s not just that He redeemed my sin and now I’m going to go to Heaven, but God doesn’t do things half way, He’s all in. I love the verse that says He came so that we can have life and life more abundantly. Because I could’ve kept living and it would have been a fine life, but God said He had something more for me. So I think the common thread in my life is that God has something more. Not just in this pain but other times in my life when He has reminded me that He has something more. He is the Redeemer, He redeems situations, He redeems relationships, and He’ll redeem you. So knowing that God has something more, He doesn’t just leave you alone so you can be stagnate, He always has something better. It just takes trusting in Him, which can be scary at times. But I think that’s the thread that He is the Redeemer and He is the God of more. He has more for my life.
I could’ve kept living and it would have been a fine life, but God said He had something more for me.
I do think that for awhile I thought my story was too shameful and not something to share with everyone. And it’s still something I’m very choosy about when I share it and who I share it with. So I used to think that my worth wasn’t quite as much, I thought I was damaged goods because of what I had gone through. I thought I had to navigate through those things, but it’s all about where is the worth based. It is based in who I am, my identity, is it based in what I have to give, is it based in what people see in me. Because ultimately it doesn’t matter what I see in myself or what others see in me, it’s what God saw and sees in me. So I constantly have to remind myself of this. There are days when you wake up and you just don’t feel like you’re worth it, and it could be about a job, a relationship, or whatever. Sometimes I have to remind myself that, “Obviously, Jesus thought I was to die for! So I’m worth it.” I think working with teenagers, if you don’t make the cut, if you don’t look a certain way, if you don’t have a certain amount of money, or a certain amount of followers on social media, you just don’t have the worth, you don’t have what people want. And that’s one of those things where I’m thankful to the Lord for putting me in a position to speak to those lies.
At the end of the day you take away your social media followers, your car, your clothes, your house, what worth is there still? And I know my worth. I know my worth regardless of what my bank account may say or what kind of car I drive. So I think there is so much worth based on all of the things that are fading, all the things that are passing away, and none of those things bring happiness. When I was in my darkest pain, I had a lot of friends, I had a good family, and all sorts of things, but none of that helped, none of that made me fill fulfilled. It was when I finally realized where my worth came from and Who gave me my worth, that’s when I was fulfilled and knew I had beauty. When I realized those temporary things can pass away and at the end of the day Jesus still loves me.
I do think the scars and pain make me beautiful because I love the story of restoration and redemption. So seeing that story of Christ’s love for us, that He wants more for us, it’s just beautiful. There are parts of stories that are ugly, hard to see, hard to watch, and hard to hear, but then when you get to the end and you see the restoration, the redemption, and the hope, it’s all weaved in and tied together. So I do think that what I walked through, though I wouldn’t choose them or wish them on someone else, but when I can take a step back and see what God has done through that story, what someone meant for harm that the Lord has used to bring freedom to others. The times where I felt awkward or ashamed about my story, the Lord has showed me that it is worth it. You know I don’t want eyes on me when I share my story, but to see a girl come up crying and say, “I didn’t think others felt this or I haven’t told anyone I went through that,” then it’s like, “Okay, God, it was all worth it!” It was worth it to see freedom brought to one person! Which is what the cross did for us! Christ died on the cross for that one person!
I couldn’t have a story without Jesus.
One of my biggest things is you can’t choose what happens to you but you can choose how you answer. There are a lot of things that people can do to hurt us and there are a lot of things that people can do that we feel take away our worth, our beauty, our validation as a person, but at the end of the day it’s not about who we are but about Whose we are. I couldn’t have a story without Jesus. It would be a story of a lot of sadness and bitterness, but with Jesus I was able to find that there was something more. So to those reading this, Jesus has something more. Whether you’ve gone through something little or something big, God always has something more for us and there’s always hope in Him.
I can remember the first time I shared my story. I was eighteen, on a mission trip, and I was shaking, thinking it was bad or a mistake. It was at a girls home in Jamaica, I remember seeing girls crying, and I thought, “Okay, God, I guess if this is something that You want me to share at times then I guess I’ll share it.” So there are times when I have to decide that I could share this story and it could bring hope and healing to someone, or I could just be quiet and not share it and someone could miss out on the same healing I received. So ultimately it’s just weighing it out and knowing that other people could find healing is worth it. To have a moment of shyness and vulnerability is worth it for others to find healing.
I think this has been fun. It was a fun experience and a fun platform to say, “Hey! Everyone has a story and gone through pain at some time!” So this was definitely fun!