I was 15 when I started down the road that led to partying, alcohol, drugs, immoral sexual relationships, abortion, and rape. What caused me to choose substance abuse and to "look for love in all the wrong places?"
Was it alcohol abuse passed down from previous generations? Was it a father who did not express words of love and affirmation that I desperately needed? Was it a message from the culture that my primary value was my sexuality? Was it the lack of relationship with the living God that caused me to seek "secondary realities"?
I attended university because of the urging of a high school teacher. After university my husband and I married after four years of living together. We’ve been married 25 years and have three amazing children. I gave my life to the Lord when my middle child was about four years old. One of the things I realized right away was that my heavenly Father is nothing like any earthly father. Eventually, God revealed to my heart His Father’s love for me. I took a step to forgive my earthly father for his lack of affection, understanding that although he loved me, he couldn’t give me what he didn’t have.
It was a huge step toward healing to be able to tell my dad I loved him and to hear the words from his mouth, “I love you, too, sweetie. I always have.” I also asked my dad to forgive me for dishonoring him in my youth, and we began to develop a closer relationship.
Having children made me begin to examine my story. How much do I tell them about my past? Do I wait for them to ask? Am I being a hypocrite by telling them to stay away from drugs, alcohol, and sex outside of marriage when I didn’t? Is it okay to keep secrets? Being a follower of Christ also made me examine my story.
Looking back, I realized that every time I had gotten high or drunk or slept with a guy, I had wounded myself. That prompted me to begin a healing process that involved getting my past into the light with the help of the Holy Spirit and faithful, trustworthy counselors.
By casting off ungodly beliefs, renewing my mind, breaking off family curses, and rebuking unwelcome “guests”, I removed layer after layer of hurt in my body, emotions, and spirit that had come through abortion, sex partners, substance abuse, and dishonoring my parents.
I knew that as a follower of Jesus Christ I had been made new. By the shedding of His blood on the cross, my sin had been removed from me as far as the east is from the west, and I had been made as white as snow. However, I had to learn to appropriate in my life what He had done on the cross. Even though I worked through a lot of the pain, for years I struggled with regret over what I had done. My regret was so strong that I wished my past had never happened. Only by God’s grace was I able to embrace my past, recognizing that without it, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
However, the shame remained. In fact, although I don’t remember the circumstances, I can clearly hear my mother exclaiming, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” I used to marvel at women in the church who could talk about their abortions so openly and men in the church who could talk about their hippie days so willingly. How could I ever get to the point where I could share my buried secrets with anyone, especially since I’d kept them from my family?
I thank God that the shame, too, is now a part of my past. Jim Anderson, author of Unmasked: Exposing the Cultural Sexual Assault, visited my church and shared a revelation of God’s true design for men and women. Jim explained that, by Divine design, women want and deserve to be treated as princesses. Unfortunately, women in our culture are taught to define themselves sexually. Through a physical relationship with a man, women hope that a safe, loving relationship will develop. That is exactly the message of the culture that I had heard and adopted, and I easily identified with Jim’s explanation.
I attended Jim’s evening meeting for teens and young adults as well as his daytime seminar for parents. In the evening meeting, while Jim’s daughter prayed for me, God called attention to a secret treasure deep within me. I sensed God saying that the treasure was buried because I would not let it be drawn out. I willingly gave the Lord permission to draw that secret treasure out. As Jim drew his seminar to a close the following day, he called forth women whom God had healed from the culture’s sexual assault, women whom God could use to help others.
Jim’s petition spoke to my heart, as I had often wondered if God would use me to comfort other women with the comfort I had received from Him. That raised the following question: How can I comfort others if my story is kept secret, and how can I share my story if I do not first share it with my children?
On Mother’s Day, 2011, I asked my family to join me around the kitchen table for a “talk.” I had felt prompting from the Lord and sensed the time was right to share my story with my children. I trusted God would give me words to say, and I did not need to fear the reactions of my children. I did not share every detail, but enough so that God drew forth that “secret treasure.” The whole experience was not what I had envisioned while I was still in the grasp of shame. I gave them permission to share my story with someone else if they needed to talk it out, and I asked them for permission to share my story with others.
My younger son told me with deep emotion that he didn’t judge me and could see how God could use me to pray for girls who are struggling like I did.
That comment was straight from the heart of God, and I thanked Him for showing Himself faithful. My daughter expressed the thought that because I had told her about the abortion earlier and we had both already cried together, the rest of the story didn’t surprise her. In fact, she recognizes that my story is somehow part of her story. Later in the evening, my other son took me to an orchid plant and pointed out a tightly-closed, ugly bud, a bud that was beginning to open. He then showed me a fully opened flower. Just as that tightly closed bud turned into a beautiful flower, God had turned my sin and disgrace into beauty. By God’s grace, my children see that I used to be that young sinner full of pain, but now I enjoy the fullness of who God has made me to be.
How true it is that when we live in the light we have fellowship with others! As I shared my Mother’s Day story with a friend, she began to share concern about her past and her children. Another woman, upon hearing my testimony, shared one of her secrets with me.
I pray that my story will help other women break out of shame and guilt, “come out of the closet,” and take another step into freedom. I pray that my experiences will be a conduit for God’s healing hand to touch teens and young adults so that they will see the trap that I fell into is one full of pain and can be avoided.