I was not truly born again until I held my newborn son for the first time. It was solely my responsibility to care for, cherish, protect and raise this precious, delicate, wonderful creation. Through all the overwhelming emotions, I thought to myself, how could anyone harm a child? For the last seven years, I thought I was free from my past. For those of you who know or have heard of Joyce Meyer and her testimony, mine is very similar.
From as early as I can remember until I was sixteen years old, I was sexually abused by my biological father. I didn’t know what love was. I have memories as early as three that try to haunt me today. (I rebuke it!) I was raised in a “Christian” home where my mother claimed to be Christian and my father was Catholic. Though, I never fully understood Christianity or Jesus until I was eighteen when I met my husband’s family. There, I heard the phrase “born again” for the first time. I thought they were all religious fanatics.
When my sister and I were about thirteen years old (we’re twins), my mother asked to speak with us alone for a few minutes in the driveway. She asked if our father had ever touched us inappropriately. I was embarrassed and ashamed that my mother had to ask something like that. For thirteen years, she didn’t know where her husband was at night when he wasn’t sleeping with her? Please. My sister stayed with her and told her everything. Unfortunately, my mother stayed with the man she now KNEW was abusing her children. She stayed with him for three more years.
I know there are people who are easily frustrated with victims of abuse: Why didn’t you tell anyone? Nobody can do anything if you don’t speak up! As a child, you want to please your parents. You want them to be proud of you, to love you, support you. You want to trust your parents. You want to love them, learn from them, create memories with them. As a child and former victim of abuse, I was confused and conflicted. I knew it was wrong what he was doing. But I also wanted to love my father the way a little girl should love her daddy. I wanted to trust he was a good man, even behind closed doors. I wanted to remember the good things about a bad man.
When you’re being raised a Christian but live in an abusive environment, you begin to see where the two lifestyles clash. You start to wonder, how could God let anything like this happen? Or where is God to save me from all of these evil, unmentionable things? Why me, Lord? I mentioned earlier that I wasn’t truly born again until I held my son for the first time. From 13-16 years old, I was a lukewarm Christian. I couldn’t believe a loving, just, and merciful God would allow me, a Christian, to be abused for YEARS. Even though I didn’t take Christianity seriously, I questioned God. I never read my Bible. But I was still a good person because at least I went to church every Sunday, right? Here’s what the Bible says about being lukewarm: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot, I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15-16). That didn’t hit me until I was much older than thirteen.
For the first time in my life, I was able to go on a mission’s trip to Brazil with my younger brother when I was sixteen. We were there for about two weeks. Two weeks of freedom from my nightmare of a life. One of the most profound experiences of my life took place in the last few days of our trip. We all received a pen and paper and were instructed to write down whatever we wanted to tell the Lord. Whatever was on our hearts. Whatever we needed help with.
When we were finished, we were paired with someone in the group and had to share what we wrote. Luckily, my partner could hardly understand English but I still choked up when I got to the worst part of my paper. She knew she had to get my youth leader and from there, I finally told someone what was happening. For the first time, someone not only saw the signs but wanted to listen. On our way home, I thought I was a changed woman but I knew the feeling wouldn’t last if I went back to my home.
When we finally landed and made it to the church, I was informed that my sister attempted suicide and was sent to a mental hospital. My father killed himself because she told the hospital staff what was really going on. At sixteen, my life was completely turned around. My twin sister almost took her own life and my biological father was no longer alive. Again, I found myself confused and conflicted. The only “father figure” I knew was gone. My closest relative was in a mental hospital and wanted to end her life. I felt alone. I was alone.
We had our son in (Bethlehem, HA!) Pennsylvania. My husband surprised me and was able to come home for the birth. He was in the military and was on deployment at the time but the Lord allowed him to be home with me during the 25 hour labor and birth of our son. There were so many emotions that day. I wanted to cry every minute, knowing my husband would soon be leaving to go back on his deployment, but I tried so hard to enjoy the first day of this new life.
The next two years, I knew I was born again. There was something about the church we attended, the anointed pastor, and my new family. Even though I knew I was different and that I was born again, I felt distanced from the Lord. I couldn’t figure it out. I started going to church every Sunday and Wednesday, I only listened to worship music, I even studied my Bible frequently and started reading devotionals. It was almost like I wasn’t fully born again. I wasn’t fully His. I started cleaning my husband’s grandmother’s house twice a week. She’s a fun, quirky old lady and always has a lot to say about being born again. Every time I went over, she had this note plastered in a different location: “Unforgiveness is unforgivable.” A few weeks later, I had a dream about my father:
I was walking on the beach with Jared and Jacob in the distance. You could hardly hear their laughter over the ocean’s waves and the summer wind. There was a cool breeze and I felt the mist of the sea spray lightly on my face. My father appeared alongside me. He started talking about my family and how proud he was of me. He didn’t say it, but I could see it all over his face. The guilt…regret…knowing if he were alive today he would be missing out on everything in my life. I gave him a hug and said,
“I forgive you.”
As tears were forming in his eyes, I knew I was finally free from the abuse.
It finally dawned on me. For the last seven years, I had been bottling up a lot of hate and anger from my past. Since my father committed suicide, he never apologized for anything he had done. He never acknowledged that what he did was wrong. There was no closure. At this point in my life, I can’t hide the truth behind the few things he did right. Sure, he provided for his family…but he ruined me. He used me in ways no father should use their daughter. He manipulated his children for sexual favors. He made us feel guilty if we told him “no.” And so on… But that wasn’t the problem. The problem was me. Something I wasn’t doing. I never fully committed to the Lord. There are many verses in the Bible that say to “commit” to the Lord, “trust” in the Lord, “obey” the Lord, et cetera. All of which I did NOT do. A few verses that came to mind as I was being mended into who I am today:
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31)
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others of their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15).
While my father’s sin was great, His love was greater.
I get this a lot from non-Christians: So where was your God in all of this? They don’t understand that He was there through it all. And when they hear “He was there through it all,” they think PSSSHHH. What kind of God sits and watches you get raped or molested as a child? He heard my prayers as a young child and He hears my prayers now. At a very young age, I wanted to end my life. I wanted to die at ten years old when my family forgot me on my own birthday. At seven years old, I carved “I hate Mikayla” in our window sill and framed my sister. I hated myself. I was ashamed of myself. At five years old, I was raped for the first time. I stayed up all night thinking what is this? Do all the kids do this? Even as a child, I heard that “still, small voice” always comforting me. I know what you’re thinking: that’s your conscience. Yes, everybody has it. But where does that knowledge come from? How do humans know right from wrong? Was it my “conscience” telling me comforting verses from the Bible when I was only five years old, convincing me not to take my own life? The Lord knew what He was doing. My childhood was not His will, but so far, He has taken the evil that was done to me and turned it into something good. I am now a wife to my amazing husband. I married into a wonderful family whose faith has inspired me tremendously. And now I’m a mother to the most amazing young boy who makes me strive to be a better person every single day.
I look at women like Joyce and think: Wow. God is going to use me like that one day. No, I don’t think I’ll have my own mega-ministry, or speak in front of millions of people. But one day, I’ll be sharing my testimony with the courage and strength she received from the Lord. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
Currently, my favorite verse is “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” (Luke 1:45). The Lord promised me a kind husband, a new Christ-centered family, and my wonderful son. If you’ve made it through my testimony, I pray the Lord uses it to encourage you to trust in Him with all your heart. He has renewed me in His Spirit and through those trials, strengthened me and gave me the courage to share my testimony publicly. One day, I’ll be able to stand before a crowd (no, not millions) and tell it like it is the way Joyce does.