For years the Holy Spirit had been ministering to my heart and in my life. I had known of Christ and His sacrificial work on Calvary since I was a young child, but I never fully understood the significance of it all until after I was awakened to the filth of my sin. Previously, I had been involved with alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and home violence. I was extremely bitter and filled with hatred. When I was 13, I had an emotional response during a youth camp retreat, but the experience was only the introduction to what it was like to witness the work of the Holy Spirit. I was very active at Ebenezer Baptist Church, but I burned out quickly. I had heard the story of Christ on the cross preached many times throughout my life and each time I would leave the church pondering upon the sermon I had just sat through. However, within the next 24hrs my life would return to its’ shameful banter.
From the time I was a little girl, I was made aware of the power of men. It seemed as though every few years a new man, cousin, or stranger would enter my life, ravage my body and leave me broken and afraid. Love became nothing but a shallow word I would hear spoken yet never demonstrated. Sex and touch was simply an act of degradation. Rape was a picture I was familiar with. At the sound of the word even to this day, I imagine a strong, dark man holding a knife to my throat as he takes his guilty pleasure. No matter the places I hid or the people I sought help from, I would found I was alone in the darkness. By the time I was 18 I had been molested by eight different people in eight different places. Quickly I learned to kill my emotions. My motto was “Never cry. Tears are a sign of weakness and vulnerability. I must be strong for those around me, for myself or I will never survive. I am the observant one. I am the protector at all costs.”
At the age of 17, I was withdrawn from high school and restricted from any access to my friends and extended family. My sisters were under the same limitations. My parents were entering into what would become a long, grievous divorce trial. My mom, sisters, and I were all living in our rental house in Rougemont, NC while our dad was living in Sterling, VA. Prior to our exclusion from society, I had come to my breaking point and decided that I could no longer live the way I was living (i.e. drinking, partying, anger, etc.). I knew that the way I had chosen to live was shameful and wrong. My mom, sisters, and I then decide to begin searching out God. We researched many Jewish rituals and even resulted to burnt offerings to try to appease the “wrath God had placed on our lives.” We were utterly lost and presumed by many to be the abandoned lost cause. We eventually left our home and everything in it. We lost all of our belongings due to being evicted. My family was homeless. It was during this time that I began to become annoyed with my mother. She seemed to be growing in her new found faith, whereas I was stalled. I was still wallowing in my bitterness, yet she was progressive in her trust in the Almighty God to provide for us.
About a year after jumping from cheap motels to rest stops, we were finally given the chance to move into a house that was located in Timberlake, NC about thirty minutes away from our previous residence in Rougemont, NC. The house had no heat and no furniture. We slept on the floor with blankets for about two weeks until we had enough money to buy inflatable mattresses. My family and I thought that this would be a turning point in our lives, but about one month after living there the owner came up to me outside of this house and asked who we were. The utilities had been cut off and he was infuriated. It was about a week away from Thanksgiving and he told us to get out of his house. The lady who claimed that we could move into her home was in fact trying to escape her rental contract with him. Once again we were kicked out, but this man did have mercy on us. He allowed us to spend Thanksgiving in the house and he cut on the utilities for us.
We left and spent Christmas through early May in a Motel 6 in Burlington, NC. May 4, 2007 we expected to receive our bi-weekly “family fee” that had been ordered by the judge. However, no money was deposited into momma’s account. Everyone began to panic to the point of contemplating suicide. The pressure of our life was too much to bear. We had grown comfortable at this motel and with the people that had by circumstance, been forced to live there as well. Momma finally called dad’s construction company in VA. We found out that day that our daddy had been died for two weeks in his apartment, but he was not found until May 4, 2007. We went to VA where I was the only person legally capable of handling all of the funeral home arrangements (I was 18 at the time). I was not allowed to see my father due to the condition of his body’s decaying process.
Two weeks after we arrived in VA, mom had to break down and call her mom for help and a place to live. The option of waiting it out in our dad’s rancid apartment was no longer available. We then travelled to Albany, GA where my family now resides.
Shortly after moving in with my grandmother, I started to attend the church of my childhood. The pastor had retired, but the church was still running. I attended every time it was possible. One Sunday morning as a guest speaker began to preach about forgiveness, I realized the weight of my own negligence to forgive. I finally understood the weight of my sin and shame; the affect of it on my life. I knew I needed to be forgiven because I had purposefully and intentionally spat in the face of God on several accounts. Suddenly, I could recall vividly the moments that I called out to God in anger and screamed at Him. “I know you exist, but you are nothing to me and you never will be. I don’t want anything to do with you. Stay away from me!” The Holy Spirit convicted me of my actions, thoughts, and words that had pierced the very heart of the only Holy One who was both, willing and able to save me from myself. Christ, fully God and yet fully man had lived on this Earth ministering to both Jew and Gentile. He was betrayed and murdered on a cross; the most disgraceful death of that time for the hope that I might be redeemed and sanctified by His atoning sacrifice. Christ was raised on the third day and seated at the right hand of the Most High God where He now reigns for all eternity. This Christ was sacrificed so that I might be forgiven. This Christ had died for me.
I remember sobbing in my pew as I prayed that Christ would forgive me. I repented of my sins and asked Christ to come into my heart and life and completely strip away all that I was. I began to tell the Father about the pain I held inside and how disgusted I was with my past. “All that I have is yours, but it is broken and fragile. You will have to fix me.” Some people in the service came and prayed for me as I wept. When I returned home I told my family that I had finally given everything over to Christ and that I was finally ready to commit my life to Him. Shortly after my conversion, I was asked to teach Sunday school for the younger students in 4th-6th grade. I also volunteered to clean the church. The difference between my first experience and this one was that there was fruit of the work of the Spirit in my life. I not only held the desire to live for Christ, but sought Him out through His word and through intimate, daily communion with Him in prayer.
Now I attend Southeastern Bible College where I am studying to receive my degree in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in Counselling. I have been so blessed to serve in positions of leadership over the women on campus. The Father has not only matured me in Him, but blessed me beyond measure. Through everything I experienced in my life thus far, the sexual, physical, and verbal abuse, losing everything twice, experiencing the life of the homeless and forgotten, and searching for the forgiving love, God has been faithful. He will remain faithful to the end and nothing will ever separate me from the love of the Father because of the sacrificial offering of Christ on the cross. I am set free. I have been changed and my feet have been firmly established on the righteous path. My name is no longer filled with shame and destitution, but righteousness and grace. By His atoning grace, I am the redeemed .