My very first childhood memories are of being tormented by overwhelming sadness, self-loathing, and persistent thoughts of suicide; perhaps there was a time before that where I experienced an idyllic childhood, but I can only speculate to this end. Instead, my memories are centered on an inner struggle I fought every single day of my life that no one, not even my own parents, knew about. So although I didn’t always know words like “sin” and “salvation”, I have always known that I am capable of experiencing great darkness. Long before I even knew His name, I can recall hiding in a bathroom with a blade in my hands and hearing a voice gently encourage me to put it down. As I grew older, the voice became stronger and began to describe a future where I could find happiness and fulfillment. When I was sixteen years old, I came to HDC for the very first time. I can remember how terrified I was that any and every one would be able to see right through me and see just how broken I truly was. You can imagine my shock when instead, I found myself feeling safer and more at peace than I ever had before. As weeks passed, I applied my natural curiosity and academic personality to absorb as much of these experiences as I possibly could. However, my personal life was rapidly deteriorating as I was faced with significant trauma, grief, and loss. I realized I was at a crossroads- I was either going to end my life or I was going to have to try something brand new. I thought of the ABC’s the pastors were always describing during service and decided I had nothing to lose.
I wish I could say that on that following Sunday, I was able to follow those three steps and receive Christ as my Lord and Savior, but the truth is… I got stuck. “A” was easy- I was well aware of how flawed I was and how much I needed saving; I had no trouble admitting this to myself. Although “B” was a little more challenging, I was still able to believe that Jesus is the only Savior available. After having been abused, neglected, and tormented by those around me, I knew I needed something, someone far better and beyond everyone I had known before. The challenge for me was “C”- choosing to follow Jesus. It wasn’t a matter of being obedient. I could not wrap my head around the fact that Jesus could love me, that He could care about someone as horrible as me. At the time, I truly believed I wasn’t worth saving, that I was too broken to be fixed, even by someone as awesome as Jesus.
I had no idea that in pursuing academic and professional growth, I would also be blessed with spiritual growth. Given my painful childhood, I decided to use my experiences for something positive and become a social worker. As I entered graduate study, I told myself that even though it was too late for me, I could focus all of my energy on saving other children from such a fate. But as I would later realize, that was not God’s plan for me. Instead, He surrounded me with an oikos that challenged me to question these beliefs I held and supported me as I began to redefine who I was and the kind of life I wanted to live. If I wanted to help others, I was going to have to start with myself. Finally, after having lived over 20 something years feeling indescribable pain and sorrow, I was ready to choose to follow Christ and began anew.
I had always thought that one had to be “together enough” before they could go to church, before they could have a relationship with Christ- my experiences have shown me otherwise. I still have moments of weakness where I fear I will succumb to old thoughts and bad habits. There are times where I catch myself having low self-esteem and self-worth. But I recognize now that I am not in this battle alone- Jesus is my ally. As my relationship with Christ has continued to grow and become closer, my entire perspective has shifted. Memories that were once crippling and painful are now tools I use to help others in need. Where before I only saw darkness before me, now I am surrounded by light. Sometimes I look around and cannot believe that this is my life. I never believed I would live to see adulthood, much less to have a Master’s degree, be healthy, and to be able to help young people conquer the things that used to haunt me so relentlessly. As an expressive therapist, my job is to help others tell their story, to redefine who they are, and who they want to be. Often times my clients and students will ask me how I know that this will work, that change is possible, and I always respond the same way- I am living testimony. Jesus healed me, loved me, and gave me purpose. He helped me tell my story and now He has blessed me with the opportunity to continue helping others do the same. The least I can do is share my story so that others might do the same and get to know Jesus as I have.