From Abuse to Abundance

By my 6th birthday I had 6 different sexual abusers: my dad, my grandfather, a teacher, doctor, and neighborhood kids. I started to struggle with suicidal thoughts at 5 years old. I grew up paranoid and afraid. I trusted no one and saw no way out of my situation.

I was around six when my pastor explained that Jesus was like Superman. He saved
people and He wanted to save me. So I asked Jesus into my heart. I expected Him to swoop down and remove me from my family. I needed Him to. When He didn’t and my situation didn’t change, I came to believe that I was God’s exception. I wasn’t worth saving.

While God seemed to have failed me, church never did. It was my safe place. My dad never attended, but my mom did. We frequently changed churches, never staying at one place long enough to really be known. By the time I was 13, my mom stopped attending. I was allowed to go alone. So I chose a well-known church close by and rode my bike to every event. I was the weird loner kid that didn’t really have friends. I didn’t care though. When I was at church, no one could hurt me. I felt like I could relax a little.

My home life was a mess. Along with the sexual abuse, there were constant threats of physical violence. I was isolated. I was discouraged from having friends. I was often told that “no one would ever love m.” I lived in constant fear. What made it worse is that my mom knew. She knew all of my abusers and in some cases watched or assisted them. When she found out that I hung out with church leaders, she would go and intimidate them. She would tell them I was crazy or that they shouldn’t be talking with me. As a result, I didn’t feel like I could tell them what was going on. I didn’t think anyAllisunwebpic1one would believe me. I had no voice.

Some folks tried to talk to me about it. It was clear from my body language that something was wrong. I would stay out late and never wanted to go home. Due to the severity of the abuse, I would detach and dissociate as a way to cope. I couldn’t form complete sentences when talking about it.

One of the youth leaders and I became good friends. Like the others, she knew something was up but couldn’t get me to talk. I would ramble and ask odd questions and she would listen. Most of the time, we just sat in silence. I’d hang out with her after school and she’d drive me home late at night. She was the only person I really felt safe around. She was also the only one who seemed like she would believe me, though I never told her my story.

Things continued this way through high school. I never told anyone my secrets. When I left for college in Texas I was determined to make a new life for myself.  In order to cope, I blocked out my childhood abuse. I knew bad things had happened, but I could never bring myself to face them. There was no point. I really thought that’s just how life is. My sophomore year, I met a girl and we quickly became best friends. She showed genuine interest in me and wasn’t put off by my weirdness. We spent all of our free time together and boundaries started to cross. We grew more physical with each other and eventually became sexually intimate. I was confused so I withdrew and started dating a boy. The relationship soon ended with him raping me.

At this point I was a mess. I threw myself into alcoholism, recreational drugs, and sex. My best friend and I grew emotionally dependent on one another. We remained in a secret relationship while also seeking out attention from men. I gave up on God and felt as though my sole purpose in life was sex. Sex was so objectified in my eyes that people didn’t matter. I used sex to leverage power. It was a drug to me. I was addicted but the more I used it, the more worthless I believed myself to be.

In 2008, I did an internship with a classmate. She was a strong Christian and just being around her made me angry. She began asking questions about my life and in my effort to scare her away; I opened up about all the darkness. Much to my surprise, she invited me to home group. I turned her down. However, for the rest of the year she kept asking, almost weekly.

Allisunwebpic3That summer I decided I would accept my identity as gay and came out publicly. I shaved my head and considered transitioning into a man. I came to the conclusion that I was created for sex. I chose homosexuality because if I had to be a sexual being, it might as well be with a woman. I felt that if God didn’t want me to be gay, He wouldn’t have allowed the abuse. While I blamed the Lord for my abuse, I also blamed him for me being a woman. I thought had I been a man, I wouldn’t have been victimized. I never could bring myself to transition though. It seemed too permanent and what if I was wrong? What if God was real? What would happen if I changed my mind? Because of these questions, I remained pre-op.

A few months passed and my out and proud lifestyle left me feeling utterly empty. Gay pride did not fill the void in my heart. I felt I had no purpose in life. One night, I was contemplating suicide. I couldn’t live like this anymore but I was afraid to kill myself. I was going over all my options and I thought about God. I needed Him to be real. If I was going to live, I needed Him to save me.

That week I texted my classmate asking her when small group met. After a few weeks, I started going to church. I refused to sing worship songs I didn’t believe. I didn’t want to go through the motions. I needed to know God was real. My church at the time was more charismatic than I was used to. One Sunday, the pastor stood up and said he felt God wanted to heal someone with scoliosis. He asked whomever that was to go up front to be prayed for. My friend, knowing I had bad scoliosis, looked right at me and said “that’s you.” I felt like a deer caught in the headlights. I shook my head no and gave as much of a death stare as I could. Others caught on and soon I was up front, with a group of people laying hands on me. I had nothing to lose so I opened my hands and stared at the ground.

For reference, the curve was so bad that my left ribs touched my left hip. When I was a kid, my dad would always poke me in my right side, where I had no skeletal protection. They prayed for a while and kept asking if I felt anything. I said no and they said “well, we believe God is going to heal you either now or later.” As I walked out that day, I kept placing my hands on my sides to see if there was a change. There was. I thought I was making it up so I raced to my girlfriend’s job and had her check. When I told her what happened she thought I was crazy. But she too noticed the change. After 3 days, no pain, my ribs and hips were even. No longer could I place my right hand in the gap. I had to relearn how to walk and my clothes fit better. God got my attention. He didn’t have to, but I could no longer deny He was real. I started meeting with Him daily. I wanted to see if what they said about Him was true. I needed a personal savior, not just a God.

In the months that followed, I stopped sleeping around and moved out of my girlfriend’s house. I stopped drinking, cutting, and drug usage. I went on a media fast. At the same time, I asked my friend what grace meant and she handed me her Bible. She showed me where the concordance was and told me all my answers were there. Because I had so much free time, I did a study on grace. It taught me how to rely on God’s word for truth, rather than someone else. That summer I asked the Lord what it looked like to follow Him. He told me it was exactly what I was doing. He said I needed to make a choice. I could no longer sit on the fence. I told Him “ok I’ll follow you.”

In all of the changes, I didn’t address my heart issues. I lived in denial. I ignored any mention of abuse and denied that I struggled with homosexuality. I figured God loved me no matter what and this would just work itself out on its own. I tried to “pray the gay away.”  After a few months of white knuckling change, I found myself drawn to another girl.

At the same time, my dad had just been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. I’d been having nightmares of my childhood, and the Lord gently told me they weren’t nightmares, but memories. I became afraid. I didn’t want to face the next chapter alone so I caved on boundaries with this girl. She and I quickly found ourselves in bed.

I confessed to my community and they exhorted that I leave the relationship. They drew an ultimatum: either I leave or they do. I was convicted but couldn’t fathom walking away. My Christian friends left and I resumed the lifestyle. It was miserable. I missed my Christian community dearly and wrestled with my belief about God and gays. I knew He loved me but I was angry that homosexuality wasn’t an option. He could make anything possible, why wouldn’t He make this ok?

After a few months, my girlfriend moved back home. Around the same time, Ricky visited my church and gave his Roots of Lesbianism talk. I was curious about what a Christian would say about my lifestyle, so I attended. When he finished, I felt like my life story had just been told. I scheduled an intake with D’Ann. In true lesbian fashion, I had my ex-girlfriend drive me to DFW. In her eyes, if she couldn’t have me, then no one could. A few weeks later, I attended in-house and quite honestly I was not a fan. Everyone was crying and all I could think was “no way am I going to sit around a table and cry to strangers.” So I didn’t return.

Allisunwebpic4A few months later, the Lord changed my circumstances. My girlfriend broke up with me. My emotionally dependent relationships ended. My father passed away. I lost everything I ever put my identity in. I didn’t know who I was anymore. My self-injury reached new heights and I became high risk. I was arrested twice for being a threat to myself. Once, I was forced to spend a weekend in the local mental hospital. As much as I needed help, whenever I felt trapped, I would lie and convince everyone I was ok when really, I was alone, hurting, and hopeless.

I found a counselor. Because of my mental instability, we met 3-4 times a week. I could not handle any sort of emotion. Panic attacks were daily. I found a doctor and she placed me on anti-anxiety meds. After a few months, I stopped taking the meds and learned to avoid emotions all together. After about a year, I reached out to Living Hope for a quick “how to of femininity”. Instead, they invited me to join them at a Love Won Out conference. It was there the Lord spoke clearly and gave me the courage to deny myself. I wish I could say it was smooth sailing there on out. It hasn’t been.  In fact, a month later I hooked up with a female co-worker I had been pursuing. I struggled with admitting that homosexuality was an issue within me and with God.

Fortunately, God is patient and kept pursuing my heart. I stayed in contact with Living Hope via their forums and was invited to attend youth retreat. I was working nights at the time and was pretty much asleep the whole weekend. However, I do remember someone suggesting I move to DFW so I could plug into in-house. I thought it was crazy but a few months later I found a great job in the Metroplex and moved. I kept up on the forums, attended in-house every week, met with a counselor, met with D, and did Living Waters.  I also got plugged into my current church and started to learn how to be in healthy community. That year was really hard but big wins were had. I acknowledged the abuse, completely stopped sleeping around, and stopped all self-harm. My desires for women changed. I no longer saw women as objects for the purpose of making me whole.

It is easy to say homosexuality is wrong, don’t do it. Homosexuality isn’t just about sleeping with the same sex. For me, it’s about my fear in trusting the Lord with my true identity – a daughter, a woman, made in His image. It’s about fear of man. It’s about self-protection. It’s about the abuse. The Lord called me to Living Hope, not so they would save me, but so they would practically walk with me on this journey.

Living Hope has walked with me as I struggled with seeing the Lord as good. They saw me struggle with self-worth and the vicious cycle of pity and insecurity. Living Hope consistently demonstrates Christ’s patient love towards the church. They have been a safe refuge in my whirlwind of emotions and conflicts. Every week I’m asked how’s my walk with Jesus, what is he doing, what am I learning. In the midst of the chaos we are reminded to keep our eyes on Jesus. He is the only thing that really matters.

I originally came to Living Hope to learn how to be a girl. I had the butch hair, men’s clothes, and porcupine attitude. When I started in-house, the Lord asked me to grow my hair out. I’ve always associated long hair with “woman” and “woman” withAllisunselfweb 2 “weakness”. But in the spirit of change, I gave it a try. Quickly, my hair became a symbol of trusting the Lord. Every time I wanted to run, I would ask the Lord if I could shave my head. He would gently ask that I trust Him for the next 5 minutes. So I did. My heart would calm and I felt the strength to continue. We have repeated this conversation thousands of times. You can see by my hair, I have chosen to trust the Lord thousands of times. In fact, I no longer enjoy getting haircuts. I remember at each stage of growth what the Lord was doing in my life. My hair is a testimony to the Lord’s faithfulness and trustworthiness.

Living Hope has helped me see that because of Christ, I have dignity and value despite my abuse. After 13 years of struggling with self-injury, 3 years ago I put down the knife. After an 8 year addiction to pornography, 2 years ago I turned my eyes to Jesus. It’s been 4 years since I’ve been with a woman and 3 since I’ve seriously considered going back.

After 5 years, I’m still learning what it means to be a woman of God. I’m learning how to nurture by caring for the little ones in my church and my home group. I’m slowing starting to be vulnerable and soften my heart. This goes against everything I have ever learned. Praise the Lord that He has granted much patience and compassion to my friends.

I still struggle with insecurity about being a woman. I’m still learning what that looks like. However, the Lord has been faithful to provide a strong group of women who aren’t offended by my lack of feminine knowledge. I can ask “do girls do this?” questions and they respond lovingly. They also show me that being a woman isn’t for the weak. It takes strength to be vulnerable. I see how supporting a man isn’t the same as being owned by one.

This year has been the hardest yet since the breakups. My entire life I’ve purposefully shut off my emotions. It was a matter of survival. Since January, the Lord has been softening my heart, introducing me to feelings, and challenging everything I’ve built my personality on. I’m in counseling, walking through the abuse and the emotions I never experienced. I’m learning how to define emotion, how to express emotion, and how to trust others with emotion. This is perhaps the hardest. I have friends whom I actually care about now. I feel as though for the first time, I have roots. I have healthy community. I’ve never lived as though anything mattered but now I have something to lose. Even admitting I have a heart is scary.

Living Hope knows this. They have been a great sounding board for my heart. They point me to scripture when I’m unsure. They advise me on how to express myself. I get comments like “yeah probably not the best way to phrase that.” Or “this is what you’re saying, are you sure that’s what you mean?” They have even counseled my friends and me on how to better communicate. It’s extremely helpful and I’m super grateful. Living Hope is not a program to work through. It’s a community dedicated to encouraging others in their walks with Christ.

A few months ago the Lord asked if I were to never be in a romantic relationship again, would I still choose Him. The answer is “yes!” Through all I’ve encountered, the Lord is the most consistently good and trustworthy savior out there. I realize that nothing of who I am is made possible outside of who He is. He loved me in my abuse. He protected me. He kept the best parts of me close to his heart, so when the time was right, He could restore me. I love putting my trust in the Lord. He is so safe. Even when it’s difficult and I’m unsure, I’m sure He is leading me well. The Lord loves me. My entire life I wanted to be loved. He knows all of my baggage and wickedness. Yet, He still seeks after my heart and robes me in victory. I was not created for sex. I was not created as an object, but as a human being, a daughter of the King. It is exciting to see the woman the Lord is turning me into.

Job 1:21 says “…the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Bless the Lord indeed. He has given me life and has taken away my shame and false identities.