My Journey

I was always very in awe of God. Growing up, my mother had a huge bible that sat on one of the end tables in our living room, full of old pictures symbolizing its stories. As a girl, I came across a picture of Jesus, and I kept that picture along with a rosary very close to me at all times. Often, I prayed for escape to this Jesus. I so yearned to be free. Free from the violence in my home, the weight of responsibilities I was too young to bear, from never having enough and always worrying about what would happen next.

Feeling that no one could comfort or save me, I carried my experience inside, burying my pain. But many nights, I lay crying in bed to my Jesus, asking Him why this was happening to me, why was I put here in this world to be so hurt, so alone, so unloved. I remember begging to just disappear. Yet, even as a child, God spoke softly into my spirit that there was more for me than this.

But to cope, I got used to keeping things hidden while on the outside making everything look fine. To protect myself and maintain peace, I started to rely on perfection and order. I had to keep it all together. School became a place that made sense for me. It was stable and ordered; and, there, I could predictably receive affirmation. 

I received a scholarship to enter a very elite private high school. Immediately, I was exposed to a very different world from the one I grew up in. My classmates dressed differently, talked differently. They had access to things I did not have. I had a glimpse of what might be possible and I felt maybe this world would be my way out.

I determined no one and no thing would hold me back. My prayers to God ceased. Where was He anyway? The only way I was going to escape was to take care of myself. That is what I had been doing all along anyway. I would work to tame any emotions, to hide any sign of weakness. I would exude only strength. I would be in control. And I would leave those behind who hurt me with a vengeance, never to look back.

I started my freshman year of college on a full scholarship to the most prestigious university in the world. As I explored classes, I became very interested in sociology, particularly examining the impact of poverty on women and children. Reading the stories of families in my sociology books, I saw myself in those pages. As I became fully aware of where I had been and what I now had access to, I also became very aware of God’s hand in my life. He made sure that my family had food, clothing and shelter. My mother had always instilled in us the values of education and hard work. I had a mentor who opened my eyes to new experiences beyond my neighborhood. I had teachers who saw my potential and nurtured my abilities. I was awarded academic opportunities that many in my community had no access to. I was gifted with close friends who encouraged and comforted me even though they did not know my painful secrets. Even hurting, I was still here. And God had been with me every step of the way. 

Yet, as I began to fully acknowledge these blessings, I was condemned by my learned unworthiness. I did not know much about compassion but I knew a lot about judgment and shame. Growing up, I was never taught to love myself. My teenage years were spent seeking love and affection from men who only wanted to use me. As much as I had tried to free myself, I still felt trapped. I believed all the things that others had said about me and did not know what God said. I was ashamed. I wondered how God could possibly want me.

I started attending a local church, studying God's word, and building relationships with other believers that God surely placed in my life. Slowly a healing began. I covered the walls of my dorm room with the words of God. Words like, I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am the head and not the tail. I am complete in Him. I am chosen. God has a purpose for my life. My steps are ordered. I am not alone. The Lord is my strength. He cares for me. Those words, His words, have continued to follow me and embed themselves in me.

Over the years, in deepening my understanding of what it means to be a child of God, I have repeatedly returned to Love. I've recognized the power of this love. I've realized I can help others because I know firsthand what it is like to feel alone, afraid, unworthy. I do not have to live in guilt or shame. I can create a new story and let my experiences be a source of healing for myself and others. someone else.

But my journey is not over. Every day is a new day and a new opportunity to see as God sees. To love as He loves and recognize the Unity of His creation.  God is constantly drawing me closer into the Light of Who He is and Who I am.  Daily I walk in the truth that God, who is Love, is in me. Love is teaching me to let my true self shine brightly. 

I now understand that love is truly the only way to be free.

Love never fails. However, where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known

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