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Tell Me Your Story—From Broken to Beautiful (Part I)

DSC_3703_2Dear Readers,

This month I am so pleased to bring you an interview with a lovely woman who shall remain nameless. I’ve decided to run her interview in two parts because I feel she has so much of substance to say about building a life on the foundation of scripture and obedience to her Lord. So be looking for the continuation of the story next month as well.

Remember, you can access the magazine via the Editor’s Letter in the sidebar. Also this month we are featuring a lovely children’s book titled What Will Heaven Be Like?: A Story of Hope and Comfort for Kids on our Book Features page. Shop early for Christmas presents!

Like the new column? Please let me know! Send me an email at ruthywood@gmail.com

monarchAll of us have a past that affects us in profound ways. Yours has been particularly challenging and includes: parental divorce, incest, promiscuity, miscarriage, abortions, a teen pregnancy, single parenting, bulimia, marriage, divorce, substance abuse, and three suicide attempts. Despite this history, yours is an amazing story of redemption. Would you start out by sharing why you have hope for today and for your future?

I have hope for today and for my future because of Christ Jesus. Over the years He’s shown me who He is by gently leading me out of bondage to sin and bitterness. I faced the pain and sin I had continually tried to bury, asked God for forgiveness, turned from old sinful ways, and God healed and blessed me. Scripture says, “If you hide your sins, you will not succeed. If you confess and reject them, you will receive mercy.”[i] In Jeremiah God promises to “rescue and save,” and I am living proof![ii]

As a child, how did you view God and why?

Since the sexual abuse started by the age of five, in my mind the whole “Jesus loves you” message didn’t pertain to me. I believed God didn’t like dirty little girls. So out of shame I disconnected from everything I heard in church. “Sluts” didn’t belong there. And that’s what I believed I was, someone who didn’t belong around “good” people. I was never angry at God; I just believed He never cared about me because I was a mistake.

Describe your life as a teenager.

By the eighth grade, I was drinking vodka and smoking cigarettes on the way to school. Make out sessions with different boys and skipping school became routine. I believed my purpose was to please men with my body parts.[iii] My first steady boyfriend swept me off my feet and for once I felt loved. I didn’t know any other way to express or receive love except through sex. Even though verbal and physical abuse were the foundation of this relationship, at the time, it was familiar and safe. Pain, sex, and anger were part of my everyday world.

You struggled through pregnancies and deep depression. Tell us a little bit about that.

I became pregnant and miscarried when I was fifteen, and that’s when I started smoking marijuana and abusing alcohol more often. Deep anguish led me to attempt suicide, but I was unsuccessful. A year later I became pregnant again. Though I wanted more than anything to have my baby, pressure from my parents and boyfriend made me believe that somehow abortion would “give me a better future.” By giving in, I made people my god instead of honoring the Lord. Nightmares haunted me and I lived under feelings of condemnation. But I had to move forward; everyone else did. So in the same way I had tried to forget the childhood abuse, I tried to forget the abortion ever happened.

By seventeen, I found out I was pregnant for the third time. I was attending Adult Education, and a lot of the girls there already had babies. This time I had an abortion because my boyfriend threatened to leave me if I didn’t. A friend drove me to the clinic and I never told my parents.

Why did you choose not to tell your parents?

Hearing another lecture on how I’d failed was out of the question. Rejection was one area I desperately tried avoiding. Just like the first, I tried to forget the second abortion too. I continued using drugs and alcohol to numb my pain. A second and then a third attempt to end my life were again unsuccessful. And I was angry. I desperately wanted to die because I believed death was my only way to peace. But God had other plans.[iv]

When you became pregnant at eighteen you chose against yet another abortion and kept the baby. What made you decide to do this?

Though having the abortions was ultimately my sin, I was past listening to people instead of doing what I felt was right. The Bible says, “Do not murder anyone.”[v] And, “The Lord hates hands that kill innocent people.”[vi] I desperately wanted my child. And I desperately wanted to escape the sight of my abusers and the prison I lived in at home. If I had my baby, I could raise him the right way and give him a good life, opposite of my own. He would be dependent on me and I could love him. I would always be needed.

In hindsight, what did you feel was going on at this point in your life?

Looking back, part of it was escaping reality. If I could focus on my baby, I wouldn’t have to remember my past. But moving out, single parenting, finishing high school, working part time at a grocery store and cleaning houses on the side wasn’t a happily-ever-after reality. It was hard. And though I was sinning sexually, I didn’t have an abortion. I don’t regret obeying God’s Word by choosing life and having my beautiful son. God has always supplied our needs and more.

When your son was six, his father died in a construction accident. Tell us the impact his death had on propelling you into a new direction.

My son grieved his father’s death terribly which presented in various ways: he’d spit out his food because at times it lodged in his throat; he had trouble sleeping, wanting to be near me at night; he showed confusion. It was hard to see him cry. Watching him grieving someone he had minimal contact with put me in a new reality. I clearly saw the importance of my getting well. Staying on this planet for him became my top priority. If I died it would be my son that suffered, and I could not bear the thought of that. I began praying for a better life because now I was motivated to change and get well.

How would you describe the process of recovery?

Baby steps. First, I had to admit that my ways weren’t working and surrender to God. In three suicide attempts, each time I woke up, I was very angry. All I wanted was peace. From the dark pit I was in, I couldn’t see any way to peace besides death. But as I surrendered and gave God a chance, prayed for His help, and then got into His Word, I began seeing Him work. As He answered specific prayers, it became impossible for me not to believe. I knew He was right beside me. [vii]

Something else you did became a crucial milestone in your healing.

The second step in recovery was sharing the childhood abuse with someone I trusted. As I prayed, God showed me that harboring the secret of abuse was destroying me. This was difficult at first because trust remained a tug-of-war in my life. My pattern of trusting untrustworthy people too much and trustworthy people too little had gotten me into trouble. But God led me to the right person, which happened to be my aunt, in the perfect time and used her to start the process of recovery.

And the third step in recovery?

Being obedient to what God showed me. Going to church regularly and attending several biblically based healing groups that dealt with the trauma I’d been through helped. God led, but I had to go.[viii] It wasn’t always easy. At times I wanted to quit. But I had to do my part and obey and learn what God needed me to know. I’ll always be learning! Satan pestered me with temptation.[ix] There were times I wanted to revert back to old coping skills and did, instead of facing my pain. But God gave me strength. And when I stumbled, He caught me and carried me back to where I belonged. Alongside Him.

We will continue this interview next month and talk about how you overcame bulimia as well as explore what you learned about forgiveness. For now, what are some final thoughts you’d like to leave with readers?

One of the things God used in my healing process was my love of writing. Journaling helped me release a lot of pain. I believe sharing what I’ve been through is a healing in itself. It’s not a poor me story; it’s a Praise God story! In the beginning, hearing testimonies from other hurting women who found healing through Christ encouraged me. I believe, in His time, He gives us opportunities to share our stories to encourage others. “He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us.”[x]

Sharing my story is very rewarding. Bragging about God and what He has done is priceless.

Access footnotes here.

©2010 Ruth Wood. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Ruth Wood is the columnist for Tell Me Your Story. Do you have a dramatic or unique story that would encourage others in their walk with the Lord? Send an email to Ruth with subject line “query” and include a paragraph summarizing your story to ruthywood@gmail.com.