I was angry, confused and tired...
I left the church I had grown up in when I moved out of my parents' house at 16 years old. I was angry, confused and tired of trying to be perfect, because I thought that's what I needed to do to earn God's love. That is what was modeled for me in the church, and I wasn't interested in failing anymore.
I went my own way, and at 17 years old, I was lured 700 miles away and sexually exploited by a man I met online. I became a drug addict. I learned how to get drugs without paying money for them. I learned how to manipulate and use people before they used me. I used sex as a tool to get the attention I wanted for the moment, and then I moved on. In one year, I moved more than 18 times. I did all these things in an attempt to piece together a heart and a life that was, at the time, completely broken.
Finally, I remember one day, my world was so dark and my heart so hardened to the Lord that as I was driving down the highway, I screamed at him and told him that if he were real and really loved me, he would allow the semitrailer on the other side of the road to swerve, hit and kill me because no good God would let me keep living with this much pain and brokenness.
I believe now that, in that moment, Jesus looked at me with the same pained and tear-filled eyes that he looked at the woman in John 8 who was caught in adultery. I imagine that she felt as disgraceful, dirty and broken in the moment she was forced to stand before all the Pharisees as I did driving down that road. Maybe her eyes said to Jesus, “Just get it over with. Just let me die.” But he looked at both of us and refused to give us what we deserved or asked for.
He saw my heart that day, and instead of giving me what I asked for, he showed me, through a series of circumstances in the next few days and months, just how relentless and overwhelming and HEALING his love is for me.
Jehovah Rapha, heal me.
In 2009, I walked through the doors of a church again almost a decade after I had left. I saw my Savior for the first time in my life, and I fell in love with him.
At one point, maybe a year later, I was looking through old files on my computer, and I found a drawing that a family member had done and that I had saved because it was intriguing to me.
The title of the artwork is Mend My Broken Heart (top of page). I saw it again this time in a new frame of mind and prayed, “Lord, this is what my heart feels like. This is what I need from you. God, mend my broken heart.”
I prayed that prayer for months. “Jehovah Rapha, heal me.” I kept pursuing God. Wherever he was, I was there. Wherever I felt the Holy Spirit lead, I went. A friend once said, “It’s like I’m dating a new guy, and I just want to be everywhere he is.” That’s how this time felt to me. It was no longer about me being perfect or following a set of rules, nor was it about a feeling that my brokenness had eliminated me from being close to my Savior. It was about getting to know this amazing God who had completely captured my entire being with his love. It was about asking God to heal my brokenness.
Finally, one day, I was in church worshipping to a song I don’t even remember now, and that image of the artwork came to my mind. Then, in my mind’s eye, I saw Jesus write his name across the artwork in beautiful, scripted, gold letters. He traced his name, the name of the only one capable of putting together all the pieces of my heart. It was as if he knelt down in that sand again, like he did in John 8, but this time, he took my face in his hands and said, “You are mine now. You are whole and you are loved. You belong to me.”
I believe he does this with the woman caught in adultery, with the young girl whose virginity was stolen from her at 5 years old and who now lives with constant shame, with the woman who just can’t seem to get over the abortion she had at 15, and with the mom who is doing everything “right” but feels like she never measures up.
Do not lose heart.
Shortly after this experience, I was introduced to the topic of human trafficking. I lost my mind. I couldn’t believe that something so horrible was happening, and I determined to do whatever I needed to do to get myself and my then 5-year-old daughter to a country where we could fight this injustice, because surely this isn’t happening in America.
I researched the issue for almost a year and found out that it is just as prevalent in the U.S. as it is countries like Thailand, Greece and Mexico. Then I realized how closely related to my experiences were the experiences of those who have been trafficked in the U.S., and I knew immediately why God didn’t let that semi hit me almost two years prior.
He waited for me, redeemed me, healed me and now wanted to empower me to fight for others, to help them see WHO they belong to. In November 2010, I started Transforming Hope Ministries, an organization in central North Carolina dedicated to ending human trafficking through education, prevention and restoration, and God has faithfully used my brokenness and his healing to save the lives of others through this ministry over the last six years.
2 Corinthians 4:1 says, “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” When I despised him and wanted him to just let me die, God had mercy on me to heal me and then let me be a part of what he is doing to heal the brokenness associated with human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Six years later, there is one thing I know for certain: God has mercy on each of us because he wants to heal us and then invite us to be a part of what he is doing in this world. Jesus wants to write his name over all our brokenness and hurt, take us in his arms and remind us that we belong to him. When we believe this and we live in this truth, we do not lose heart. Our hearts are healed so that we can focus on being a part of what he is doing to heal the brokenness in those around us.
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