My parents migrated to the U.S. from Mexico, and my mother and grandmother were professing Catholics, as were my uncle and aunts when they arrived here. Soon afterwards, my family converted to Christianity with the exception of my dad. He wasn’t Catholic and didn’t identify with any religious beliefs. I believe that it’s safe to say that he was a godless man at this time in his life. It wasn’t until many years later that he surrendered his will, and gave his life to Christ. I was seventeen years old when he made that decision, and at that time, I was not aware of the significance of this event or the impact it would have on our lives as a family and my life in particular.
One of my earliest memories was that of my mom and me in our kitchen; I must have been 3 or 4 years old sitting on a blanket near the kitchen table where my mom was preparing dinner. She exalted her God with song as she kept focused on the tasks before her. This was my earliest memory of anyone finding refuge and strength by connecting with the Almighty through praise and worship. The greatest gift my mother gave me was the ability to recognize that I, too, was gifted with the promise of God’s presence.
During the mid to latter part of my elementary school years I was an inquisitive, shy, fearful and angry young girl, but showed compassion for individuals that I perceived were hurting emotionally. I, myself, carried an unimaginable amount of hurt that stemmed from childhood trauma involving my father. Often, the hurt and uncertainties weighted heavy on my heart and when this happened, I would escape to a secret place I had discovered where I prayed; a place where my God and I came face-to-face, and my fears would subside.
I wasn’t aware in those early years that soon my life would go in another direction. The enemy’s plan to kill, steal, and destroy began to unfold rapidly and I began to express my anger and fear more profoundly. I wanted to lash out at something or someone and when I couldn’t pinpoint who, or what to channel my anger towards, I channeled it inwardly; thus, my journey into darkness began to unfold. I turned my back on God; He who met me in our secret place, the God of yesterday, today and forever.
I dropped out of school with barely an eighth-grade education and sought ways to obtain an income. I was taught good work ethics at a very young age despite the dysfunction taking place around me, and the income I was able to generate fed my addictions and met my needs - or so I believed. I spiraled deeper and deeper into despair. I was breathing but not alive and I abused my body by adopting an eating disorder, and using drugs. I numbed my pain, shame and guilt at every opportunity available. I was emotionally and spiritually bankrupt, and despite the hurt I was inflicting upon myself and my family and loved ones, I continued on this destructive path. My identity was based on my addictions. I was lost!
Throughout this, the memory of being in God’s presence in that secret place years back; the place where I found refuge, was brought to my remembrance at various times. But, instead of leaning into it, I ran and hid, spiraling deeper into my guilt and shame. The deep hurt from my childhood was too much to bear, or so I believed.
I spent twenty-one years in addiction, but during this time, God was revealing to me that He loved me in spite of the path I’d taken. All He had ever wanted was me, my undivided attention, my love for Him, my worship, prayer, as well as my doubts, hurts, guilt and shame, EVERYTHING!
Looking back, while being constantly under the influence of drugs, I feel that I may not have been capable of managing all that my childhood trauma with my father had entailed, and I suspect I ultimately may have ended my life. I was slowly dying and may have been inclined to speed up the process.
However, I eventually was able to reach a place of sobriety – and after being sober less than two years, one day I fell to my knees in desperation and cried out to God for healing. I had finally expressed with all sincerity that I didn’t want to live that way any longer.
It was time to begin the healing process. And with this, I began to understand that what the enemy had meant for evil, my God had already called good. It was one of those moments when you question the validity of what’s happening - yet are overwhelmed by the power of God.
My father, who had been a hurtful and broken individual, and had caused me such grief and trauma had repented of his sins and given his life to Christ years prior, and he was delivered from his addictions. And now, as I turned my life over to God, we started the long road to recovery. It took years for us to fully forgive and heal our relationship. Praise God’s holy name! During this time my dad and I were blessed beyond what either of us could have imagined, and we learned what a father-daughter relationship in the eyes of our Father was meant to be.
During the last few years of my dad’s life, he and I spent countless hours exalting our Lord and Savior; he was my go-to person when I needed godly advice. I was blessed with the opportunity to care for him during his last days on this earth. During this time, there was an evening where he expressed his frustrations - and the memory of him as an abusive dad and individual crept back into my thoughts. It caused me to question my role in his life. I responded to him with a less than godly attitude, and went out to my car and cried. I informed God that I was not the person for this task; but then I heard Him say, “You go back in there, and love him; I’ll take care of the rest.”
One day as I tended to his declining health, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and thanked me for loving him, and he referred to me as his angel. We shed tears of joy - tears filled with gratitude.
I owe this and much more to my God who made all things new; the man I called dad passed away at the age of ninety-eight, and will forever be in the presence of our loving Lord. God never wastes a hurt.