It was 1990 and I was getting ready to leave for Washington State University. I could not have been more excited! I would be free to make my own decisions–do what I wanted, go to bed whenever I wanted, etc. Part of those decisions for me included NOT having to attend church on Sunday any longer. Although I grew up in the church, I never connected in a meaningful way that stuck. It was “what you were supposed to do.” Well, I didn’t want to do it anymore. The church I grew up in was boring. I did not understand the sermons that were taught. The music was boring, and (according to my young perspective) the people were old.
I had always been an athlete, but I injured my knee early my freshman year and life as an athlete was no longer an option (at least not at the level I was used to). I had to figure out a completely different life. One that I was not familiar with, nor knew how to navigate. I was scared, anxious, at times frustrated, sad, and depressed, all at the same time. I had to figure out who I was going to be now. I had already chosen to walk away from God, so when I needed Him the most, it wasn’t Him I chose. However, God works even in the dark.
Matthew 28:20 “…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Towards the end of my freshman year, I had made some friends from my dorm who I began hanging out with and partying with regularly in an attempt to create friendships (even though it was not in a way I preferred). We would go to Greek Row often and party at the fraternity houses. I would also still go to the open gym on campus so I could continue to work out and try to stay in shape. There, I met a guy who went roughly the same days and times that I did. He was a member of one of the fraternities. We started talking and eventually went on a date to the movies. He asked if my friends and I wanted to come to a party that weekend. I said SURE. The events that followed would change my life forever.
We had been at this party for less than 10 or 15 minutes before my guy “friend” found me and handed me a beer. My friends and I got separated as I was hanging with him. I had not even finished my first beer before I started feeling dizzy and uneasy. I told him what was going on and he suggested we go back to his room so I could chill for a bit. I agreed. When we got there, he picked me up and laid me on his bed, which was sort of like a bunk with walls on all three sides with a window at the end. It was dark. I felt very dizzy, however, I was still aware of my surroundings, but I could not move my legs or my arms. I couldn’t get any words out. I remember trying but I couldn’t make my voice work. Then, before I knew it, some strange guy was there that I did not know. He advanced on me without permission and …. well, you get the picture. I could do nothing but scream for him to stop in my head. When he finished, it was not more than a minute before another strange guy came in, repeated what the previous guy had done, and left. This continued many more times as I just screamed in my head for it to stop and tried so hard to make it stop. I don’t even know how many guys were involved. I can see some of the shattered faces still to this day. At one point, I had been positioned where I could see a little part of the window. What I saw there broke me even more. There was a crowd outside the window watching what was going on. No one came in and stopped it, no one came to save me. They just stood there and watched and pointed and laughed at me. The last person that came in the room was the friend of this guy. I knew him from the gym as well because he was this guy’s lifting partner. He seemed kind from what I knew of him. When he came in, he gently covered me with a blanket and whispered in my ear “I’m so sorry” then left. If he was sorry, WHY didn’t he stop it? If God was real…WHY DID HE LET THIS HAPPEN?
After I don’t know how many hours, and when I was finally able to move somewhat, I found my clothes and got them back on. Scared to DEATH to leave for fear he might see me, I opened the door, peaked out, found a door to the outside nearby, and made a run for it. After what felt like an eternity, I finally made it back to my dorm. I grabbed clean clothes, made it to the showers and just fell, and cried for what felt like hours. The next morning, my roommate asked me if everything was alright. I told her I was sick and just not feeling very well. Truth was, I was scared to death to leave my room. I felt like he would find me, and I had no idea what would happen if he did. I felt like every single person on that campus had been watching through that window and knew what had happened. I was so ashamed and embarrassed. That is what I felt. Ashamed and embarrassed! I felt like somehow, I had gotten too drunk after only half a beer and gave him the impression that what happened was ok. That was not the case. He had slipped something into that beer. I now believed I was worthless. My CHOICE had been taken away from me and I felt I no longer had value. No one would ever love me, let alone marry me now. No one would ever see me as anything other than that girl in the window–someone who slept around and partied too hard. No one would ever see me for who I truly was. So, I became who I believed everyone saw me to be.
Throughout my early adulthood, I was in and out of several toxic relationships. I started dating a guy I had known for years. He drank a lot, but then again, so did I at that time. I became pregnant and was scared to death. He was angry and did not want another child. I was terrified and had no idea what to do, but was resolute that I was not ready to be a mom. I was convinced that I was too screwed up to be any kind of parent to a baby. I was torn in two, and ultimately made a decision that would destroy me for years. After fighting and deliberating with him about what to do, I chose to abort the pregnancy. I never recovered from that decision. The longer I was in the relationship, the more of myself I lost, and the sadder I became. I finally had enough and ended the relationship. I was depressed, disgusted with myself, and hated who I was. I felt that I didn’t even deserve to live after what I had done. That was the beginning of my search for something different – a search for salvation, a search for God.
I had been contemplating about what I wanted my life to look like. I remember standing in my bedroom and I started crying and I just fell to the floor in a heap crying out to the Lord for help because I was not doing a very good job on my own. Subconscious, I KNEW He had never left and that my life would be better with Him than without Him. Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” I begged Him to help me change. I begged Him to show me a small glimpse of an emotionally pain-free life. I begged Him to show me a better way. I begged Him to show me who I really was and begged for forgiveness for the choices I had made. I continued to pray that prayer night after night for weeks, read my Bible and started doing devotionals and learning about this God of unconditional love. If He could love Saul, a man in the Bible who murdered Christians until his life-changing encounter with Jesus, He could maybe love me. I have followed Jesus ever since.
My life today looks so much different…. all because I chose God. It was not more than two years later that I met my husband (who has known Jesus his whole life) and stepdaughter. God has also blessed me with an amazing son who continues to show me the goodness of God through his own life. Both of our children love God and follow him. You see, God chose ME before I was born, but I needed to choose Him. He has blessed me beyond measure, and I am so unworthy. I needed to surrender my current life to Him first before I could see what He had in store for my future. Part of that surrender was forgiving those that hurt me. All of them.
Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
He never left my side. When I called on Him, He was there. When I cried out to Him, He answered. All I had to do was ask!