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I'm drawn to broken things. When I was little, I was always bringing home stray cats or trying to save birds with broken wings. I distinctly remember holding a crumpled firefly in my hands as it struggled to straighten its wings. I sobbed over that little bug, asking God to save it. As I cried, the firefly straightened its wings and flew away.
Such a small thing, the life of a bug. But such a big thing to the little girl for whom life was already so hard.
I grew up hungry, in a house that was never warm enough in winter and never cool enough in summer. Windows were broken. Paint was peeling off. The grass was always too high and the bushes were always overgrown.
We were that family, in that house. You know, the one all the neighbors hate because it lowers their property value. Once, someone wrote up a petition asking us to fix up our house. Most of the people on the street signed it.
I was eight or nine years old the first time I was sexually abused. I was playing outside with a friend when two teenage boys who lived down the street grabbed us. They had a tent set up in their back yard. They had knives. They shoved us inside the tent and forced us to take off our clothes. I don't remember what happened after that.
I was eleven or twelve when an adult male began fondling me. It went on for a year or two--until I got brave enough to tell my mom. The abuse stopped, but this was the eighties. We didn't talk about such things. I stuffed all those feelings of shame and "wrongness" deep down inside.
Finally, when I was fifteen I was raped by the boy I was dating. I told him "No". I ran out of the car, but he caught me by the arm and dragged me back.
It seemed like the same things kept happening over and over again, I grew convinced that something was very wrong with me. After all, how could this keep happening to one little girl?
I met Jesus when I was fourteen years old. My best friend invited me to a retreat with her church youth group. My family didn't attend church. My dad read the Bible to us and we talked about God, but I believed if I was good enough, I'd go to Heaven.
My friend and I walked to school together every day. She had told me several times that Christianity isn't a set of rules that you follow. It wasn't about being "good enough". It was about having a relationship with Jesus. About turning your life over to Him. About following Him out of love instead of duty.
But for some reason, it didn't click until that retreat. I was in a very broken place. The abuse had stopped, but I still felt ashamed and unloved. I was constantly anxious and watchful. I didn't feel safe anywhere.
On that retreat, for the first time in a long time, I felt safe. I felt peace. And I felt loved. If this was what following Jesus was like, I wanted it. No, more than that: I needed it.
I didn't answer an altar call. Instead, I climbed into bed, and I prayed. I asked Jesus to forgive me. I asked Him to save me. He did. And all at once, I wasn't alone anymore.
That was over thirty years ago. And though there have been periods of my life when I've deliberately turned away from Him--the first was when I was raped at fifteen--He has never left my side.
I still bear the scars from my childhood. This is the first time I've shared all of my testimony, and just writing it out is terrifying. I have nightmares. I was recently diagnosed with PTSD. But "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3
I am frequently brokenhearted. I am still wounded. But I am not alone. I am not unloved. And finally, I'm starting to believe that my life just might matter.
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