Salvation isn’t usually a simple process. The path is often messy and untidy. We stumble upon the stones of adversity, shaken to our very cores, filthy and disheveled, before our eyes are opened, finding freedom, healing, and forgiveness. Mine was such a path. It was slippery in many places, twisted with hair pinned turns, and insurmountable precipices loomed all about me where my very life hung in the balance on more than one occasion.
I grew up in a Christian home. My mother was a devoted Christian and took my sister and me to church every Sunday. She taught us the Bible, gave us memory verses to memorize, and prayed with us every night, just after a tickle session and 101 questions from us, when she tucked us in for the night. I received the Lord as my personal savior at the age of four. I don’t know what it’s like not believing in God or that He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins. It’s a knowledge that has continually been with me throughout my entire life. But, even a child raised in a Christian home can fall away.
Several events served to sway my faith. They brought me down dark foreboding alleyways that I narrowly escaped. I was attacked, beaten, and nearly killed by a family member who was babysitting me when I was seven years old. I fell into a deep depression, stopped playing, and hid within myself. Sweaty nightmares plagued my sleep for over a year, where I would wake up screaming in terror. My mother spent many long, gloomy, anguish filled nights holding me, weeping along with me, praying with me, teaching me how to forgive, and repenting for leaving me with that babysitter. She too struggled with the betrayal of that family member.
My wounded spirit gradually began to heal, but a dark heaviness never quite left me. It was subtle, but it was there. The joyful sunshine that entered my life when I invited the Lord to come in had seemingly disappeared. As I grew I could recite Bible verses and debate theological issues with the best of them, but there was no personal connection to my Lord. Then, when I was fourteen years old, satan had another plan of attack for my life up his sleeve.
I was raped by my uncle on the eve of Thanksgiving. That event struck me at the very core. My identity was robbed from me, and I lost all sense of self. My guilt was doubled knowing that having sexual intercourse outside of marriage was a sin, and incest was the one of the most depraved acts one could do both Biblically and among the secular world. Shame, guilt, and consuming anger overshadowed everything I did. The lessons on forgiveness I had received as a young child didn’t work this time. Everyone and everything in my slippery path of self loathing were easy targets.
As my world quickly fell into the depths of despair, running to the Lord was the last thing on my mind. I struggled just to survive the path of self destruction I began. I became an on-again-off-again alcoholic who dabbled in drugs on the side. Relationships with men came and went at a rapid pace. By the time I was in twelfth grade, I dropped out of high school, left home, and I was married. My life was a race course and I was steering out of control.
Eventually, alcoholism became a permanent fixture. My body began to give way to the poison I was feeding it every day and every night. I soon found myself in the hospital puking up frightening amounts of blood, shaking with DTs, and yellow with jaundice. I was dying. Yet, I was at peace with it. Living was a chore. I didn’t have the strength to go on any longer. I didn’t want to go on any longer.
I lost a considerable amount of blood before the doctors were able to stop the bleeding from my liver. Three more times over the next couple of years I landed in the hospital with the same problem. Each time it was worse, losing even more blood. With the final trip to the hospital, I had lost sixty percent of my blood and the doctors were amazed that I was still alive.
My mother stayed by my bedside each time fervently praying and shedding tears. She shared with me something that the Lord had shared with her about me when I was very young. She had a dream, and in her hands she held a tiny little baby, the size of a walnut, and the Lord said, ‘She is a light of Jesus shining brighter than gold.’ I thought, 'that’s nice, but I just can’t see it.' I wanted to escape the hell I was living, to stop drinking, to get back to God, but it didn’t seem possible.
When I went home from the last episode in the hospital, my sister stopped by to wish me well, and she said the most peculiar thing: “Lora, you know? You would make a great drug and alcohol counselor.” I was stunned. My sister thought I was capable of that? I was flattered, but how did that even enter her thoughts? What did she see in me as I laid there on the couch, pale and forlorn, sunk to the very bottom of a very deep and dark pit?
Her words pursued me. They invaded my thought life at every turn; even when I popped open my next beer. I began dropping on my knees quite regularly and crying out to the Lord to deliver me from my addiction. I had a few false starts but would succumb again to my weakness and begin drinking again. This went on for three months, when finally one day, I heard the Lord whisper in my ear, “You’re all done now.”
I set my half drank forty-ouncer down in the corner of my room, and there it sat for two weeks. I would stare at it sometimes and again the soft breeze of the Lord’s words would come back, “You’re all done now.” After two weeks had passed, I walked over to the bottle, picked it up, took it to the kitchen sink at arm’s length, like a dirty, filthy rag, and poured it out into the sink. I was done.
Still, my sister’s words pursued me. With her voice nagging at my mind, I took the GED, just for curiosity’s sake, and passed it. So, I decided to go a step further and signed up with the community college with the intention to just earn a certificate in drug and alcohol counseling.
At the insistence of my academic counselor I took a few assessment tests in the basics (e.g. math, English, science), and I was blessed with a great surprise. The evaluator told me I was extremely bright and that I could easily surpass the basic courses, take the honors courses in general education, and earn an Associate’s degree. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t destroyed my mind with all of the drugs and alcohol I took. I realized right at that moment that the Lord had delivered me both from alcohol and its effects.
I graduated at the top of my class, nominated to be graduate of the year, and signed up with a local university. Soon, I was double majoring in Psychology and English with an emphasis in creative writing. The dream of being a drug and alcohol counselor had worn off. By this time, I wanted to get away from everything that had to do with drugs or alcohol. It was something I preferred leaving in the past.
All through my college years I had experience a joy that had not been there in a very long time. But, oddly enough, my relationship with the Lord was still very small, like the faint light that peers just over the mountains at dawn. I was still trying to find my way and answer the questions that had haunted me for so long: How could someone hurt me like that? Why me? What kind of person does something like that? How do I overcome the pain and emptiness? That was why one of my majors was in psychology when my real love was for creative writing. I wanted answers, yet it didn’t dawn on me to look to the Lord for the answers.
Then, one day, my mother gave me a book to read: The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. When I cracked that book open, I only expected to be entertained, but the Lord had something else in mind.
As I read, I laughed, wept, and learned to forgive once again. The presence of the Lord was so thick about me as I read, with tears streaming down my face, that I could hardly breathe. His presence was so tangible I felt I could reach out and grab his hand. He wrapped me in his arms, literally, and my body became limp and warm. The tension that had its grip on me for so many years drained out of me, through my toes, and into the floor. I was putty in His hands. Then I began to laugh uncontrollably. It, the Thing that made my limbs feel heavy with depression, that had me in its vises for so long, was gone. Happiness and joy filled my every pore. Forgiveness and love for my uncle flooded into my heart and I began to pray for him. I was no longer a prisoner.
I finished my schooling with more joy than I can express, graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double Bachelor’s degree, enrolled in graduate school, and I am now a part-time professor, teaching Research Methods to psychology students and a full time Research Analyst working for Orange County in California.