In order for one to understand who I am today, you must understand where I've been. I grew up in a Christian home and always knew God was real. His fingerprint Has been on my life since the day my dear mother birthed me into this world.
However, He didn't become the center of my existence until the summer I turned fifteen, in 2004. I was homeschooled through the fourth grade, then in fifth grade, I attended public school for the first time. The next few years of my life were full of heartbreak and tears. Once a confident and happy girl, I turned into a shy, awkward girl, lacking any sort of confidence. That's how I was at school anyway. At home, I was still that innocent, sweet girl, longing to find meaning and confidence in everyday life.
Many things happened in those five years leading up to my fifteenth birthday. Boys broke my heart and tried to rob me of my pure, lily-whiteness. Friends came and went. I hurt some of them, and some of them hurt me. Deeply. My best friend all through those years broke my heart tremendously. We went through everything by each other's side. I look back on those years with fondness. Struggling through those adolescent years, some days feeling more like a girl, and other days, longing to be the woman I would soon become.
Those days were filled with make-up, shaving, bras, hairstraighteners, and boys. We were striving for independence with every breath. Yet, our hearts were still girlishly innocent, playing with Barbies and braiding the hair of our American Girl dolls. We didn't know how much we needed each other..How much we needed our mothers. How these days of childlike innocence would soon be gone.
In the midst of these days, we longed so much to be all grown up, making our own decisions. My heart still longs for those days. If I had known how fleeting they would be, would I have cherished them more? Maybe I wouldn't have wanted to grow up so fast. Just as soon as those days were over, our innocence was stripped away from us. I lost something in those years, something very valuable and precious. Something not easy to get back. I lost my innocence, my dreams, my confidence, and my faith in humanity. My best friend all of a sudden decided that I wasn't good enough for her, that she was too spiritually mature for me. I still don't understand why that happened and it still bothers me. At times, I still long to be her friend, and share my deepest longings and secrets with her...But, those days are gone now.
Looking back, how did I not see what was being done to my pure heart? When I was a mere sixth grader, I remember one of my dearest friends losing her virginity...But she was my age. She was just a girl like me. Shouldn't she have been sheltered by her parents? Shouldn't she have been at home, dressing her dolls, her young, impressionable heart being nurtured and protected?
My mom had no idea these things were going on in our school, even among my friends. We were simply too young, it was unheard of. So many things I kept from my mom, things I now wish I had told her so she could have saved me. But, there was no way she could have known what went on day in and day out in my life. These things were unspeakable, to our parents anyway.
Things only continued to get worse. By seventh grade, boys on my track team were pressuring me into performing sexual acts with them. I realized at this age that I was supposed to seperate my heart from my body. In order to have male approval and be seen as desirable, I should be able to do anything with any boy and not become involved emotionally. By eighth grade, my girlish heart was all but ripped out of my chest. My dreams of having a knight in shining arm that would love me and only me forever was quickly diminishing.
One incident that vividly sticks out in my mind was a time when I was thirteen and went to the local bowling alley with one of my best friends at the time. Her boyfriend who was our age was with us, as well as someone he knew who was twice our age. My mom didn't know he would be there, or she would have never let me go. I didn't know he would be either. This man, this twenty-six year old MAN, kept propositioning me to go outside to his truck with him. I didn't. I was afraid. Weren't adults supposed to do what was right? Weren't they supposed to protect me? After all, the adults in my life were parents, aunts, uncles, and trusted teachers and coaches. And here was this man, twice my age, trying to rob me of my most precious gift. A gift that I would one day give my future husband...the priceless treasure, my heart, body, and soul.
The way the culture told boys and men to act was taking its toll on me. I wasn't like that perfectly proportioned, flawless model I saw splashed on magazine covers or on the movie screen. I was an awkward girl, barely in my teens, with a face full of acne, frizzy hair, and a timid walk. I longed to be seen as beautiful. But, everything around me told me I wasn't. The boys in my grade and at my school told me I wasn't. There was one certain boy whose teasing haunted me for years. We went through middle school together, or muddle school, as my mom calls it, because we were all just muddling through. And, when we made it to high-school, he was in a couple of my classes. I dreaded going to school because I didn't want to face this boy. He tortured me and picked on me and made me feel like a nobody. I didn't want to say a word in class, in fear that he would notice me and find something else to pick on me about, thus destroying my self-esteem further. And this was just accepted and tolerated. Boys are expected to act this way. To act as if girls aren't precious and valuable. And I started to believe the lie.
Something in my heart always told me this wasn't the way it was supposed to be.
Many other things happened in those five years to rob me of my innocence, purity and confidence. But, by the time I turned fifteen, I couldn't take it anymore. At the time I needed it most, the Lord brought a book into my life that would change the way I looked at the world. I still remember looking around in that Christian bookstore with my mom. It was like God brought me to that book because something about it caught my eye and captured my attention. The book was called, "Authentic Beauty," by Leslie Ludy. It was the instrument God used to radically transform my existence.
In her book, Leslie addressed exactly what I had been going through and was still going through. Her book gave me hope that my dreams of one day having a chivalrous knight was something that is feasible, rather than just a long-lost dream. Leslie introduced me to the true knight in shining armor, like I had never known Him before. His name is Jesus and He was calling me to Him. He showed me that He could use all my past hurts and regrets and shape me back into his lily-white likeness. He gave me hope and a future. The reality of who He was and is and will be forever was enough to get me through another day. My existence from this day forward was radically transformed...
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." -Jeremiah 29:11-13