**Originally published on the Walking Redeemed Facebook Page..
For several months I’ve been corresponding with a girl I met through this page. She is a wife and mother of two and her story is one of the most inspiring examples of redemptive love I’ve ever heard. A few weeks ago I asked her if she’d help me write a condensed version of her journey so that I could share it here and she gracefully humored me.
My story began in the early 80s when I was born into a poor family living in the projects. I’m a woman of color, and I’m comfortable with that now, but as a little girl I longed for pale skin. I’d convinced myself it would mean wealth and an end to the gang activity my older brothers were involved in.
I made decent grades at school but nobody seemed to care. I was athletic but it didn’t seem to matter. All anyone cared about was the fact that I was tall, pretty and had curves in all the right places. My brothers’ friends made suggestive comments about me for as long as I could remember.
It didn’t take me long to learn I could use my body and pretty face to manipulate not only the boys, but also the men. I used my new knowledge to my advantage. Or so I thought. I never prostituted myself but only because I didn’t have to. I just slept with whatever man could get me what I wanted next. My parents were proud of me, though I’m not sure they knew the extent of my activity. They only knew I was turning the tide of poverty that ran so richly through our heritage.
When I was 19, I finally became pregnant. How it didn’t happen before then I’ll never know but I always told myself that if it did, I could easily “take care” of it. Only when it did happen, I quickly knew I couldn’t. Something in me became attached to that baby from the moment I learned it was in there. I was keeping it, no matter what that meant for me.
That decision nearly cost me my life because while I had no idea who the father was, I had a whole host of men determined it wasn’t theirs yet enraged at the thought that it was someone else’s.
Planning out how to survive the situation long-term, I turned to the one man I thought I might actually love for more than what he could give me. It turned out he was playing the same game I was and had no desire to be tied to a baby. Or me. He beat me into unconsciousness. My baby died. My pretty face was swollen, battered and covered in ugly bruises and I wanted to die, too. But that’s where God finally caught up with me.
Looking back, I know He was there my whole life but I guess it took being beaten nearly to death to get me to slow down long enough to be caught. He sent a man I’d tried to seduce on a number of occasions but who would never take my bait. He got me help. He stayed by my side. He never touched me or spoke of my physical beauty but he did tell me that I was better than the life I was choosing for myself.
I don’t know how or why, but I believed him. I cried on his shoulder that day, releasing tears that had been pent up for years. My heart split wide open and new life slipped right in.
We lived together after that for two years before we went to the courthouse and got married. I wanted a church wedding by that point but, good and kind as he was, he didn’t. I figured he’d come around in time. I was wrong.
The more I studied the more distant he became. And the more I pushed the angrier he got. The gentle man who had rescued me slowly came to hate me. He didn’t ask for a divorce but I could no longer pretend I had his heart the day I came home from my waitressing job to find him in our bed with another woman. He didn’t try to apologize. He just told me to mind my business and go read my Bible.
It took everything in me but that’s just what I did. I decided I would no longer sleep with him as a wife but neither would I allow my hurting heart to control me any longer. The next time it happened I was prepared. I offered for the woman to join me at the table and share my scant meal. For some strange reason, she did. I told her I wasn’t mad at her because I used to BE her. I shared with her of my Jesus and also how I was determined to love my husband until he was found as I had been. I assured her there was a better way for her, too. Tears welled up in her eyes and dropped onto my worn table.
Several years passed and the women continued to flow through our home and what once was the bed I had shared with my husband. I always treated them with respect but I never allowed them to leave without telling them there was a better way. The same woman never appeared twice.
We hadn’t shared a bed in more than 5 years when he came to me one evening wanting to talk. He couldn’t live that way anymore. He still loved me but my faith made him feel dirty. He wanted out. He wanted a divorce.
This is going to sound strange, but at that point I loved him more than I had even when we married. I’d watched for years as he tried to self-destruct. He hurt me because he was hurting. And the more I asked God to show me myself as I truly was, the more I realized I wasn’t so different from my husband. The only difference is God had caught me the day I finally quit fighting.
I asked only one thing of my husband before he left. I ask that he sit and allow me to explain my faith without interrupting. I asked him to truly listen. To this day, he says his mind was screaming no even as his lips could only form the words, “ten minutes!”.
Ten minutes turned into twenty until three hours later he sat crumpled on the couch in a heap. He wept like I’d never seen a man weep. It was the most awful anguish I’d ever had to stand by and watch. But I didn’t say a word. I didn’t comfort him and I didn’t touch him. I just prayed for him to finally let God in.
When he lifted his head what I saw were the eyes of a totally different man. That likely sounds dramatic, but it’s the truth. I can’t explain it in words but his eyes were just changed. They were no longer closed off and, though he was exhausted, he had a light I’d never seen before.
We now have two children. He is the most devoted husband and father I could ever have dreamed up. He is rooted in his faith because he knows what it is to live without God and he never, ever wants his kids to experience it.
My path has not been easy. My life has been filled with terrible choices. And we still don’t have much in the way of worldly possessions. We struggle to keep the rent paid and groceries on the table. But we both know our pasts don’t define us, our circumstances don’t confine us and our bank accounts don’t deprive us.
Because in the end, God will have the final word and we can rest knowing exactly that.