I was raised in Bradenton, Florida, just south of Tampa and moved to Alabaster in 2002 to attend Birmingham Metro Master’s Commission (where Steve and I met). Steve and I have been married for 4 years.
Growing up, I lived with my Mom and Dad and my sister Heather, who is 3 years older than me. Heather and I were good kids, always involved in extra curricular activities. When I was 14 years old my parents separated. My Dad worked out-of-town all week, and toward the end of their marriage my parents fought with each other every weekend. When they divorced, I couldn’t help but think it was my fault. For a while I was embarrassed to go to school and sports practices, I felt like everyone knew.
I was always a happy kid, never struggled with depression but during the separation I had many days when depressing thoughts overwhelmed me. One day a friend suggested that the answer to my emotional problems was taking the drug “ecstasy”. He promised that it would not harm me and I would be able to “escape” my situation for a while. I was so nervous, but it was just like swallowing Tylenol. He was right; I escaped from my pain, but only for a moment. The reality was that I exchanged one kind of pain for another. When I would come off a high I felt even more hopeless than before. There were mornings that I woke up in unfamiliar places and had no clue what I had submitted my body to the night before. The new pattern of my life was school and normal activities during the week and “escaping” every weekend, it was the only way I knew how to get by. My parents would normally be the ones I would discuss any problems with, but suddenly I felt like I was a possession they were arguing over.
Near the beginning of my sophomore year I got very sick and was out of school for two weeks. I was living with my Dad at the time. One day I asked him to take me to the beach at sunset because I really needed to get out of the house. While standing on the shore, sick and brokenhearted, I knew that God loved me even more than the beauty of his creation. I asked my Dad if he would consider going to church with me. That Sunday morning in September 2000 Dad and I sat on the back row and listened to a sermon about God calming the storms of life. We both cried because we needed some calming. That day we both responded to the altar call. The pastor’s wife stood in front of me and said “I see pain in your eyes that is beyond your years.” I broke down and told her everything. She was not shocked or disgusted; instead she led me in a prayer of repentance and talked with me about the changes that happened in my heart.
I would like to tell you that changing my lifestyle was easy, but that was not the case. After feeling the overwhelming love of Jesus I was thankful and scared. Thankful that He loved me even in the condition I was in, and scared of what this new life with Him would require from me. I quickly fell back into the routine of destructive habits.
The bed of a scandalous lover was “safer” than the embrace of Jesus simply because I knew what was required of me.
I remember the day that it all came crashing down, in my junior year of high school. I was in a relationship with a guy named Kyle who attended a different high school. I thought I could do some “missionary dating,” Kyle attended the youth group because of me so it looked like I was a good influence on him. However, a guy that is interested in a physical relationship will do what it takes to look like he is satisfying a girl’s emotional need. The relationship quickly became physical and the depth of conversation switched from “What are your future plans and dreams?” to “When will you be here?”
As much as I hated myself for what was happening, I didn’t know how to stop it. I was a leader in my youth group, I couldn’t ask for help with this situation.
It took public humiliation to make me realize that I was just a pawn of the enemy.
I was at a school event where I knew Kyle would be as well. I was giddy just thinking about seeing him and introducing my friends. I spotted him across the gym and took my friend Jessica with me to meet him. Kyle turned toward us holding the hand of a beautiful blonde girl. He proceeded to introduce me as “Courtney’s friend Lindsey” to his girlfriend of 3 years. I stood frozen until Jessica led me away. Jesus could only heal the wound that I received that day.
I began to seek after Jesus for inner healing, not just for appearance sake. I knew the changes I needed to make had to be eternal and not temporary. Ten years later I am still seeking eternal change. The temptations I face may be different, but the radical grace I received as a promiscuous teen still covers me today.
I would like to conclude with a passage of scripture that means so much to me. The story takes place when a sinful woman barges into the house of a self-righteous religious leader. Luke 7: 41-43 “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back. So he canceled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had a bigger debt canceled.” “You have judged correctly.” Jesus said.”
Even if your life story is nothing like mine, we all have a debt of sin that we can never pay back! Whether you have gossiped about a friend or given into sexual temptation and drugs, you are in need of Jesus to cancel your debt!