I remember the day I heard about the Lord. I remember what I was wearing – a red sweater and black pants. I remember where I was standing. It was March 11, 2001. I was 34. I began to read my bible like crazy. I learned scriptures, went to bible studies and retreats. I plugged in to the church and fellowshiped with other believers. I began to teach in children’s ministry. I taught the children all about the bible, told them how much God loved them, and made sure they knew how precious they were to God.
But all of the scriptures, all of the promises, all of the love…I believed they were meant for those children, my friends, my neighbors, but not for me—the one with secrets locked inside…the one who was ugly and dirty and bad.
I spent my life hiding. I spent my life searching for the “thing” that would save me…accept me.
Even when I came to know the Lord, I still searched because surely all of those beautiful words that I read in the leather-bound book could not be meant for me. Not the one whose family growing up was broken and where fears and secrets were present.
Not the one who was 15 and went to a party and was raped—the one who never told anyone and slapped on labels such as ugly, dirty, and guilty. Not the one who sought love through intimate relationships. Not the one who had a baby without being married.
Not the one who had an abortion—and then another. Not the one who wore shame, guilt, fear, and disgust all over her body. Not the one who dated whomever asked her out. Not the one who was date-raped—who never told anyone.
Not the one who would not eat for days on end just to create an outward appearance that looked in control even though her insides were falling apart. Not the one who took laxatives to get rid of all of the ugly inside of her and stuffed her face but purged it all out just to feel empty.
Not the one who married someone because maybe that would make her life different, but ended up in divorce. Not the one who found God but still made an immoral decision that cost her relationships, trust, and respect. Not the one who decided to punish herself and wanted to die, who ate nothing or almost nothing for days until she weighed so little she had to go away and leave her kids.
Not the one who could only see the words ugly and hate and guilty and unforgivable and disgusting written across her face when she looked in the mirror. Not the one who had to be in the hospital—the psych ward part of the hospital– for 12 days and hated herself. None of those words could be meant for her…
But God sent me people who continually spoke truth in to me.
One was a Christian counselor. I came to her office with secrets shoved in to the dark parts of my heart. One day my story came out in this desperate need to be free. My story, the words, poured out so fast that they stumbled and tripped over one another. For years the memories, the sin, the hurt, the pain that captured the essence of how I saw myself pushed and fought against the prison wall of my heart.
But I was able to open up and let it all pour out and the darkness was exposed to light. This person who heard all of my words…all of this darkness, she loved me anyway.
She accepted me anyway just as Christ does.
She asked me to draw a picture of myself as God saw me, not how I saw myself, but how the bible said God saw me. There was no way around it…
He saw me clean. He saw me beautiful. He saw me forgiven. He saw me free.
Little by little I began to believe those words in the leather-bound book were meant for me too…that Christ died on the cross for me too. I began to believe Christ stripped off all those labels and made me clean. I began to see myself not through the distorted view of my past, but through the clear image of Christ. I began to walk in the truth, memorize scripture and believe them for me.
Our past can choke us.
Our past can hold us in chains.
But I am living proof that there is freedom in Christ.
Now I know I am forgiven. I am of value. I am His Child made new through my faith.
I am free.
John 12:46 “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.”
My name is Teresa. I am a single mom of three awesome children. Megan is 23, Madeline (Madie) is 16, and Jack is 14. I am a certified teacher but I am not teaching right now. I live in a small town in Washington State and work at the busy, local grocery store.
I am the founder of a nonprofit called What Is Beautiful. The mission is to encourage women to find their value and identity in the Lord and to shed their past in order to live in freedom. My blog is www.teresa-henry.blogspot.com.
I love the beach, reading, learning, and I collect rocks that look like hearts. In this season the Lord is teaching me to trust completely.
I met Teresa online through our mutual friend, Marla. I am often in awe of how God connects people – me in Ohio and Teresa in Washington state. I am thankful God chose to connect us and honored to share Teresa’s story. It’s a story of a relentless Shepherd who pursues His sheep. It’s a story of redemption.
Thanks, Teresa, for sharing so many parts of your life in hopes of helping others. I know there’s someone who will read this and know they, too, can be redeemed by Him. They, too, can be forgiven and free.