I used to think that making a difference meant changing the world radically and flipping it right side up for an insanely large amount of people. I never considered that God could use my pain to make life better for the one…
I was driving to Omaha for a church event a few weeks ago when I got a phone call. “Hey Michelle, I just wanted to tell you thank you. Thank you for being there for me and saving my life. You sent me a quote a few months ago and I have been clinging onto it, and just wanted to say thank you for everything.”
The quote I had sent her read:
“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.”
The same friend called me in March and asked me to meet her for coffee, she sounded rather mellow, as did I, and I thought it would be a good break for both of us.
We got to Starbucks and she began to tell me the most heartbreaking news that she’d been sexually assaulted. My heart shattered and my mind traveled back to summer 2013.
There I was, back floating in my friend’s pool in Florida the morning after my own sexual assault. “How did this happen? What do I do? Am I going to die? I kind of want to die. I feel disgusting. I want out of my body.” I couldn’t decide if someone just ripped open my body and took out all of my organs or if my mind was in too much pain to make sense of what happened. I sunk my head under water and stayed there for a while, ignoring the pain and coming up only when I was in desperate need for a breath. I lived like this for years until I was drowning and the only way I could get fresh air was by being honest about what happened. I didn’t want to face my pain, I wanted to ignore it and forget it and erase the burning memory from my mind. But it was drowning me and taking over my thoughts and perception of the world. I couldn’t live under water anymore, I needed a way out. So I did the only thing you have left to do when you’re drowning and can't find your way to air, I turned to God.
I didn't take my first breath and have an epiphany, but I did find freedom and thirsted for more. I studied abroad in Australia and spent a significant part of my time abroad learning who Jesus was. I grew more and more in love with Him and life slowly started to feel different, more hopeful and more jubilant. Growing closer to God came at a cost of discovering my spiritual gifts and being overwhelmed trying to handle them. I was sitting in class one day my senior year of college when I felt incredibly overwhelmed. I couldn't comprehend what was happening, I was having an out of body experience and the words "heart attack" replayed in my head like a broken record. I somehow managed to make it through class without screaming and I immediately called my mom. Sure enough, she was trying to call me at the same time to tell me my Aunt just had a heart attack. Confusion filled my mind and I struggled asking God why He must give me a gift like this. As night came, it became too much to bare and I got in my car and drove to Omaha. My sisters were in Omaha and it was somewhere safe I could go and talk about the skeletons in my closet while never being loved any less. Mix discovering your spiritual gifts with wondering if God is real because you've been sexually assaulted, and what you get was me. I was confused...
My sister Steph invited me over to her pastor's home for a night of worship and prayer. Within moments of walking in the door, a stranger was walking towards me.“I don’t know you at all, and this might not make any sense. But right when you walked in the door God told me that He is so sorry for everything that you have seen and everything that you have been through. He knows your every thought and every move and He is always with you. His heart broke when you saw the things that you saw, and He just wants you to know how sorry He is. He never planned that for you.”
My heart broke. How could God be sorry for me? I am certainly not that special. I was feeling bad, almost guilty that God could love me so much after all of my mistakes. After 3 years of trying to drown myself from the pain of being sexually assaulted, God came along and reminded me that I was never alone. He was fighting this storm with me, He never left me, I am chosen.
And that’s why the phone call on my way back to Omaha meant so much. I was out of the water and breathing God’s crisp, fresh air. I was out of the storm and rainbows and butterflies were surrounding me and welcoming me to new life every day. I witnessed my dear friend survive her storm and come out so courageous and bold. To understand her pain and walk through the storm with her so she didn’t have to face it alone meant that my pain was worth it.
My plan in life was never to be sexually assaulted. But everyday I am reminded that God has used my ugly, painful mess and has made something beautiful out of it.
In 19 days, I get to live my dream and enter the mission field. My hope is to bring fresh air to the nations and radiate God’s radical love. My testimony and trials do not define me but each painful story has proved to have a beautiful ending. I will forever remember how important the ONE is as I walk through this storm with women in Ghana.
Will you consider donating ONE dollar towards my Ghana trip? Just ONE can change the storm.