when I kept running

TRIGGER WARNING: Hi friends I wanted to let y’all know that this post mentions anxiety, severe depression, sexual assault, rape and suicide. If you are not in a place to read about these topics, please protect yourself and do not read this post. Your mental health is important to me.

I had an entirely different plan for my post tonight, but a worship song completely changed my mind.

As y’all know, Jonathan McReynolds is one of my absolute favorite worship singers. I listen to him daily because I am always so inspired by how genuine his worship is.

While I was drafting my original post, his song ‘Limp‘ began to play and I realized that it is finally time for me to share my testimony. The song talks about how the devil hopes that the injuries that we sustain would keep us from seeking and running toward God but if we can’t run, then we will limp toward God.

This is unexpected but I know it’s right because I can’t stop typing.

This will be a long post. So, grab a snack, a drink and get comfortable.

I first gave my life to Christ when I was 5. I remember the day in such detail. My white patent leather ‘heels’ clacked against the red tiles as I walked toward the front of my Sunday School classroom. I repeated the prayer and sat back down with my pocket version of the New Testament. I don’t remember feeling any different, but I was excited to have decided for myself.

That next Sunday I got up to go back to front and I was stopped, “You only need to accept Jesus once!” My Sunday school teacher guided me back to my seat while assuring me that last week was more than enough.

From that day on, I was a Christian. All that meant to me was that I needed to go to church consistently and be a good girl.

It wasn’t until high school that I began to question what being a Christian meant.

Should I be talking about this? Can I cuss as a Christian? How far is too far with my boyfriend? Will God still love me if I talk about this? 

I had no idea what it really meant to be a believer. 17-year-old me believed that God just wanted me to go to church, stay a virgin and be nice to people. I didn’t realize it then, but now looking back I was setting myself up for failure. I teetered on the cliff but made sure to always back up when things got too close to the edge.

I made it through high school as a technical virgin, I wasn’t drinking, smoking or partying excessively and I occasionally read a random chapter in my Bible. So, I figured God was pleased with me because I wasn’t like ‘the world’.

I laugh now at my childish logic, because nothing about my actions separated me from the world. I looked and acted just like someone with absolutely no relationship with Christ.

I started my college career at a small Christian college in Western Michigan. I hated it. I was one of the only black people on the entire campus and dealt with more discrimination than I ever imagined I’d deal with. I sought solace in my then-boyfriend, an emotionally abusive freshman from the neighboring town.

What started as a very cute relationship quickly turned to a constant cycle of pain and shame. He would distance himself from me as a punishment when I disappointed him. He would make rude comments about … well everything I did. My self-esteem was so low that I began to believe the snide comments he made about me. I began to think that he was the best I was going to get.

One night we had a weird interaction and I thought that the emotional abuse would turn to physical abuse. That night I decided to protect myself and end the relationship.

I left the school during Christmas break and immediately enrolled in the local community college. I spent a great deal of time on Twitter during this time.

Then I met D from a twitter thread. D was cute, funny and interested in ME. Even though I had just broken up with my boyfriend, I felt that I was more than ready to move forward with someone else, even if I had never met this man in real life. We facetimed almost every single night during that first semester of community college. He made me feel special and reminded me that I was worth being treated kindly.

He convinced me to apply to the University of Cincinnati because of how much he enjoyed his experience there. I realize now that I was so desperate for love that I did just as he said. I applied, got in and convinced myself that it had nothing to do with him.

I love how supportive my parents were during this time, but I wish they would’ve forbidden me from going. I don’t like to play the ‘what if’ game but I can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if I never went to Cincy.

I did enjoy my 9 months there, but I dealt with unnecessary heartache most of the time I was there. D didn’t actually like me as much as he lead me to believe, My high school ex was toying the line of being into me again, I had a huge crush on a guy I met at Cru and another guy enjoyed spending time with me solely because we flirted incessantly with each other and would occasionally cuddle.

At one point I dated a guy for a whopping two weeks because I just wanted to feel wanted. God tried so many times to turn my heart to Him, but I was so stubborn. I wish I had known how satisfied I would’ve been had I just given in to Him.

In January of 2015, I started going to a new church. It was huge and I didn’t particularly feel seen but hey, I was going to church, right? I enjoyed the sermons and volunteering with the babies, but something in me knew that this wasn’t my church home.

I ended up having a desire to read my Bible more. I was still living the same problematic life of someone who wasn’t serious about Christ, but I felt better knowing that I knew more scriptures than before.

In March I began to dive into a relationship with God. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I just knew that something in me wanted something different.

By Easter (April 5, 2015) I was committed to trusting God. That week I sat in my room before work and asked God what I needed to read in the Bible. I had never thought to ask Him but this day I did. I almost fell off my bed when I heard a voice loudly say “Ezekiel.”

I’ve never turned pages so fast in my life! I was slightly scared but also amazed that I had just heard the voice of God! Ezekiel 1:20 stood out to me and I remember writing it down.

Ezekiel 1:20 (NIV) – Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the sprit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

When God moves in your life, sometimes He moves fast. By April 19th, I was back home in Michigan with no plan, no money and definitely not enrolled in college.

I started nannying and got a crappy job at the 24-hour Walgreens by my house. I was so embarrassed at my situation and mad that God would lead me home to be a cashier during the graveyard shift. Nevermind the fact that God never told me to go to Cincinnati in the first place, I was mad that the one time I listened to Him that he led me back to a piss poor situation.

I spent that summer angry at pretty much everything and everyone. When we took my younger sister to college, I spent the entire trip with my headphones jammed in my ears as we embarked on the 15+ hour drive from our suburb outside of Detroit to Hampton, Virginia.

When we finally arrived and I climbed out of the car, I remember being annoyed that it was so hot and that mosquitoes were flocking to me. The next day was move-in day and I pretended to be excited, but I was so bitter that my little sister found her dream school on the first go. Here I was with two universities and a community college under my belt but no degree.

After helping for a bit, I excused myself to explore the campus. As I walked around the beautiful campus with my dad, I was truly amazed.

God softened my heart while I walked around Hampton’s campus. I was still a bit bitter, but I was happy for my little sister. When we made our way back to her dorm, her director began to ask me question after question. I answered them the best as I could while trying to figure out why she decided to interrogate me in the lobby.

She told me to go to the admission’s office as she wanted me to meet a friend of hers. I did as I was directed and ended up sitting down with C. She asked me a few questions before letting me talk about myself and my story. My parents eventually joined us and began to share stories about me. I was still unsure of what was happening, but I remember letting myself just go with the flow. By the end of our conversation C offered me an on-site admission. I could’ve melted into a puddle!

That is why God had me come home! I graciously accepted her offer and my entire attitude changed! The ride home I was a different person. I was excited about my future and fantasized about what God would show me at Hampton.

I spent the rest of the year reading my Bible more and making tangible changes in my life. A week before I officially moved down to school, I spent some time with my HS boyfriend. What started as an innocent night of moves turned into a drunken make-out session that hovered dangerously close to the edge of the cliff of sex. I look back and now I can clearly see that I was trying to change my life instead of letting God change me. No matter how much I read my bible, I wasn’t going to change unless I asked God to create that change in me (Psalm 51:10).

I started Hampton as a technical virgin who didn’t drink (much) or smoke. I thought I was committed to truly living differently because I read my Bible on some days.

Then I met D and all common sense flew out the window. He made it clear from the moment he met me that he was interested in me. He took me on dates and bought me nice things. He made me feel like I was a princess. One night while we watched a movie in his dorm, he told me that he was going to make me his girl. My heart soared because I finally found a good guy!

Then he told me he didn’t believe in God. I brushed this off because I just knew that I would be able to lead him to Christ. Instead, he led me down a path of sexual sin and isolation from those who cared about me. Our 1.5-year-long relationship was plagued with emotional and mental abuse (him), snippy comments (me) and a lack of stability. But I thought I loved him, so I pushed on. I needed him to get to know God so that I could really commit to a future with him. Looking back, there was no way that I would lead hin to Christ because nothing about my life reflected Jesus.

Despite our problematic relationship being started at school, I absolutely loved school. For the first time in my collegiate career I felt comfortable in my skin.

The summer of 2017 was a weird one. I was living with my ex in DC and actively trying to go to church. I began to feel God tugging at my heart to change my ways. After one particularly moving church service, I told D that I wanted to stop having sex. His reply implied that I had no control over my body and that I couldn’t make that decision for us.

I was scared of what his reaction would’ve been if I withheld my body from him, so I kept living in sin. I hoped that God would understand and grant me favor or grace.

The night before I left the apartment for good, we had a long talk. While I was still sure that we needed to break up, we were able to clear the air about a lot of other issues that plagued our relationship. After we finished talking, he asked for one more time. I didn’t plan to have sex at all that night, and I turned him down. He began to manipulate and coerce me and before I knew it, he was having sex with me. I don’t even know how we got from the couch to the bedroom, but I remember laying there and hoping that it ended soon. After he climbed off of me, I went to the bathroom and cringed as I used it. The stinging let me know that I had been injured in some way while he sated himself. I climbed back into the bed and curled up in a ball. He pressed up behind and hugged my numb body closer to him.

I started my senior year numb and broken. How could he love me and hurt me the way he did? I quickly spiraled into an anxious depression so powerful that I began to lash out at those who truly cared for me while simultaneously desiring their love. I was becoming toxic and I couldn’t stop. My mind was a jumbled mess at all times, and it didn’t help that I sought peace in the arms of another man who just wanted me for my body. I felt alone due to my mind playing tricks on me and ended up truly alone as I hurt the roommate who had supported me from day one.

As I moved my things from our room, I blamed her for our issues. If only she understood, she’d treat me differently! I told myself that she was just like everyone else while my mind whitewashed all the times she had supported me before.

I stopped eating. I stopped going to class. I stopped being myself. I hated myself. Every time I got into my car, I imagined driving it off of the bridge into the water below.

I ended the first semester of my senior year with multiple trips to the hospital due to my body literally turning on me. Hampton placed me on an academic warning and I didn’t even care. I went home weighing less than I had in years and I admitted to my parents that I wanted to hurt myself.

I give my parents so much credit for handling this like they did because I can’t imagine the pain I’d feel if my child came to me so broken yet angry and evil at the same time.

I started the spring semester in a better space. My parents took the time to be extra careful with me that Christmas break. My grades were better, but I was still avoiding a real relationship with God. I kept seeking peace and contentment in men. I developed strong feelings for a man who, looking back, was never going to commit to me.

J was a wonderful friend but that is all that he should’ve been. I never should’ve opened up or given myself to him in the way that I did. Throughout our 3-year friendship, he came to know me inside and out while still toying with my feelings and making me believe that we had a future.

While I felt better, my anxiety and depression were still very much in control and I had no real grasp on life. Right before spring break, in an effort to protect myself, I violently ended a relationship with a group of people that were contributing to my mental illness. I said nasty things and broke down when they retaliated with nastier things. I knew my honesty didn’t need to be so harsh, but I couldn’t separate honesty from rudeness.

I called J and he sat on the beach with me for a few hours. He told me that everyone didn’t deserve the person I was. I felt seen by him. I felt like he saw the real me underneath the debilitating mental illness that ravaged my mind. I continued to give my body to him despite his actions showing that he didn’t want a deeper relationship.

I spent my spring break with my bonus mom in Virginia Beach. Miss S was the stability I needed when I was so far from my own mom. She worked in the alumni house and called me the daughter she never had. Her sons looked up to me as their sister and I felt some reprieve in the normalcy of this family who adopted me. Even after spring break was over, she let me stay with her on the weekends when I just needed an escape from campus.

On April 26, the school-sponsored a happy hour for the graduating seniors. I rode there with Miss S and left with a new friend. He was polite and we had a ton of mutual friends. They all vouched for him, so I decided to hang out with him. We were going to watch Bob’s Burgers and smoke a little. I didn’t usually smoke weed but I was about to graduate! The last time I smoked was a few weeks prior, so I wasn’t worried about how it would affect me. I took a couple hits off the blunt and didn’t think anything of it. I got comfortable on the couch and got lost in the hilariously crazy world of the Belcher family.

This next section is a bit graphic as I am discussing my rape. Please take care of yourself and do not read this if this is something you cannot handle at this time.

My head began to feel heavy and I asked to lay down. I stretched out on the couch and tried to ignore the ocean churning in my head. He began to touch me underneath my dress but I was so out of it that I couldn’t stop him. I remember trying to squirm away as his incredibly sharp nails touched my most delicate parts. I tried to stop him, but my tongue didn’t work and my head felt like someone had poured water in my ears. Somehow, we made our way to his bedroom and I remember crawling toward the front of the bed. All I wanted was to just lay down and figure out why my body felt like a block of lead.

Then everything went black.

The first time I came to, he was on top of me having sex with me.

The next time I came to, he was preparing to penetrate me again. He asked me if I was on birth control and I couldn’t answer.

Right before I blacked out again, he apologized to me as he walked closer to the bed.

Then everything was black again.

I woke up to him shaking me and telling me that it was time to go. I stumbled around the apartment trying to find my dress but I couldn’t find it. Eventually it was located and he drove me back to campus.

“We won’t have any issues, right?” he asked as he put his number in my phone. I stumbled out of the car and somehow made it to the second floor and in my room.

The next 2 years followed a revolving cycle of wanting to know God and hating Him for letting me be hurt twice. The summer of 2019 I drank myself silly. I was toeing the line of alcoholism, but I refused to stop. I didn’t know how else to numb the pain that I consistently felt. I dated a string of men and felt a little bit better about myself that I didn’t sleep with all of them.

I wanted to take control of my sexuality, but my sexuality was quickly taking control of me. By August of 2019, I was tired. I locked myself in my bathroom with a pair of scissors and talked to my therapist for almost 2 hours. I kept running them against my thighs but in my vanity, was scared to cut and scar the beautifully smooth brown skin. I told her that I wanted to die and that I was ready to do it myself.

Early that morning, my parents took me to the hospital where I spent 17 hours in a bed. As I drifted between consciousness and a state of awareness, I thought hard about what it would look like if I did kill myself. I anxiously ran down the list of horrible things my family would have to deal with and decided then that I would live.

Crazy how the very thing that made me want to die, kept me alive. I knew then that God had a plan for me but I was still angry at Him. How could His plan be so great if I was ready to die and miss out on it?

In September I started a new job and met D. D is not someone I would’ve been friends with on a normal basis. She is the exact opposite of me, but our friendship works. I truly believe God led her to me because she is the reason I am on the path I am now. Over the final months of 2019, she occasionally invited me to church and respected me when I turned her down time after time. She was so genuine in her faith walk. I had never met a person my age who loved God, wasn’t judgmental and was still fun to be around.

As I spent more time with her, I grew curious about her spirit. She is one of those people that you just want to be around. I didn’t know it then, but it was the Jesus in her that I was noticing.

In January of 2020, after 19 years of confusion, pain and heartache, I decided to give everything to God.

When I say everything, I mean everything. I am learning how to trust God. I wish my Sunday School teacher was right and I only needed to accept Jesus once, but I am so grateful that He welcomed me back anyway.

I ran as far as my legs could take me but God waited for me where I left Him. I returned to Him broken and limping with absolutely no reason for Him to love me or welcome me back.

But He did.

May your struggles keep you near the cross. And may your troubles show that you need God. And may your battled end the way they should. And may your bad days prove that God is good. See may your whole life prove that God is good. -‘God is Good‘- Jonathan McReynolds

1 thought on “when I kept running”

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