Ashley’s Testimony

Ashley’s Testimony

My Broken Home

My story has a rocky start, a messy middle but a beautiful ending. I grew up fighting battles on all sides, in the world, in my heart, and at home. My parents went through an absolutely horrendous divorce when I was 3 years old. My mother left my father for another man and we went to live with him very abruptly. That man was my stepfather for the next 22 years.

The dysfunction of a broken home plagued my childhood. My parents struggled to co-parent across all of that pain and my siblings and I got caught in the cross-fire.

I was constantly going back and forth between houses and trying to make sense of this new family dynamic. None of those involved were Christians and there was no sense of grace, forgiveness or peace within my home. My parents often spent their money on indulgences such as gambling and drugs, so they struggled to make ends meet.

In my home, there was constant emotional & physical abuse and I never really felt stable or safe.

Childhood Trauma

In addition to an impoverished and damaging home life, I also experienced trauma outside my home. I was repeatedly molested by a friend’s brother for many years during my early childhood. My friend’s family was aggressively religious and I regularly attended church with them. These events colored my view of Christianity and God for most of my teen and young adult years. This caused a lot of confusion for me about who God was. How he could allow such a terrible thing to occur in my life, especially from someone who claimed to love Him?

Since I was in church a lot as a child, I heard over and over again the message of purity. I didn’t fully understand what was happening to me, but I knew I felt soiled and ruined. 

The message of the world taught me that my womanhood itself was a temptation. Because of that, I struggled to accept the Gospel and that I was worthy of love at all. My mind led me to believe I was to blame for my abuse.

I had friends who continued to drag me to church on Sunday mornings, to vacation bible school and youth events but I had a hardness around my heart that took years and years to soften. Any time I began to let my guard down and I ended up hurt by broken people in the Church and this kept the wall up around my heart for a long time.

Teen Years

As is common with sexual abuse victims, I engaged in unhealthy relationships at a very early age. Many of them took advantage of my vulnerability and weakness. I was under the warped-by-trauma impression that my body was not my own and that being touched without permission was normal.

I did not know how to speak up and use my voice when I was uncomfortable or how to ask for help. Saying “No” wasn’t even an option in my mind.

Damaging, abusive relationships on top of my home life lead to serious anxiety, depression, and self-harm in my teen years. The relationships I engaged in and my home life repeatedly broke my heart.

I was searching for the love and affection my soul desperately desired, but I was searching for it in all of the wrong places. I believed I was too broken, dirty and soiled for God to possibly be able to love me.

Most people had no idea all I was going through, as I kept up appearances very well. I made good grades, played high school sports, was in National Honor Society and other clubs. I had a job and have been working since I was 16. Most people probably believed I was just fine. Those around me didn’t know how deep the constant pain and anxiety I was experiencing was. 

While I never used drugs, I did use alcohol regularly to dull the pain. This increased when I entered college and the peer pressure and party scene bogged me down.

Running Into Hope

After my first year of college, I hit a low point and decided to transfer schools under the pretense of going to live with my best friend. In reality, I was trying to run away from myself and believed a “new start” would cure my feelings of restlessness and emptiness. 

That following summer, I ran into an old friend from high school who was a Christian. He genuinely surprised me with his kindness and Christ-like attitude towards me. This softened my heart and slowly pointed me back to Jesus. (Fun fact: This old friend would eventually become my husband).

We were close friends in high school and but had lost contact after graduation. God brought him back into my life right when I was desperate enough to finally listen to someone tell me I was worthy of the love and forgiveness that Christ had to offer me. He listened without judgment and extended invites to Church multiple times. My heart was softened by his gentleness (and I’m sure by a prayer or two from him) and I finally gave my heart back to Christ in the summer of 2011.  

Before he and I entered a dating relationship later that summer, I told him every detail of my past. His was response was to tell me how much God loved me. He reminded me that there was freedom and healing in my relationship with God if I chose to let him in.

He told me that all that mattered now was what I chose to do from that point on.

Choosing To Believe

My healing has been a long process and is one that is ongoing. But that summer, I found freedom. I finally believed the truth I had been too hurt to listen to for all those years.

I finally believed I was loved, free & forgiven. God saw me and all my sin and still called me beloved daughter. This was the first time I ever felt like God was real. 

I still felt that effects of the trauma I endured as a child and teenager, but when I let God come in and heal my heart, the effects lessened. Through a lot of prayers and Godly counsel, I came to believe that those young men were battling unimaginable sin and evil in their hearts. I found the strength through God to forgive them, not because they deserved it, but because I did.

Once I chose to forgive, I was able to overcome the power that trauma, anger, and resentment had over me.

I have had to do a lot of heart work since then and I am only now beginning to grasp the depth of Christ and His love and grace for me. However, I still have work to do. I am always going to be a work in progress. I will not “arrive” or be able to fully fathom and understand God’s ways in this life, no matter how much studying and praying I do.

But with a full heart, I am going to pursue Christ and His ways all the days of my life. It is only through His love that I have found healing and peace. His grace was and is sufficient to cover me, redeem me and use me for His glory. 

Life After Grace

I don’t tell you any of this for pity or for attention. My story is just one of the many testimonies of God’s enduring love and grace. I pray you know you are loved, wanted and adored by your heavenly Father. There is freedom through Christ Jesus.

Especially if you identify with my experience, I pray you know how loved you are. It was not your fault.

I am not walking in my past anymore, but that is not by my own strength. My traumatic memories often try to creep to my consciousness. I have to work to not let them affect my behavior, but God is always with me. The closer I get to Him, the more peace and comfort I find.  Every wound leaves scars, even after they have healed. But I choose to let my scars tell a beautiful story instead of a tragic one.

They are a part of me, but they have no power over me anymore.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33