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Rachel Elizabeth Harding

Insecurity. This defined my life. I always felt too tall, too awkward, or too unattractive. These deep insecurities became painfully present when I began dating in high school. In order to receive male affection, I allowed myself to be used emotionally and physically. In those moments, I felt desired and wanted. Those fleeting, empty encounters made me feel worthy. But when I laid my head down at night, I was broken. The shame from my choices was unbearable. My appetite for validation had grown, while my self-worth deteriorated. I naively attributed this to my relationship with God. I wanted God to remove the consequences of my actions, so I could continue doing whatever I wanted. I never questioned God’s existence, but I did doubt His goodness. I saw God as a legalistic Father Who was always disappointed in me. After parting ways with God, my negative behaviors and partying intensified. I was partying hard and attempting to numb my pain. It all culminated one night at a party where I was raped. This was a whole new level of broken that I didn’t think was possible. I felt so worthless that I told myself I deserved this, and that this was my fault. I carried this burden and believed this lie for years.

After my assault, I couldn’t go back to the parties I had once thrown myself into. My life eventually calmed down, and I tried my hardest to put the past and painful memories behind me. I was graduating high school and off to the college of my choice. I had no real need for a God to follow because my life was back on track. My first couple of years in college were great. I loved my roommates, joined a sorority, and had my older brother down the street. However, as I got to know the people around me, no one seemed to have a past or baggage like mine. I felt like my past was a heavy burden that weighed me down. It was during this time that I began to hear a lie in my head that I was unworthy, damaged, and dirty.

Comparing myself to others was a constant distraction. I felt out of control and longed for the comfort of stability. I hated myself and could barely look at myself in the mirror. I looked for areas of my life that I could exert the most control over, and this area was food. It began as a simple diet by restricting certain foods, but ultimately, it became an all-consuming eating disorder. I quickly became a shell of my former self, emotionally and physically. The emotional pain and depression that accompanied my eating disorder led me to self-harm in an attempt to alleviate my pain. I would often lay in bed and pray for God to end it so I would be free from my prison. With the help of hindsight, I know that it was God Who brought me to a place where I was open and receptive to treatment. I spent the summer after my junior year in a treatment facility. Once there, I was randomly assigned a counselor who turned out to be a Christian. God used her to help me believe that I was worthy and had value. By God’s grace, I didn’t have to take time off from college and I was able to graduate on time. However, I still didn’t feel whole. Treatment had been really helpful and necessary, but it didn’t take away the shame of my past decisions or the anger that I felt toward my abuser.

It wasn’t until I moved to Dallas for graduate school, that my relationship with God changed. My brother invited me to a young adult service called The Porch. Every Tuesday, thousands of young adults gathered to worship and hear a sermon geared toward our life stages. I was surrounded by peers who were so authentic and real about their current struggles and past regrets. That’s when I realized the Church is full of broken people who have recognized that they need help. While each person’s story was different, they all shared one major component: their lives and hearts had been transformed from encountering and trusting Jesus Christ. I longed to experience this same kind of life transformation. To be made new again and be free from my shame, guilt, anger, need for others’ approval, and insecurities. It seemed like an impossible task, but something I so desperately craved.

When I began to study the Bible and learn more about God’s love, my deepest insecurities flared up again. “I am not worthy.” “God wouldn’t love me if He knew all the things I had done.” I prayed for God to help me trust Him and take Him at His word. God was faithful and answered my prayers. One Sunday after another, my lies were confronted with God’s beautiful, perfect, loving truth. “Christ’s radical forgiveness doesn’t belittle my sin, but magnifies His amazing grace.”

Romans 3:23, says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I finally understood that there was nothing I could do to atone for or make up for all the wrong I had done. I didn’t need more second chances; I needed a Savior. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God knows me completely. He is omnipresent and all-powerful. This means in my lowest moments and darkest times, He was with me. He is not surprised by my failures and yet He loves me enough to take on the penalty for my sins. The cost of my sins was paid for by a God who died so that I may experience life and life abundantly. What kind of God is this that would take on my sin, shame, and guilt? One that loves me more than I could ever hope to fully comprehend this side of eternity! This realization gave new meaning to Amazing Grace. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I am chosen, holy, and blameless before God (Ephesians 1:4). It was then that I fully understood the Gospel. I trusted in the free gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for my life and my heart began to change.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away–look, what is new has come.” I now have a new life in Christ. My past no longer defines me, I am no longer a slave to shame and insecurity. I truly never thought I would be able to experience healing from my sexual abuse and offer forgiveness to my perpetrator, regardless of whether he ever repents. I wish I could say that I no longer struggle with insecurities, forgiveness, or the need for approval. However, Jesus warns us in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Daily, I rely on on prayer and God’s Word to lead me through these troubles. God doesn’t always change my circumstances, but He will change me. I have tried life my way and was left broken, starved, and empty. With Christ as the center of my life, I am redeemed, loved, and satisfied.


Amanda Buccola
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