by Alison Verna
Stripped of my worth and purity.
Unworthy of love.
For years after I was brutally raped when I was 17, these were my identity.
I fell in love with Jesus at the age of 15 when He supernaturally delivered me from three years of extreme depression, homosexuality, cutting and suicide.
A year and a half later, I began struggling with an intense battle against destructive choices. I found myself drowning in shame and self-hatred deeper than any darkness I had ever known. An emotionally manipulative relationship had left me feeling worthless and ashamed of what I had become. I stopped believing Jesus could still love me and started talking sexually to guys online.
And I became addicted to pornography.
Believing the Lies
The cheap thrill of feeling temporarily desired made me feel empty, numb and filled with shame. My addictions deepened as I became increasingly more disgusted with myself — a vicious cycle that consumed my life until I could no longer tell whether I was giving into my addictions to numb the pain or to punish myself.
In February of 2010, I was fully convinced that God hated me and would never forgive me, so I decided to seek a real-life relationship that would prove to me I was still worth something. After talking with a guy my friend introduced me to on Facebook, I snuck out one Friday night to meet him. On my way to his house, I dreamed of a guy finally paying attention to me and calling me beautiful, making me feel valuable and desired.
Most of my friends had mocked me for wanting to save myself for marriage, but I wasn’t going to change that. If he started doing things I wasn’t comfortable with, I would just tell him to stop.
As he led me into his house, my heart ached as I remembered the beautiful, close relationship I used to have with Jesus, but I told myself there was no way He would take me back after everything I had done.
A few hours later, I lay on a cold hospital bed in shock and unbearable pain. The guy I thought would value me had instead raped me repeatedly. Several thoughts drifted through my mind:
I am filthy and worthless.
I will never be clean.
This is my fault.
This is my punishment for my sin.
God will never forgive me.
I will never forgive myself.
Jesus will never want me again.
Several years later, I found myself on a 48-hour trip to Perth, Australia, to attend a discipleship training school with Youth With a Mission focused on human trafficking.
After a couple of years in and out of hospitals, residential programs and group homes, I slowly learned to allow myself to believe Jesus could still love me, that I still had worth despite what had happened to me, and that my past could be redeemed. But I reclaimed my relationship with Jesus in March of 2012.
It wasn’t easy, though.
One time I was sexually harassed by a coworker, and the memories and emotions began flooding back. I told myself if I tried harder to be a better Christian, I would stay in control. I battled constantly with self-hatred, shame and neglected self-care, but I told myself to stop being weak and ignore the negative emotions. I was in a better place, but I still had healing ahead of me.
I decided it was time to pursue my dream of helping sexually exploited women, so I went to the other side of the world to be trained for this ministry … or so I thought.
I believed God had sent me to Australia to be equipped to minister to others. But in the following three months of lectures and two months of ministry in Nepal and Thailand, it became increasingly clear that He actually sent me there to show me the deeply wounded places in my own heart that still needed healing. It was there He restored my self-worth that had been deeply tainted with guilt and shame.
On the plane ride back home, I was in awe of how my heart had been transformed.
Redeemed by His Love
While God had done a beautiful work of restoration in my life, I was still in need of deeper healing. Immediately after I returned to the States, I battled extreme anxiety that would last for nearly two years.
So He led me to the Bible — to Song of Solomon.
Slowly, my heart opened up to Jesus’ relentless pursuit. My shame melted away as I became captivated by the love in His eyes.
Through the Bible and His sweet pursuit of my heart, I slowly began to see myself as worthy, redeemed and beautiful.
He showed me that I was not defined by being raped or the things I had done — both willingly and against my will — that had made me feel worthless, guilty and ashamed. My defenses and self-hatred fell away as I found my true worth and identity in Jesus.
My self-worth has been completely restored through a beautiful, close friendship with Jesus. In my darkest shame, He lavished me with love that made me radiant and whole. I no longer see myself as stained by my past, but washed clean and redeemed by Jesus’ extravagant love.
I once saw myself as a victim who was stained by my past. Through Jesus, I am now an overcomer who is dedicating my life to ministering to sexually exploited women in the red light district in Thailand. My heart burns for them to experience the redeeming love of Christ, His pursuit of them, and how beautiful they are in His eyes.
While what I experienced cannot even begin to compare to the hell they have endured, I know what it is like to be abused and feel shame. But I also know how it feels to then be healed from deep brokenness through the purity and beauty and intimacy with Jesus.
Beauty for Ashes
Pursued by extravagant love that has cleansed me from my shame and made me beautiful.
This is who I am now because of the love of Jesus.
Alison Verna loves writing, painting, missions, women’s ministry and above all, Jesus. Her dream and life’s calling is to start a safe home and ministry for sexually exploited women in Southeast Asia. Currently, she is working full-time to save money to go back into missions.