Rooms That Hurt, Rooms That Heal
Finding a place of hope
I grew up in a dysfunctional environment of drugs, gang violence and poverty. I was 3 years old when my father was murdered in the streets of Chicago. It was months before his body was found, buried under snow.
Due to my mom’s issues and struggles, I was surrounded by unhealthy people, particularly men. At 5 years of age, I was sexually abused; the abuse continued, from multiple people, until I was 15.
One particular incident I’ll never forget was on a Fourth of July afternoon. I was about 7 years old at this point.
My siblings and I were headed to a family reunion in the city and had new outfits for the day. I was so excited to wear my new pink Power Rangers sandals. I couldn’t wait to show them to my cousins.
We were all at my grandma’s house down the street when I was sent home to grab something. I ran to the house as fast as I could because I didn’t want to get left behind.
I knew what to get, and my plan was to grab it and go. Upon approaching the house, I didn’t think twice about what I would be walking into because I was just too excited about what was ahead.
When I knocked on the door, my mom’s live-in boyfriend appeared and pulled me inside. He immediately walked me to his room and closed the door.
What took place next forever changed me. I remember lying in that room with my eyes to the ceiling and tears running down my face.
As I returned to my grandma’s, my pace slowed. I was no longer excited about my day. I was broken.
Throughout my early childhood, rooms brought great fear and left me feeling trapped and ashamed. I wasn’t protected in rooms.
Things happened in rooms I wasn’t supposed to tell. I was hurt the most, and felt the most unsafe, in closed rooms.
It was several years before I realized not every room is a scary room.
It was several years before I realized not every room is a scary room. Some rooms offered safety, hope and peace.
I was 10 years old when I met an Assemblies of God pastor who came to clean up trash in my yard on a Saturday morning. I lived across the street from his church, which offered a free after-school program for kids in the neighborhood.
This pastor invited me to come to the program and mentioned there would be free snacks. I was totally sold on the snacks, but even more excited about the safe space it would provide for me.
I attended the program every day after school for months. I heard the gospel and received Jesus as my Savior.
Through that pastor’s invitation, I entered the room offering me the pathway to healing. My situation at home didn’t change much, but I now had hope and a place to lean into when I needed support.
I received discipleship from leaders at the church and quickly grew in my relationship with Jesus. This relationship would sustain me as I walked through the next few years of trauma.
When I was 15, the same pastor and his wife made room for me to come and be a part of their family. After suffering many years of sexual abuse, this was a huge turning point for me and literally changed the trajectory of my life.
For the first time in 10 years, I was safe. I didn’t have to sleep with one eye open. I wasn’t afraid of the rooms in my home and what was behind the closed doors. I was free from the pain.
Rooms had brought me so much hurt and fear, but God was faithful to use other rooms to bring hope, healing and freedom.
I am now 34 years old, and the work God has done in my life is remarkable.
Through counseling, community and prayer, I have overcome so much shame attached to the brokenness of my past. I now serve in full-time ministry with my husband and two beautiful daughters in Richmond, Virginia.
God continues to heal me and is using my story to start conversations and bring healing to so many others.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 edition of Influence magazine.