Finding Grace Through the Darkness
In honor of Women’s History Month, Ministry Village is devoting our blog throughout March to women from the Charis House. We will learn about 4 of our most recent Charis House graduates, read their stories, and discover how their lives have been transformed so they can pursue new paths and make contributions to our community.These ladies have learned from their own histories, and God has repurposed their lives. We pray that their stories inspire you to seek help if you need it yourself, or motivate you to help others who need a chance at redemption.
As long as Kelly* can remember, she had been searching for a way to fill a hole in her heart. She tried to fill the emptiness with friends, men, substances, or circumstances — looking for social events or parties that could distract her from her thoughts. As college began, she started trying new things — experimenting spiritually and experimenting with substances — trying a variety of drugs to create a new experience. “I thought in the moment that I was filling my loneliness because I had people around me all the time,” remembers Kelly. “I felt good. There was always something new to experience.”
Kelly married a military man who eventually received orders to deploy overseas. In 2003, while her husband was deployed, several soldiers broke into Kelly’s home and sexually assaulted her. Deeply traumatized by the ordeal, Kelly began distancing herself from what happened to her. “I never really dealt with that trauma. It was just disassociating – brushing it under the rug – thinking it would go away one day. The shame, guilt and condemnation just built inside of me. No one around me could make me happy because I was unhappy.” Kelly’s marriage ended, unable to survive the strain of her assault and her inability to deal with the nightmare she had faced. Eventually, her husband remarried, and his new wife adopted Kelly’s 3 children.
In addition to the emotional and mental anguish Kelly experienced, she also had physical reminders of her attack. She sustained a back injury as a result of the sexual assault. Doctors treated Kelly’s severe physical pain with opioid pain medications, and prescribed them at a higher than normal dose. “Gradually, my drug tolerance just built through the years. I was 23 when I started taking the medication. By the time I was 37, I had a full-blown opioid addiction that I tried to overcome many, many times. Then I used heroin to cope with my pain. I was so filled with shame that I had allowed myself to get to that point. I remember looking at myself once in the bathroom. I had no idea who this person was that I could see looking back. It was a different person.”
Throughout her years of addiction, Kelly experienced many ups and downs – moments when she felt terribly lost, and then those moments would pass and she would feel relatively normal. But becoming an IV drug user had altered her life into something unrecognizable, even to her. “I sensed as though I was inside a never-ending abyss of tragic events that I had used to define who I had become.” When Kelly found herself on solitary lockdown in a psychiatric hospital because of her drug-induced actions, she heard the door slam echoing in her head for hours. “All I could do was pray. I had lacked a relationship with God, but I knew somehow He was hearing me. There had been many times in my past that I would talk to God and play ‘Let’s Make A Deal’ with the Great I Am. I would say ‘Hello, God. If you hear me, if you get me out of this mess, I promise I’ll never do it again.’ Haven’t we all had those conversations in desperate moments?”
“I had finally come to the end of myself. I started singing ‘Amazing Grace’ in that quiet hospital room. I had never paid much attention to the lyrics before. This is the grace we are all unworthy of receiving. This grace is the kindness that’s undeserved. That day, God showed Himself to me through His grace. The psychiatrist I was appointed was a Christian. That was grace. My 72-hour minimum stay ended in less than 24 hours. That was grace. A few days later, I entered the Charis House, which has ultimately changed the course of my life. That was, without a doubt, grace. I was so blinded by circumstance that I couldn’t see that God’s grace had been there all along. All those horrible life choices, the horrific things that happened to me – grace won anyway. All the times life entrapped me, took an unexpected turn for the worst, let me down, shut me out, stomped all over me – the grace of God made up for all of it. God’s grace has blessed me beyond measure.”
During her time at the Charis House, Kelly has become a diligent student of God’s Word, learning to study it intimately. “It is truly the instruction manual for all our lives. II Corinthians 12: 7-10 explains why I’m even here today. When Paul says, ‘Therefore, in order to keep me from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me, but He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. This is why for Christ’s sake I delight in weakness and insults, in hardships, in difficulties, in persecutions. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ What better gift can we receive than feeling the chains of our past bondage break off and the freedom we get from God’s amazing grace?”
“I can’t even remember emotionally what drew me to the life I had before I was saved. What is drawing me now, spiritually, is so much stronger — so much more profound than I could have ever expected this experience to be. Being at the Charis House wasn’t just recovery from substance abuse. This experience was a recovery of my heart — a recovery that mended and healed my heart in a way that can only be explained by God. Amazing.”
“With the help of the Charis House, I have seen that I am no victim. I now live with a vision — covered by the force of love — covered in my Savior’s blood. I fell in love with God. I thank Jesus — my Savior, my Friend — for filling that empty part in my heart.”
✝️ To donate to the Charis House or any Ministry Village program, click here.
Kelly’s story was the last in this month’s series highlighting recent graduates of the Charis House. If you missed the previous women’s stories, you can find them in our past blogs here.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the women who are seeking a fresh start.