Two weeks ago I finished a group at my church for women dealing with love and sexual addiction. I never thought in my life I’d be a part of a group like that. I always believed that "my past is my past" and that I could move forward and “forget” all things. But that is the biggest lie the enemy put in my head.
Almost three years ago I moved to Portland, hoping I’d find my path and find myself. Really deep down though, I thought, "If I move away from all the things and people that have hurt me and start a new life, then I can pretend to be someone different." Again, also a lie. That first year in Portland was the hardest year of my life. I struggled daily with feeling hopeless and lost, unloved and not cared about. The enemy was fighting so hard for my heart and I felt it. What I could not feel was how hard Jesus was also fighting for my heart.
There were times where I cried everyday, and I mean EVERY day for months. I was bitter and calloused. I was mean and irrational, and the only people who saw it were the people closest to me. I was pretty decent about making sure I put on a brave front and a happy face. I was “honest” when people asked how it was living up here and I’d always say it was hard but I KNEW this is where God wanted me. But I "knew" NOTHING. I made the decision to move purely out of the selfishness of my heart.
I had a few friends here and I wanted to be around them and get away from people constantly prying into my life. That’s how I felt in the moment; so I did it. I didn’t put much time or effort into the move. I had maybe two paychecks saved and a vehicle that was semi-reliable. But, I had no place to live and only had a part time job as a barista at Starbucks. But I just "knew" I was supposed to move.
My trip started with worry and anxiety, but also so much excitement. As the weeks went on I found a roommate who in the end, was a bit off her rocker. I became good at my job and picked up shifts as much as I could. I found several other jobs so I could afford to live. I made a couple friends and I felt like I was making it, and that this is what I was to be doing. But for every moment of confidence I had, I’d be met with days and weeks of sadness and depression. I couldn’t figure out why.
For two years this was my life, I felt shameful and embarrassed. But why? My life always seemed to be the same circle... I would do well for a while and feel a sense of pride and independence, then I’d have a season of hating everything and was filled with anger and regret. I was lost, and I couldn’t find my way.
But one day I decided to go to my church that I hadn’t attended in MONTHS but was telling everyone I was. My friend decided to come with me and during the announcements they spoke of a group for both men and women who struggle with love and sexual addiction. My friend turned to me and said she thought maybe I should join. Oddly enough, I agreed with her. A couple months passed before I got the courage to actually email 423 Women and many more months passed before the group even started. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to believe I could do everything by myself. Thankfully with the push and prayer from my friend I reluctantly started the group.
I won't go into detail about why or what made me realize I needed the group. That may come in time. But I do want to tell you what happened to me in 423 Women. The first few weeks I was reluctant. While I wanted to change and be healed from my past, I wasn’t willing to put in the work completely. I wanted an "easy button," and boom, I’d be perfectly fine. Well, that’s not the way God works. In those weeks I felt the need for church which I hadn’t felt in a while. When I met with this group of women I remembered what it felt like to have connection and fellowship, I felt heard and cared about. These things I hadn’t fully felt in a while.
I learned a lot in those nine months. I learned what real forgiveness felt like. I learned that the things of my past don’t define my identity. I learned how to speak out what I’m feeling, and that hope is real. I learned that what I plan for my life might not be what God has planned. I was shown that I was fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that I am a pearl - a precious thing, the finest example of something.
But most importantly I HEARD for the first time that I am beloved and victorious!