Courtney – 2009 Graduate
My parents divorced before I was even a year old. Growing up, I lived with my mom and saw my dad on the weekends. Unfortunately, my dad’s alcoholism consumed much of his life, leaving little ability for him to really be a part of my life. Through my elementary years, I was a good student and grew up quicker than many of my peers. However, I’d always been “the heavy girl” in school. At the end of 5th grade, my mom and I did a diet to see who could lose more weight for a trip to Florida. My weight dropped significantly, and I felt like I would finally find the approval I craved. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long. By 7th grade, I was skipping lunch daily, afraid to eat carbs, and heavily involved with track and cross-country. As thoughts of numbers, weight, food, and calories continually plagued my mind, I soon slipped into bulimic behaviors.
What started as a simple method of weight control quickly became a full-blown addiction. By sophomore year I was distant and consumed by my eating disorder. When my dad re-entered my life after a year of absence, I began getting closer with my siblings. I started going to church every Sunday with my brother and his wife, and they started teaching me about God and the Bible. Despite my growing desire to follow Jesus, my eating disorder continued spiraling out of control. I continually lied and deceived all the people who cared most, not caring about much more than where my next binge would come from. I began battling with self-harm and pornography. My mind was so drenched in lies no one could really break through to me, though they never gave up trying. I entered secular treatment only to be told they couldn’t help me. I picked up some new tricks from the other girls in the program, and my eating disorder got worse. This led to several months in a hospital bed being pumped full of fluids and nutrients. It was during this time I began the application process to Mercy.
I arrived at Mercy enslaved to an eating disorder, self-harm, struggles with depression, perfectionism, suicidal thoughts, co-dependency, and sexual sin. Three different people had also sexually abused me over a period of four years. I felt hopeless, broken, and dead. During my time at Mercy, I began to experience God’s comfort, love, and presence at a personal level. As I was immersed in the Word of God, the truth began to penetrate deeper than the lies that had dictated my life for so long. As hard as it was, God met me in my place of weakness every time. I now know He’s the perfect Father who never leaves or forsakes me. I know He’s my great counselor. I no longer have to look to my appearance or to people to find my worth, because Christ is my hope and identity! The more I’ve gotten to know Him, the more I’ve been able to trust Him with my life.
Life after Mercy has not been perfect or easy, but I am so thankful to feel far more equipped to handle the trials and challenges as they come. The first year after graduating from the program, the Lord allowed me to walk through some deep waters. What I learned has only become truer through each of the years to follow—only Jesus has the power to redeem my life from the pit! Recently both my grandfather and dad passed away within three weeks of one another. It has been a hard season of messy layers of grief and darkness. And yet, I’m so thankful for the way Mercy taught me to hide God’s Word in my heart, to meditate on it day and night, and to stand firm in what His Word says regardless of what I feel. I’m blessed that God saw fit to reveal Himself to me, to justify me by HIS grace alone through the redemption that is in Christ. Now I get to stand firm in the hope by which He’s called me, even when there are days that don’t feel so hope-filled.
For the past six years, I’ve been blessed to be a part of a solid church family who has become dear to me. The Lord has put a deep love in my heart for people from all tribes and tongues and nations. After several short-term trips overseas, I finished my college degree. I now serve as a college campus missionary, working with international students from over 120 nations! In my role, I get to share the gospel and pour my life into women and families from oppressed areas of the world. God is doing some incredible things, and I am humbled to get to serve Him in this way.
God truly has done exceedingly beyond anything I could have asked or imagined seven years ago. Death is no longer my goal in life—but rather to know and serve the King of Kings who conquers death and promises to reign victorious in the end!