Joanna – 2015 Graduate
I grew up in a home where my parents loved the Lord, but my dad was the pastor of a small community church, and both he and my mom were very ministry-focused, leaving me feeling overlooked and unimportant. When I was very young I was sexually molested by a close family member, and I began to believe that I existed for the purpose of pleasing other people. Performance and people-pleasing became the motivation behind my thoughts and actions, and I carried this wrong mentality from then on. I could never live up to the perfect expectations that I had in my head and constantly felt like I would never be good enough. When I was 13 I started engaging in eating disorder behaviors to cope, and by the time I was 17 I was caught in an uncontrollable cycle of restricting, binging and purging. I started engaging in various forms of self-harm and eventually became suicidal.
When my parents found out that I was having suicidal thoughts, they started looking into treatment programs and discovered Mercy. They suggested it to me, and I applied immediately. I had already made up my mind that I would kill myself if Mercy didn’t help me. When I arrived, I was hopeless, confused and full of shame. I was bitter and angry with God for allowing my life to fall apart when I had always been the “good girl.”
I had a few turning points in my journey at Mercy. Early on God revealed the truth of the cross to me, and it became personal for me. I realized that there is no greater lengths He could have gone in order to express His love for me. This revelation was the first turning point, and gave me the motivation to start fighting for my life. The second major turning point happened out of a counseling session where God exposed the deep ugliness of my people-pleasing mentality. I realized that stripped of it, I felt like I did not have an identity. I was horrified and instead of running to God in my fear and pain, I pushed Him away in anger. I expected the blow of condemnation, but it never came. For the first time, I chose to receive His love simply because I needed it. This changed everything for me, and I discovered an unshakable hope and peace that was based on Jesus’ unchanging love.
While at Mercy, God showed me that He wasn’t waiting for me to get my act together, and my weaknesses were not a failure on my part. I was designed to need Him to come meet me and be my strength. I learned that all the time I spent looking to the mirror for approval pointed to a much deeper longing for an answer that I didn’t have. I fixed my gaze on Jesus instead of the mirror, and I discovered that the beauty of who He is satisfied me in a way that my own beauty never could. God revealed Himself to me personally as the God who is able to steady my heart no matter what storm is raging around me or inside of me.
After graduating from Mercy, I will be moving in with a host family and plan to get involved in youth ministry. I feel called to discipleship and one-on-one mentorship and am praying for specific direction so that I can grow in these areas. I also feel called to combat shame inside the church walls and speak out about the freedom that comes from walking in the truth by telling my story. My dream is to someday work in a residential treatment program similar to Mercy and help hurting people encounter the only One who can bring healing and peace to pain and confusion. In the future I see myself doing motivational speaking, writing, singing, and riding horses again.
God used Mercy to save my life. My journey was long and hard, but I never dreamed that I could experience this kind of freedom and intimacy with God. I’m not the same person, and I don’t think the same way. I want to say thank you to all the Mercy supporters. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude to think that you invest your time, energy, and funds into women that you have never met. What you give is not wasted. My life is transformed, and I can’t wait to walk out freedom and help others in bondage discover the same God that I found within the walls of Mercy. Thank you, thank you, and thank you!