At age 10, I was caught in a tug-of-war between light and dark. God had delivered me out of childhood sexual abuse and experimentation. He pursued me and loved me. But the stain of what happened lingered in my soul.
I became an angry child. No one understood my outbursts of temper or why I was suddenly in trouble at school. Thankfully, Mom decided to homeschool my sister and me. I hate to think what might have become of me had I gone to middle school.
When I was 11, I began to have extended bouts of poor health the doctors couldn't explain. During puberty, I struggled with depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide and was caught in a sin and shame cycle I couldn't break, no matter how hard I tried.
I hated myself.
I don't remember the moment--maybe there wasn't a moment--but at some point, I had an encounter with God that reversed the downward spiral of my existence. I was 13, I think.
Healing comes in layers and usually takes place over time.
The first layer of healing was the bond forged between God and me during my teen years. I studied his Word, and there, he would talk to me. He revealed truths to me no preacher ever taught--about how I was chosen before the foundation of the world, how I was adopted and beloved.
I fell hard for Jesus at age 14 when Mom let me tag along to her first Beth Moore Bible study. A Woman's Heart: God's Dwelling Place. Lou Ellen Russell probably has no idea of the impact she had on my life by leading those studies.
God wanted to live inside of me? Me, the girl who had done terrible things? The girl who claimed to love God but couldn't control her attraction to sex?
The revelation of God's love for me became a shelter against the enemy's accusations. It taught me about who my God is and who I am in him, which is why I wasn't afraid to be weird as a teen. It gave me a sense of self-worth so that I didn't want or need to date.
God's love kept me afloat during a time I watched dozens around me sink. Even in the midst of sexual harassment and assault. (See Part One.) Of course, Satan couldn't have that.
The enemy intruded in my life again through a series of serious betrayals between ages 17 and 22. I won't talk about those at this time because they aren't relevant to the conversation. But I will say this--as a teen, I picked up a false definition of God's sovereignty that caused me to believe God was responsible for everything that happened in the world--good and evil.
I believed he had sent these betrayals into my life after I had given him all of me I knew how to give. And though I didn't think about it often, I believed the same must be true about the pattern of sexual abuse recurring in my life.
What kind of loving Father allowed stuff like that? Wow, he was just like the people who had betrayed me. He was like the people who stood back while bad things happened and did nothing to stop them.
If I couldn't trust him to be there for me, especially when I was in the right places doing the right things, what was the point? Maybe I should just do what I wanted.
And so began my years of rebellion.
For the most part, it was a quiet rebellion. Easily missed. I was married, and I loved my husband, so I didn't sleep around. I didn't do drugs; I just drank too much. And when I did, I was the life of the party.
My biggest sin was living apart from the God I'd known and loved. It was also my deepest wound--one I inflicted upon myself. Life was so empty without him.
During all of this, I went to church, plastered a smile on my face, and talked a good talk. Everything seemed fine. Only those closest to me knew. Them and the demons.
These were the years my health declined. These were the years I read books and watched movies, shows, and videos that invited lust to take over my life. (Spoiler alert: Porn isn't just a man's problem, and it comes in many forms.)
What stopped this landslide of sin?
My infant son, Micah Boyce Keaster.
You see, I had lived enough life to know my best efforts couldn't protect him from the world into which I'd delivered him. Only God could do that. And how could I tell my son to trust God if I didn't trust God myself?
The relationship I'd enjoyed as a teen was the home I ran back to. I found my Father waiting on the road where I'd left him. But I realized something. God's Word and prayer wouldn't be enough this time. They weren't enough before. I needed more. I needed him.
I enlisted the help of my mom's mentor, Dixie Perry. She knew very little about my past, but she took up the task of helping me grow because I was hungry. She instructed me in God's Word and in prayer, yes, but more importantly, she instructed me in the ways of the Holy Spirit.
No one had ever taught me about God's Spirit. Sure, I'd experienced the Holy Spirit without meaning to--God loves Baptist kids too--but in this Person of the Trinity, I found the missing link in my walk with God.
He was who I needed to get out of the prison I'd built for myself. He was who I needed to help me become who he intended me to be and to lead my child in the Way of the Everlasting.
And he was the only One who could help me survive the storm that was coming for me.