Patricia* is a young woman that comes from a dysfunctional context. For much of her childhood her parents were separated, even though they lived under the same roof. Nearly her entire life she has suffered verbal abuse and different forms of mistreatment by her father.
Both of her parents professed to be Christians, and her father was even one of the pastors in the church they attended. Here’s Patricia’s testimony in her own words:
*Pseudonym for protection purposes
“When I was in church or in some sort of church meeting, I had to act hypocritically. We had to look like everything in our family was perfect. But the situation in our home was a hell. Along with my siblings, we suffered a lot. So, the image of God with I which I was raised was one of a tyrannical and vindictive ruler, that punished us on a whim for no real reason. I was constantly afraid, afraid that some curse was going to come over our family if we didn’t obey the authorities in the church in all that they told us.
The church did not reflect the love of Christ (I can realize that now), nor did the leaders live out what they preached. There was a lot of manipulation and hypocrisy.
I was a proud person and full of bitterness. I harbored bitterness in my heart toward my father and toward every person that committed any kind of fault against me. I was also a selfish person and very insecure. I lived closed up in myself.
When I was ten years old, after a stage in life in which I experienced a lot of bullying, I began to think about suicide. I tried to take pills, but by the mercy of God I was interrupted when one of my brothers came in the room and I abandoned the idea. I tried to evade my own thoughts and I looked for a way to escape reality through music and especially through my cell phone. I could spend hours and hours looking at my phone, laying in my bed and isolated from all that surrounded me.
“When my mother came to Family of Grace Church and brought me with her, the first thing that struck me was the love with which we were received. The people were kind and very loving, and there was something distinct about them—they sincerely cared about us.
That day Ariel was preaching through a series on the Ten Commandments and the theme of the sermon was idolatry. That sermon awoke my conscience. I had no idea how idolatrous I was. I idolized myself, my mother, my siblings, music, etc.. I loved anything at all more than I loved Christ and I understood that that this was idolatry. As I continued attending the church, I began to develop an appreciation and a love for the believers, and this was something new for me. God began to be real in my life—He was in the church, in the fellowship, in the preaching.
With every sermon I began to realize more and more the reality of my sins and the love of Christ. This was a process that was deepened even more through the conversations I had with Ariel. I could see my sins, but still, in my heart I was resisting the truth.
One day I participated in a meeting with the young adults in the church. Ariel preached from Luke 14:25-33 about what it really means to follow and represent Jesus in this world. The teaching focused on the value and beauty of Christ, a beauty for which the disciples were willing to abandon everything to follow after. I understood that all the idols that my heart had held onto in my pursuit of satisfaction, security and purpose were only an obstacle. I understood that I had to repent of my reliance on those things—abandon my pride, my love for myself, the bitterness in my heart—and value Christ for who He really is.
I was grieved because of the idolatry that was in my heart, but at the same time I was joyful. God was calling me to follow Him and I was able to respond to His call! He was calling me, He loved me, and He gave Himself for me!
I want to follow Him because He died for my sins. Christ was willing to take the place that I deserve as a criminal. He carried all my transgressions because He loved me, and now I only want to live for Him.”