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From Bitter to Better

When I was asked to share my story with She Prayed, I initially wanted to say, “no, maybe some other time” and “I’m not good at that kind of stuff” were the first of few reasons that came to mind. However, just as quickly as the excuses came, so did my conviction. I was reminded of the many times I’ve prayed to God that he’d use me. I’ve cried out “Lord, I’m your empty vessel” and yet, here I am getting ready to move my cup away just as God is getting ready to pour. So I decided to say yes! I’d like to begin first by thanking God for entrusting me with this wonderful privilege of sharing my story with all of you. May He receive all the honor and glory forever, Amen!

We’ve all experienced betrayal in some shape or form, but it hurts the most when it’s done in the hands of someone you care for. 2009 was a year of betrayal that caused me to turn into a very bitter girl. I was in a relationship with someone I thought I knew. We went to the same church for a few years and shared the same passions for ministry, sports and competition. We were both very outgoing individuals, so we naturally clicked. He desired to be a youth pastor, which was one of the main reasons why I was smitten and willingly ignored all the warning signs that came my way.

It was the last semester of my freshman year in college and things between me and my, at the time, boyfriend were toxic. Since the start of my freshman year, he faithfully came to my campus almost every single day. I used to think it was his way of showing he loved me. Little did I know, it was a landmine exploding, trying to warn me. By this point, I’ve experienced countless verbal and emotional abuse from him. He told me no guy would want a girl like me because I was tomboyish and I should count myself lucky to have him. I was called stupid and ugly and even forced to sit on the floor because “that’s where dogs belonged.” I believed…every…single…word.

When it came time for my identity to be tested I failed miserably because, I didn’t know who I was. I relied on the faith of my father and pastors instead of owning my own faith. Instead of rebuking false claims of worthlessness, inadequacy and timidity, I embraced each one that was presented and slowly let the light that was inside me go dim. I was drifting into a person I didn’t recognize and the worse had yet to come.

He came to visit me one night and I could tell the moment he walked in the computer lab that things would soon get ugly. There was no greeting from him. He just sat down next to me and reached for my phone. As usual, he began to go through my text messages. Again, more landmines going off, but I chose to ignore them. He suddenly stopped, slammed my phone on the table and stormed out the computer lab. Confused faces immediately turned their eyes towards me as I followed after him. I ran down yelling his name, hoping that he’d slow down so I could catch up. He aggressively began to shout profane words at me. I was shocked to hear him speak this way. After all, this is an upcoming youth pastor cursing at me. I reached his car and sat in the passenger seat. He warned me to get out of his car or he would embarrass me. I thought to myself, “how can you embarrass me anymore than what’s been done?” Well, he would soon prove me wrong when he decided to stand in the middle of a busy pathway, yell out my full name and proceeded to call me more profane words in front of my colleagues. I was completely horrified as I remained in the car.

He hopped in his car and sped out the parking lot. He was upset that a boy messaged me about our group project and said we should have communicated solely through email. Words were exchanged between the two of us and suddenly his fist came flying across his seat and landed on the left side of my face. The impact was so great that my head hit the passenger window. In disbelief I grabbed my face, looked into his eyes and said, “you hit me!” He responded with “yeah, and I’ll hit you again!” He then followed with another punch to my face. In anger, I smacked him. He immediately got ready to hit me again with a blow that was surely to put me out. It was only by the grace of God that he decided to change the direction of his punch from my face to the roof of his car just seconds before making contact. We never spoke to each other again.

During that same month my mother randomly left our family to live with a man she was cheating on my dad with. Two people I really cared for betrayed me and I became very bitter. I no longer wanted to go to church because I thought somehow my pastor, who was good friends with my ex, had something to do with what happened to me. I know it sounds silly but this was how my 19-year-old mind was thinking. I trusted no one! I went from a bubbly girl to a self-loathing person who cared for nothing. I dated the same kind of men because I didn’t know who I was; I didn’t know my worth.

I finally had enough. I got to my lowest point and decided I was tired of being unhappy and holding on to all this hate. I wanted to be my old self and I honestly didn’t think I could be…so I dared God to do it. I remember thinking “if you can make all things new, then make me new!” and that was the best dare I could have ever given someone. I started to attend church regularly, fellowshipped with other believers, prayed and read his word. I finally owned my own faith and understood my identity in Christ. I no longer hated my ex and I made a decision to forgive him, but that would soon be tested.

Fast forward. It’s been 8 years since I’ve spoken to my ex and here he comes walking in my church. I thought I would be upset, but I had peace. I was truly happy to see him in the house of the Lord. I thought to myself, “see, I do forgive him God” but He quickly challenged me to do one thing. I sensed God telling me to tell my ex “I forgive you”. At first I was hesitant. I was unsure of how to start the conversation. “Hey welcome to the church, here’s a welcome bag…by the way I forgive you for hitting me. God Bless!” …Yikes! Well, despite the uncertainty, I decided to do it.

Before I was able to approach him, he sent me a message on social media asking if I was okay with him attending the church. Right at that moment I saw the work of God’s hand. God allowed me to go through a storm so that years later I could demonstrate His love and forgiveness towards the person who caused it. Because of the work God did in me, I was able to forgive my ex and encourage him to continue coming. I soon remembered the dare and thought, “God, you didn’t make me into my old self again…you actually made me better.” He turned a bitter girl to a better woman!

Matt 11:28-30 - Rest When I was feeling betrayed and weighed down, this scripture helped me understand the weight could only be lifted by God. That I could only rest in Him. I only had to "come" just as the scripture said. So this scripture helped me take action in moving towards God. Matt 18:21-35 - Forgiveness This scripture helped me understand forgiveness. The interaction between the king and the servant is a reflection of how God forgives us. Before we are quick to refuse forgiveness for someone who has wronged us, remember that God first forgave us and continually forgives us even when we don't deserve it. Luke 6:27-36 - Love This scripture helped me understand how to love those who have wronged me. That love is more than just saying "I love you" but actually showing I love them by blessing those who curse me and praying for those who mistreat me.

~Amadly Cruz~

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