Hope & Healing - Ashley Taylor
My name is Ashley Taylor and this is my story...
When I was 7, I asked Jesus to come live in my heart. At this point I had faith in Jesus, but it wasn't until I was 13 that I realized that belief in Jesus did not mean one had a relationship with Him. I had asked Him to be in my life, but I had not allowed Him to be Lord of my life.
I did my best as a teen to live “sold out” for Jesus. I knew I wanted to be involved in ministry early on. I also believed being someone in ministry would require me to live a perfect life that was a shining reflection of Jesus' work within me. Despite doing my best to be a perfect disciple of Jesus, I still lived in a broken world full of temptation and evil and trial. Tragically, an abusive sin was committed against me as a teenager that left me feeling unforgivable, full of shame, and dirty beyond cleansing. Worst of all, I believed this situation left me disqualified from serving God in ministry because I was no longer a shining example of Christ.
The nine years following my abuse changed me and sadly, they changed me largely because I chose to hide from God’s love rather than to accept it and lean into His new mercies and healing and hope. I tried to choose joy in trial so I might presereve and grow in faith (James 1:2-4 paraphrased), but more often I chose to dull the ache of pain with binge-eating, over-exercising or co-dependent relationships.
No matter how long I lived in neutral in my attitude toward God, He never stopped loving and pursuing me. And in my lonliest season as an adult and the darkest year for our family I finally came to the end of myself and turned to God’s Word for help. In His Word I found hope and healing and a God Who loves and forgives. I saw a God Who didn’t make the evil in this world, but gave Hope despite the evil. Once I understood how loving and patient God was from Genesis 3 to this present day, I couldn’t get enough of knowing Him more deeply and doing my best to live for Him because of love, not because I wanted to appear perfect.
As I grew closer to the Lord, I began sharing my story and telling people for the first time about the evil that was done to me as a teenager. I started sharing how I felt that situation disqualified me from ministry. I confessed how I chose to cope with the pain of that violation and how that still plagued me into adulthood. I shared how through it all, God was loving me and kind and faithful and good. The more I shared the stories about how I was not "shiny" and revealed my brokenness, the more I found people could relate. No one has a shining, perfect life of ease. No one walks through life without feeling the sting of loss, violation, disappointment, hopelessness, or pain. And because we all have pain in common, we all have a common thirst for an antidote to the despair, something or someone who will heal the broken parts. Like the woman at the well in the heat of the day hearing that someone could offer her drink so she may never thirst again, so are we. We are desperate.
Knowing Christ and growing deeper in my walk with Him since fully surrendering my wants and life and will to Him in 2015 has led to a hunger for God's Word, a desire for the church community, and a need to share God's love with others. It also led me to finally take the obedient steps toward that shelved call to ministry that I spent so long believing I was disqualified from because I wasn't perfect. The truth is no one is perfect except Christ. Because He was perfect, He could die for the sins of the world. He died for the ones we commit and the ones committed against us. He died for my abuser and me and for you too. He loves us all no matter what we’ve done.
Walking with Jesus helped me shake the belief I needed to be perfect to be used by Him and simultaneously filled me with love, joy, and boldness to walk according to my new life in Christ. Being honest about my sin and struggles has helped me recognize that it is easy to make idols out of God's very best gifts. It is easy to worship the created instead of the Creator, but it's not meant to be this way. No one will ever comfort us like Christ, and in following Him, we find the joy, hope, and perseverance we need to face any obstacle and grow in faith. In Him, we discover the antidote to pain. We will still hurt and be hurt, but our Living Water reminds us that Christ is coming back, and this world and this pain are not our home; He is.