(Posted February 6th 2018 @ 9:40 AM by: Melody Reever)
My upbringing was not ideal. I was born to a single teenage mother, and while I love my mother, I know she made some mistakes. When I was younger, my mother would often make comments about the things she could have done with her life or the freedom she would have if she had not gotten pregnant with me. As a result, an overwhelming sense of guilt was instilled in me at an early age. I felt as if I had ruined my mother’s life and that she would have been happier without me.
My mother met a man who was in the military when I was two years old. After they married, he adopted me. We moved all around the US. My mother and adoptive dad had my three younger brothers. After having biological children of his own, my adoptive dad changed—he became cruel to me. This caused me to struggle with the rejection of both my biological father and my adoptive father. I felt like the black sheep of my family.
Physical and mental abuse grew more and more frequent, and things seemed to continually get worse. My parents would promise that it would never happen again if I would keep silent, yet that promise would be broken time and time again. I will never forget having to change clothes so no one would see the blood from a busted nose, or the feeling of helplessness when trying to hide in a corner to avoid being beaten, or fearing for my life as I was held against the wall with my dad’s hands around my neck. The mental and physical abuse continued to worsen as I ventured into my teenage years.
One instance sticks out in my mind just as clearly as the night it happened. I can still hear the words spoken as a bottle of pills was placed on the dining room table: “Just kill yourself so that my life and everyone else’s will be easier.” Unbeknownst to my parents, I was already contemplating suicide and struggling with self-harm. I remember crying myself to sleep that night, wondering if this was all life had to offer.
After graduating high school and completing one year of college, I transferred to Southeastern Louisiana University for my sophomore year. One of the first things I noticed around campus were signs advertising a campus ministry called “Lions for the Lamb.” I knew it had to be something about Jesus.
At the time, I would not have considered myself religious. I was born and raised in a Catholic home, and I always had doubts about what I was being taught. I was not allowed to ask questions pertaining to anything about religion or I would get into trouble. I was never encouraged to read the Bible for myself, but rather, I was taught about God and religion through classes that didn’t use the Bible. My family kept images and statues in our home that they prayed to for protection and blessing. I eventually grew cold to religion altogether, but I still knew deep down that God had to be real. I just didn’t believe that God loved or cared about me.
Although I had reservations, I decided to see what this Lions for the Lamb was about. On that Tuesday night, the leader of the ministry, Kaleb Saucer, spoke a beautiful, powerful message on forgiveness. It felt as if that message had been given to him just for me. In fact, I cried through the entire message. At the end, I didn’t know the reason, but I felt that I needed to go to the front of the room. I went to move, but I stopped at the end of the row of chairs. I was frozen. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by people. Kaleb came and guided me in prayer, and for the first time in my life, I prayed a prayer that wasn’t written out for me or memorized.
After that service, Kaleb invited me to come to church the following evening. I attended, and whatever it was that I felt at Lions for the Lamb and that night at church, I knew I wanted more.
Three weeks later, I went to a weekly youth prayer meeting that was happening at the church. I knew I had some things I needed to get past. Kaleb would have had no way of knowing what I was struggling with, but at one point in the prayer meeting, he said, “I feel as though there are some barriers that need to be broken tonight.” I instantly broke down. I laid on the floor, consumed by the presence of God, finally tearing down those walls that I had built for the past nineteen years. I gave God all of the hurt, the pain, the anger, the rejection, and all of the mess that I carried with me every day. As I knelt on my knees in that prayer room, something happened. I started speaking in a language I had never known. It was in that moment that God filled me with His Spirit. I had believed that the Holy Ghost was real, but until that time, I had not believed it was for me. God proved me wrong.
That life-changing night was a turning point. After I received the Holy Ghost, I called my mother and told her I loved her. I said those words and truly meant them. God healed my heart, and I was able to forgive. I was also able to see my family through the eyes of grace. It does not excuse what I went through or make those actions alright, but I now understand that hurting people hurt people.
A week later, I washed away the old man and put on the new as I was baptized in Jesus’ name. In the past five years, I have still had to fight major battles, but through the storms, I have been strengthened in my faith and have learned to depend solely on Jesus.
God has done a work in me, and He is continually making me into the woman of God He has called me to be. I have been blessed with opportunities to share what God has done in my life and to share His truth with others. I serve my church in several different ministries and use my talents to glorify the King of kings. Jesus took me, this girl who felt she was a waste of space, and He gave me a new life. He delivered me from bondage, and I found my purpose and identity in Him.
Summer Gibson resides in Bogalusa, Louisiana, and attends Stateline UPC in Tylertown, Mississippi, pastored by Brandon Wilkins. She serves as a worship leader, musician, and youth worker. In her free time, she enjoys teaching Bible studies, laughing with friends, and playing her ukulele.