By Madeline Porras
My mother worked hard as a single parent. Though we were constantly in and out of motel rooms, my mom did her best to keep a roof over our head. My father was absent and I would yearn for his attention and love, but would ultimately be disappointed. Sexually abused by a “Christian” family member as a child, the Christians in my life left me doubting there was a God who loved me.
As a teenager, with the lack of a father's love and an early sexual curiosity, I ended up seeking boys’ attention. I tried to fill the hole in my heart with the need to be wanted. I became pregnant at 15 with a boyfriend who filled me with false hope. I felt betrayed, lost, unloved, and unworthy.
A Flicker of Hope
With the father of my unborn child engaged to another, and with many so-called "friends" abandoning me, I went to high school with the determination to get out as soon as possible. Everyone noticed my big belly, and everyone seemed to judge me. A caring teacher told me about a new Young Life program for teen moms, and I was very open to hearing what they had to say. Once there, I was showered with nothing but love and support. I didn't feel judged; I met girls going through the same struggles, and found people who genuinely cared.
Through this Young Life program, I went on a retreat to Arizona. On the last night, I went out into the silent night and accepted Christ into my heart. As I looked up at the thousands of stars, I felt an unforgettable sense of hope and peace. Coming home, I felt like a new person. Unfortunately, after graduating, I lost contact with my support system and didn't get plugged into a church home. Soon after, the world started to surround me and I lost my way.
The Growing Hole
I started going out to clubs and house parties. I would leave my son for days with my mom, wouldn't show up to work, and started to drink heavily as the hole in my heart began to open wider. I became involved in inappropriate relationships with men, one which was abusive emotionally and physically. I became pregnant again, but this time I wasn't so sure I could care for another child. I was already neglecting one. The decision was made clear when I was given an ultimatum by my boyfriend: “Either get an abortion or I will kill myself.” I thought I loved him and he gave me false promises that I held on to.
Two days after I had my baby removed from my body, he hurt me for the last time and left me. I was in bed for days, not from the injuries, but because I was so depressed. I didn't want to live. I was taken to a psychiatrist who placed me on high doses of anti-depressants. The hole in my heart seemed to take over my entire torso now. I eventually found a different doctor who wanted to wean me off medication and told me, “While you go through this process you need to be doing things that are healthy for you. If you have a faith, go back to it.” “Faith?” I thought. I called myself a Christian, but I wondered if God would even let me into heaven after all that I had done.
Remaining in the Vine
I decided to start my church search, worked hard to get off my meds, went back to college, and started to develop a relationship with my son. But my own works weren't enough. I got a good job, started to date, and would even go every Sunday and Wednesday to church, but the hole was still there. I was disappointed, mainly at myself. Nothing I did seemed to work out for me.
I was invited to Watermark in August 2012 by a neighbor. At The Porch, I heard a message on forgiveness that left me in tears. I had so much bitterness and anger towards the fathers of my children, my own father, and even myself. I knew something had to change. I cried out to God and surrendered my life, because I knew I couldn't do it anymore. The Holy Spirit led me to my Bible, specifically to the Gospel of John and I was convicted by chapter 15.
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4) I had been trying so hard to do things on my own, to change my life by my own works. It took me realizing that apart from the Lord, I can do nothing. It is only by remaining in him that my life could change and start to bear fruit.
Through choosing to remain in the vine, I started to volunteer at The Porch, took Equipped Disciple, found a mentor, got into community, and found more healing in Someone Cares, a ministry for women who have experienced abortion. My life took a 180° turn. My mom became a believer, my son started to love the church, my relationships were strengthened, and I even got hired on to Young Life staff! But most importantly, I found that God loved me and that hole was finally filled. I fully grasped what Jesus had done for my sins, what He did with my mess, and I became His humble and faithful servant.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” - Ecclesiastes 3:11