I grew up in the Philippines with 6 sisters and 5 brothers. We lived in a small bamboo hut with a grass roof and a dirt floor. We had no electricity, no running water, and sometimes no food. My parents were farmers, and they always worked really hard to provide for us, but no matter what, it was just never enough. We were so poor that I never owned a new pair of shoes throughout my entire childhood.
Even worse than being poor, though, was my dad’s anger problem. Growing up, every time I did something wrong – no matter how small – he would yell at me and even slap me. I could never understand how he could be a deacon at the church – someone that people in our community admired and respected. He was supposed to be a Christian, but most of all he was supposed to be my daddy. Someone that I could love and trust. Someone that would love me no matter what. Someone that I could admire above all others.
I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t any of those things in my life. He was so nice and caring when we were in public, but he was a completely different man inside our home. I loved him so much and just wanted him to love and enjoy me. As a little child I thought that it must be my fault that he would treat me that way.
Later on, as a teenager, because I grew up in an environment where not only myself but my mother was beaten, I developed an intense hatred of my dad. The real effect of my anger was that it turned inward on myself. I felt ugly and rejected because the one person who should have treated me kindly and taught me how beautiful I was did nothing but abuse and neglect me instead. Maybe the worst part was that deep in my heart I was still longing for his love and affection – and I was still longing to love him also.
I had always known that God was real but naturally, because of my home life, I couldn’t understand Him as a loving Father. Because I felt so betrayed by my own father, I started to act out in all of the ways that a hurting teenager normally does – maybe to get my dad’s attention, but maybe to get God’s also. But the emptiness and the pain never got better, only worse. I couldn’t see any reason for living and felt like I had no purpose – that I was good for nothing. I hated myself so much that I shut out every possibility of believing that life could be better.
I decided to go to Bible school – to search for God, but also to get away from my dad. While there, the Lord began to rescue my heart. It was during that season that Jesus somehow awakened me to His desire and longing for me to receive Him and His love. I was blown away to realize that God loved me for me. Not a better version of me, but the me that I was right then. I couldn’t help but be transformed by that kind of love.
It was also at Bible school that I met the other love of my life. He was a missionary from the United States. When he walked in the room for the very first time, it was love at first sight. Even so, I still felt very unsettled since I didn’t trust anyone because of the way I was treated growing up.
But God began to open my heart to His love and affection more and more – and He used my relationship with my future husband to do it. The Lord even gave me a desire to forgive my dad, and on April 29, 2000 he actually walked me down the aisle to marry my husband.
Today, I’m the mother of 4 beautiful children, and I love them with my whole heart. Together with my husband, the Lord gives us the grace to give our kids the kind of love that I never had. My husband is the most amazing man in the world – he makes me know how beautiful and loved I am. And the best part of all is that we share the same Father in heaven!
My prayer for all of us is that we realize how much we really ache for the touch of the Lord in our lives. No matter how good or bad our lives have been, God created within each of us a longing that can only be satisfied by Him. May Jesus awaken our hearts to the beauty of who He is and the love that He makes available.