If ever I had a talent, ruining my life was it. My incapacity to make wise decisions set the whole trajectory of my life in one direction - down.
As a little girl, when I should have been imagining myself as a princess and twirling around in my dress-up clothes, I was imagining myself having sex with older men and seizing every opportunity to watch porn. I discovered pornography at the age of five, and the women I saw in the magazines and in the videos, those women shaped and defined womanhood for me. I believed I existed for one reason—that reason being sex.
I would lose the entirety of my childhood to porn, sex, and masturbation. I didn’t know I could be anything more apart from the perversity and quite honestly, I didn’t want to separate myself from it. Even in a large family I was an isolated child. I had a very broken relationship with my father and being the youngest of four girls, my sisters found me annoying and secluded me from everything they did. I was alone a lot. Being alone and having access to copious amounts of pornographic material is a guaranteed recipe for disaster.
By the time my teenage years came around, I was a wreck in every sense of the word. I was angry, I was depressed, I constantly slept around, I partied all the time, and I became suicidal. One day I had had enough and I overdosed by swallowing close to an entire super-size bottle of aspirin. My mom found me and rushed me to the hospital where they pumped my stomach and saved my life.
My transition into young adulthood was nothing short of catastrophic. I had moved to Denver to attend college when I got a fake ID and my entry into the big city bar scene began at seventeen.
Soon after dropping out of college I got a job working in a strip club, and let me tell you, the place felt like home. These were the sexualized women of my youth and I loved being around them and with them. As one can imagine, this lifestyle brought with it a whole new level of sexual immorality and depravity.
I would become pregnant for the first time when I was nineteen. I ended that pregnancy with an abortion. Soon, I was pregnant again and that pregnancy was terminated with an abortion. I got pregnant a third time and that pregnancy, too, was brought to a close by an abortion.
Three abortions in just under two year’s time. Not only was the life of innocent babies lost to each of those abortions, but pieces of me died and passed on along side them—the depravity growing deeper.
My continued poor decision making would take me to California and waiting there for me was a wide open door into the porn industry. I was twenty-one when I entered the online world of porn and what little hints of life that remained in me would soon die away for good. My involvement in porn progressed into prostitution and by the time I was twenty- four, I was as dead as a person can possibly be just short of a heart ceasing to beat.
The only emotion left in me was my anger. My anger became my protector—I hid behind it and clung to it, because it was all I had left. By this point it had developed into full-blown rage and I hated everyone and everything. I was also desperately dependent on alcohol. If I wasn’t asleep, then I was drunk. I couldn’t even function or take part in sexual acts anymore without being hammered. I despised men, yet relished the power I had over them - the power that sex provided me.
The worst part of it all is that I was completely oblivious to my condition. I honestly never saw anything wrong with what I was doing and my reasoning for my anger or anything bad in my life came with me pointing a huge finger directly at my dad - this was all his fault, not mine. I was a blamer, not someone who took responsibility.
It should come as no surprise that I became pregnant, again. However, unlike the other times, there was something deep inside me that had never been present before—the desire to keep the baby. On October 23, 2003, my daughter Presley was born. For the first time in all my twenty-five years, I experienced love in the purest form.
Presley shattered the walls I had erected all around my heart. I was so enamored by her life and tiny existence that I began to question and wonder, where did she come from? I knew her life had a deeper meaning, but I didn’t know why and I was compelled by my desire to know the why.
I sought answers through Buddhism and Cabbalism, but neither one of those was satisfactory. I didn’t know what or where to turn to next, but one thing I did know is that I was adamant that I would never, ever look to Jesus. I detested the name of Jesus and anything related to Him. I was open to anything, except the absurdity of Christianity.
My quest for answers was still going strong when I walked into a movie theatre and purchased a ticket for a movie my friend kept telling me about, The Passion. All I knew is that it was a movie directed by Mel Gibson (and I liked Mel Gibson, hello Braveheart!), but I did not know it was a movie depicting the life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
While I walked to the theatre, I looked down at my ticket and saw ‘Passion of the Christ’ across the ticket. I nearly died right then and there. No way was I going to watch this movie! But my feet kept walking and soon I was in the theatre. I sat down in the ridiculously crowded theatre, all the while telling myself how dumb this was going to be, that I should not be here watching this, and I needed to leave, when the movie started.
There is a scene in the movie where Jesus, stripped of his clothing, is tied to a post. While he is tied to it, men proceed to beat him and annihilate him and his body. It’s a horrific scene and one that did not make any sense to me.
I could not understand why they were doing this to him. He didn’t do anything wrong. I was also upset how Jesus wouldn’t speak up for himself and defend himself. It was too much for me to take. The sight before me just didn’t make any sense.
Tears were pouring down my face and in that moment I asked the question (to no one in particular): Is this real? Did this really happen? Is Jesus real? The question was but mere seconds suspended in my mind when I distinctly heard the voice of God speak straight to my spirit and say, “Gretchen, I am what you are looking for. I am Truth.”
And I believed.
On February 29, 2004, sitting in a darkened movie theatre as an atrocious, deplorable sinner, my depravity collided head-on with Holiness. In an act of unfathomable grace and loving-kindness, the Savior of the world transferred me out of darkness and death, and into His kingdom by way of forgiveness and salvation. Though my talent to ruin my life was strong, I now know, love, and serve the only one who can and continues to redeem and restore my life to new - Jesus Christ.
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