Today, as I walked the campus of Changing Lives Center, I was taken back about 36 years to the one night, I walked the streets of 15th Ave and Roosevelt. This was just one of my darkest times, I chose never to forget, because that particular night, I had only two choices: Go back home to my abusive stepfather who was always kicking me out because I would defend my mother, brother and sister from his beatings by fist fighting him myself, and taking the beatings he intended for them, or take the offer that was made to me earlier, and that was prostitution. Obviously, I chose the first. That is how I ended up walking the streets of 15th Ave, and Roosevelt that one night, and the worst part, I wasn’t walking alone; my two year old son walked holding tightly to my hand, he was tired, hungry, and scared. We had no place to go, and the shame I felt was unbearable, and my son was being affected by my choices. This was the cross-road that dramatically changed my life.
Some things, we push back so deep; we actually forget, but be assured, it doesn’t matter how much stuff you pile in the closet of your heart, it will have to be dealt with eventually. I am not saying this to bring fear to you; although there was a time I lived in the fear of being found out about my shameful past. This particular time in my life was just one of the many. But God in His great mercy brought me back to this time; I feel like I am coming to a full circle of my life, but this time, through the healing touch of my Lord and Savior. I also believe now He is showing me that He walked down this street with us that night, and He did hear my cries in the night (Record my lament; list my tears on Your scroll, are they not in Your record? Psalm 56:8).
As a child, my brother, two sister’s and I lived with our grandmother, aunts, great aunts, friends, or my sisters’ dad who was a migrant worker and traveled seasonally for work, or who ever would take us into their home while our mother, who was a single parent at the time could work, drink and find us a new daddy, so she said. We never really had a daddy, so those words seemed to be comforting because to me, a father would protect us from all those who have sexually, emotionally, and physically abused us from house to house. By the time I was 12 she married my step dad and I thought we finally can be a family and have a home, where we can feel loved, and most importantly, we will feel safe, but his abuse was a constant terror because if I looked for help, I was afraid my brother and sisters and I would be separated again; I couldn’t allow that to happen, so we endured the abuse.
By the time I was fifteen, I got pregnant and dropped out of high school, to become a waitress to support my child, alone. I cried mostly at night while everyone slept because I was trained through beatings not to every cry. At the age of 17, I was an alcoholic; I drank so much, I would wake up in someone’s bed not knowing how I got there or who he was. Till this day, I can’t tell you how many men I had slept with, or their names; I would cry because I hated who I was; my nickname as a child was, ‘whore’, and the shame I had could never wash off, although I bathed 3 times a day, I was able to wash the filth away, but the shame held me like chains. There was one guy I brought home with me one night, and as always, I expected him to get up the next morning and leave like everyone else always did, but he did not. My son was just a year old, and I was 17. I had to go to work; so I left my son with this stranger. That was dumb, I know! This guy stayed a couple of weeks and within that time frame, he was already controlling. He didn’t have a job, and laid around all day while I worked. Finally, one day I sent my son to the corner store with my cousin; I had a feeling, this was going to be bad. When I told him he had to leave, He beat me, choked me, and then tried to kill me with a knife. I managed to get away from him by locking myself in the bathroom, and screamed for help from the small bathroom window I could not climb out of. When everything quieted down, I heard a gentle voice from the other side of the door, calling me out, it was a police officer. As we walked through the living room, there were about three or four police officers with their guns pulled out toward him. I will never forget the one officer who was so angry when he seen me bruised, bloody and shaken up, he told this guy to move so that he can shoot him, but what made him more fuming was the fact that I would not press charges. I knew my bad choice would be held against me; I would be the blame again. There were other’s as well; I seemed to gravatate toward abusive men, and what was worse, I believed I was the blame for the beatings and tried to win them back.
On that fateful night 36 years ago, I chose to go back home, although, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, I made a decision to go back and fight for a better life for my son and myself. I went back to school and worked hard to receive my GED, and then transferred to Maricopa Skill Center to train in clerical work. Eventually, I was able to move into my own apartment, that was on 14th Ave. and Van Buren, with the money I received from Chicano’s Por La Causa. It wasn’t enough to pay the bills, so I would walk over to Oaxaca Restaurant on the corner of 15th Ave. and Van Buran, and ask them if they were hiring, they always said no, until one day the manager got tired of seeing me, he hired me on the spot, but that isn’t my success story of coming out of a bad life, and succeeding, because regardless, I still made more mistakes, and more life changing decisions like going to college at 52 years old and finally pursuing a degree in Social Work, but what really changed my life was finally trusting a Man, who never left me alone, even when I was in midst of my rebellion, adultery, anger, hatred, malice, self hatred, and the self destructive behavior I had. He took all my shame, and nailed it to the cross.
When I walked through the gates of Changing Lives Center, I felt like I was at home. I walked these streets in the dark 36 years ago; where there was no hope, and no place to go. I cried that night because I was afraid of what my life was coming to. When Phoenix Rescue Mission sent us a letter asking for prayers and support for Changing Lives Center, my husband gifted money every week because of my story. He wanted to help women in the same situation to have a place to go with their children and have a chance.
As I was sharing my story with Melissa, I said to her, “I am who I am now because of Him”. That is when I realized, success, who I was, where I have been, or where I am now, has nothing to do with my salvation, my salvation came on that fateful night when I cried out to Him in the dark; He heard my cries in the night, He hears our cries in the night. My past has no power over me because I am loved, I am free from the shame of my past, I am beautiful, I am pure and holy, my name is Lisa, I am His child, and He is my Father because of what He did on the Cross; I have been Redeemed. The blood of Jesus has washed me clean. He laid down His life for me, for us (John 3:16).
This word the Lord showed me when I came to Him, surprised me because I was not even close. Psalm 45, I have become this woman in Christ Jesus, and so are you!