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My church upbringing was a positive experience. I had lots of support in my teen years, and the youth group was a place where I belonged. My good Christian friends gave me confidence in myself. I always had my parents’ love and support too. Even though I had great role models and loving parents, they were not perfect; I didn’t receive enough positive verbal affirmation. The anger expressed at home kept me from speaking up for myself. I turned my feelings inward and became insecure. In some areas I had confidence, but for the most part I would second-guess myself and let the thoughts and opinions of others speak for me.

I left my parent’s home and my Christian foundation after high school and found myself in heterosexual, promiscuous relationships. These were against my Christian beliefs, but I gave into the invitations. I failed to find another church for support and accountability. I felt weak and without a voice to refuse the men to whom I was attracted.

I knew God loved me but at that time I chose to live as I wanted to. I gave away a part of myself each time. I deserved better but settled for less. I believed at the time that maybe one of these relationships would be “the one”: he would love me and marry me. I wasn’t treated that way. It was more like “love me and leave me,” which was so far from real love. Deep within I wanted to be cherished like the church Christ loves. Instead, I lost more of my voice and dignity to guys who just took parts of me and left.

As a result of my lifestyle I contracted herpes, a sexually transmitted disease. I was devastated! I saw it as a permanent physical scar that defined my indignities. It left me feeling like a damaged person. I couldn’t erase it or make it go away. At that time in my life a good friend spoke the words to me, “Chrystal, you are like a fish out of water”; to me that meant, “You don’t belong here in this place, this is not what God has for you. Go back home to your loving heavenly Father.” I was so hurt and ready to go home. I returned to the San Francisco Bay Area where I’m from, found a new church family and returned to my faith in Jesus.

In my new church I encountered Jesus and the cross all over again. Actually, it was in a more real way than when I was young. I met others like me who were hurt and broken but who in gratitude for His mercy raised their hands in songs of praise. Our broken hearts loved Him in full. I wanted His healing too. One of the first times I went forward for prayer, someone spoke these powerful words over me: “Don’t let anyone take away the beauty the Lord has given you.” It was Jesus’ beauty for ashes. That sums up what confession means to me. “Here is my sin, pain and sorrow, Lord. I give it to You and place it in Your hands, and I receive Your beauty in return.”

One Sunday I heard Andrew speak at our church about the “good of the masculine and feminine.” I said to myself, “I want that!” Living Waters was the next step to what the Lord was already doing in me. It gave me a safe place to confess my sins and the sins done against me. It freed me to be supported by my small group. It is hard to describe how healing it was to place my wounds into Jesus’ hands and to receive cleansing and forgiveness.

I truly felt like a new creature in Christ. I could leave behind my old ways of relating to men. For the first time, I saw myself in the light of Jesus’ transforming love: I was a solid, clean woman that could speak truth-in-love to others.

Dean and I began to date. Our relationship was founded upon our mutual commitment to Living Waters. In other words, we knew what we were facing in each other due to good communication about our past and current weaknesses. It didn’t always come easy to communicate these things. With the help of some counseling, we learned to be honest with each other. It didn’t come naturally for
either of us, but the more we spoke out the easier it became.

At times I felt hurt by Dean’s struggles, but we brought these fears and faults into the light. We never let sin and darkness take over! Instead we found that good honesty brought us closer together and built trust with each other. So we could move into even greater healing through Jesus’ cross, experienced by us in confession to one another. Dean has blessed me to have my voice and to this day gives me permission to ask the hard questions.

For example, when Dean teaches on temptation in Living Waters, I can ask him, “What are you tempted by this week?” He could ask the same of me. I go with what my heart may be feeling. That may make both of us uneasy, but it feels better to ask and know the truth than to be silent and not know. We also find support through trusted friends who help us to be accountable. Through Christ’s body, we are not alone.

It’s an honor to work alongside my husband in ministry. I’m so grateful for what the Lord has done and will continue to do in our marriage and in relationship with our son Jeremiah. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights. What amazing gifts I have in my family. So glad I didn’t settle for less!

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