Why did my father try to beat me out of my mother’s womb? Why did they love drugs more than me? Why did they leave me on a sofa, defenseless, at two weeks of age? There must be something wrong with me. I have no significance in this world. No one will ever love me or care about me. What worth do I have if I am unlovable?
These thoughts consumed my childhood, and part of my adulthood. If I am being completely truthful…sometimes they peek their way through to invade my thoughts again. Attempts to stop the constant voice in my head repeating how worthless I was, only lead to my self-destruction.
Summer of 1986 (I was 13 years old), my father showed up at my grandparent’s house one afternoon. You never knew what to expect when he arrived; most of the time, he was there to start a war, or to ask for money. This day, however, he seemed pretty relaxed and I didn’t feel the need to put my defense up. He sat out in the yard, because he wasn’t allowed in the house, and lit up a joint right in front of me.
I watched most of my aunts and uncles purchase, abuse and sell drugs. By age 13, I had spent time in crack houses with those who were just trying to get by on their next hit, and I witnessed transactions where bags of money were exchanged for contractor-sized trash bags filled with drugs. In my mind, I told myself that I will never be like them. Although I had no idea who God was, there were times that I was sure there had to be more in life for me than to just be an addict or drug dealer.
So, he lit up the joint right in front of me and then asked me if I wanted some. WOW…I knew he was filled with hate, was self-centered, but I never imagined him asking me to share this high with him. I think it was desperation for acceptance, feeling the need to be loved by him, wanting to be wanted by my dad… I accepted his offer, and that was the day I discovered that even if for just a little while, I can hide underneath the high and forget all the things I’ll never have or never be.
Sharing that joint accomplished nothing good. I thought it would give me a piece of my father back. It didn’t. The only thing I got out of that experience was the reassurance that I had no value to my father, and knowing that I failed at not doing the very thing I said I would never do.
There are a lot of things I said I would never do.
Desperate to get away from everything that was “bad”, I left my grandparent’s house at 17. I made a promise to myself that I would NEVER return, no matter what it might cost me. It wasn’t long after that when I was offered a job at an adult entrainment club, and I decided that I would only work there long enough to get on my feet. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Twelve years later… I never got on my feet. I never saved any of the money like I promised myself I would. What I did get was more self-hatred, shame…. WORTHLESSNESS… The only way I could mask this pain was for me to increase my consumption of alcohol and drugs. I had become the person my 12-year-old self promised to never be. The only thing that I ever did that had any resemblance to good, was to clean myself up for a little bit to have two beautiful children, but even my love for them could not keep me from using again.
What appears to be bad, is sometimes good!
Summer of 2004 was the beginning of the end. I was indicted for theft and arrested. By the following January, I was in front of a judge, hearing what sentence my guilty verdict brought me…. 5 years… all suspended, but 6 months. I was devastated, mostly because I knew I was going to be incarcerated that day, but also because I knew what was ahead. For the first three weeks of incarceration, withdraw symptoms kept me from eating and sleeping, It felt like it would never end.
As I began feeling more like a human again, I started going to some of the classes they offered, and to church. It wasn’t like to me to go to church, but anything to pass the time was fine by me. Sometime in early March, the chaplain came to see me and he asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus Christ as my savior. I said “Yes.”, but I had no idea what that meant, and I certainly felt no different than before.
A couple weeks after that, on March 23rd, 2005, I got word that I needed to contact home. I knew it was something serious because the warden came to my unit to take me to medical so that I could call. It was a relief for my husband to answer the phone because I knew he was ok.
“Timmy is dead.” That’s all I heard. My baby boy was in a fatal car accident, and here I am, not able to see him, touch him, smell him. How can this be? It just can’t be true. But, it was.
That was it. I had officially lost everything; my job, my home, my freedom, my self-respect, and now, my son. I couldn’t be more broken, more lost, more desperate. That is when love invaded my heart and took me over. Sitting on a cot, exposed for all 120 women to see, the whole unit went silent. I couldn’t hear or see any of the jailhouse drama. All I saw was beauty, and all I felt was a loving kindness.
Jesus met me right there in a jail, He transformed my heart, and filled me with His Spirit. At the time, I didn’t even understand what was happening to me, but I did know that it was good and my life was never going to be the same.
Because of rules and logistics, the jail was unable to provide me a way to see my Timmy before he was buried. But God provided a way. Through relentless people who loved me, they petitioned my judge until she decided to suspend my sentence for just four days so that I could go be with my baby. No supervision, no shackles…. just me, Jesus and my boy.
I saw him, I held him, I kissed him….
and then I returned to finish my sentence.
Right out of jail, and right to church! My husband had no idea who walked out of that jail. I was different to him. I had found what unconditional love is, and that I am more than the sum of all my stupid decisions. He didn’t know how to deal with all of that, and our relationship was less for a long time. I wish I could say that everything was perfect from that point on, but that is not how life works.
God is in the process.
Since the day that Jesus invaded my heart and removed the veil from my eyes, I have been on this journey with Him moving me from one glory to the next. Yes, I have experienced heartache and pain since becoming a follower of Jesus but He has been with me all the way and He has used the pain and suffering to draw me closer to Him and to continually mold and grow me.
There is nothing from my past, before Christ or after, that He has not used to equip me to love on people. The Lord gave me a heart for women who have hurts similar to my past. Because of the love and grace that God has so generously poured out on me, undeserving as I am… I am encouraged and lead to pour out my life on others. I mentor women in prison preparing to transition back into the real world, and I also mentor women at a local non-profit that give women a “hand up” in life.
Just for the sake of not leaving you hanging…
Eight years after I gave my life to Jesus, my husband also did the same. God restored me to Himself, and then He restored my family. I praise God every day for the fact that my husband, our three children, and I are in His Kingdom! He is good, and His mercy endures FOREVER!
Teresa Swick… Wife of DJ, Mom of Timmy, Alexa, Tyler, and AJ, Daughter of the Most High!