Briana is one of my heroes. I don’t say that lightly, it’s true. The graduates of Mercy Ministries have been a real and faithful teacher in my life, these girls have crazy courage and strength. (I’ve been privileged to volunteer with the ministry for years now, and I also worked there for a time while we were getting the Canadian home established.) Briana graduated from a Mercy home in the States more than seven years ago now: she’s a young mother and a writer. I’m honoured to welcome her here to my place today.
One particular line in her essay here made me tear up, it’s the one where she talks about times of worship in the home. It’s so true. Every day I worked at Mercy, I would listen to our girls sing their hearts out, just them, no audience, and it made me cry every time. It was like watching heaven break through for a few moments.
I had hoped and dreamed about attending college. The day for depositing the money to attend my dream school came and went. I wasn’t going.
My high school graduation had occurred without me, the students filing in with wide smiles. The parents congratulating with bright flowers. I had refused to attend my graduation because there was nothing in my life to celebrate, even though my parents had begged me with tears in their eyes.
Beneath the lies and the bulimia was a blanketing fog of darkness that just went on and on.
My parents had tried everything. I spent my days throwing up—up to six times a day. It had begun as an eating disorder, but had quickly becomes so much more—a way to say that I hated myself. I had been diagnosed as bipolar and endured round after round of psychiatric drugs.
I didn’t want to feel anything but one thing: the feeling of not feeling anymore.
My parents had no money for treatment centers. There was no place for me to go. I would feel encouraged by counseling and then drop back into old behavior. Sometimes I walked around the mall, completely alone, eating one thing after another before throwing up over and over again.
It was in this state of mind, slowly slipping into promiscuity, drug use, and the worst situations, that I found myself signing the forms to attend Mercy Ministries.
And then there was this place: A beautiful home with a walking path around the outside. More than 15 rooms with double-occupancy beds and 30 girls who longed to be somebody again—and who found this somebody wrapped up in the arms of a saving God.
The first two weeks at Mercy, I cried non-stop.
The truth was, I was crying because I knew this was it.
I was crying because I had read that God gave out freedom for free, total and complete.
Because I wanted to believe in Him more than I wanted to die. Because I was willing to give up anything to receive it.
And this faithful group of women waged war every single day for us girls. We prayed and we cried, and we sought God. We read books and we worshipped. Oh, we worshipped! (You’ve never seen worship like 30 girls who’ve lost everything).
And every week I felt a little bit more whole. Every week I gave everything I had—and I declared out loud, wildly, and furtively: I am a tree planted by the water, I am loved, I am redeemed, Christ has given everything for my freedom.
And every single day, God gave me the strength to believe for something bigger. Until one day, six months later, I stood at the front of the room to tell a story about Truth.
You see, there is a Truth. I know in this world it doesn’t feel like it. No one really wants to admit it. But this is what I learned:
There is one Truth. He is a person. He is God. He was and is.
He loves. He saves. He gives freedom, and it is complete and pure and real and abundant. It is not a glass half-full, it is a cup running over with water. It is not a fixin’ up, it is a making new.
I recently celebrated my seventh year out of Mercy. My seventh year walking hand-in-hand with the one who loves me the most, the one who gave everything He was to ransom my freedom. The one who carried me, His little lamb, when I was too weak to walk. The one who pressed me closer to His chest when the darkness came. The one who promised light when all I could see was night. The one who folded me into His cloak until we reached the water’s edge and the promise of healing and rest.
I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. Psalm 119: 32
Briana Meade is a twenty-five year old blogger and young mother of two. After Mercy, she attended her dream college, married her soul mate, and taught first grade in inner-city Chicago with her husband. She writes about faith and young motherhood at brianameade.com and tweets @BrianaMeade
As you begin to contemplate your holiday spending, I hope you’ll make a bit of room in your budget to support Mercy Ministries of Canada.