The 700 Club
Surprising Consequence of Forgiveness
“I am with somebody and they're really nice people, but they have the same smile as he does, and I can’t speak, I’m frozen,” Cornelia says.
Cornelia spent much of her life running from the pain of childhood sexual abuse in Germany, most of it coming after her mother’s boyfriend moved in when Cornelia was 12. She continues, “I didn't tell my mom in the beginning because he manipulated situations and she always believed him. She never believed me.”
The sexual abuse lasted for almost a decade. “After the second and the third time he made clear to me that now I'm involved. This is now my fault as much as it’s his.”
As a teen, she looked for a way to escape the fear and rage, growing inside. “I slept at the local park with homeless people. I was doing drugs; I was drinking; I was cutting myself. When I would cut myself, I would feel better in a moment. After, I would not feel good,” says Cornelia.
Then Cornelia thought she found a way out: a baby and a marriage at the age of 18.
“He did drugs and alcohol. He would get super, super aggressive. One time I had to actually get my teeth fixed because that's how bad he beat me. The beating was better than the sexual abuse.”
After four months of marriage, Cornelia left her abusive husband. But she soon found another man, an American, whom she followed to the United States and married. However, it wasn’t the escape she hoped for.
She says, “He was out all the time. He was drinking all the time. I don't know how many times he cheated on me during that time, but I was cool with it. I was fine. I wasn't sexually abused. I wasn't beaten.”
By now, Cornelia had been having consistent panic attacks, nightmares, and breakdowns. After one particular episode, she went to a therapist who diagnosed her with PTSD.
“I isolated myself a lot and really, really cried a lot.” After two years, unable to bear the emotional abuse any longer, she took her two children and left. Cornelia continues, “I always said, “There's no such thing as a good God because there's no way that He would allow one person to go through all of this.”
For five years Cornelia tried to raise her kids while numbing her fear and anxiety with alcohol. Then she met Lawrence. They had a daughter together and got married. Lawrence followed after God and tried setting that example for his family, but Cornelia kept her mechanisms of coping.
“I went back to my drinking and clubbing. Lawrence was home with the kids most of the time. Sometimes I would come home, five, six in the morning and I'm still drunk. I see him and he'll sit on the bed and he's praying and I'll get so mad at him because I felt like that was his way of trying to manipulate me,” says Cornelia.
For about a decade Cornelia avoided God and coped with her internal hell. Then in 2015, she noticed a little church on her daily commute. As she passed by it every day, she felt something calling to her.
"It was this pull ‘You should go check that out.’ And I was talking to myself, ‘I'm not going to go in there. Why would I go in there?’ Then one day, I'm like ‘You know something we’re just going to go check it out.’ And I came home and I told my husband, ‘Hey, let's check out this church.’ And he was like ‘What?!’”
The couple started attending the church but Cornelia was still resistant to the Lord’s pull on her heart and decided to leave. But before doing so, she met with the pastor who equipped her with a tool that would completely alter her course—forgiveness. “He said to me, ‘Every time I get a feeling of, I need to go drink or when I wake up from nightmares, (which happened all the time),' that I will say, ‘I choose to forgive, I choose to forgive.’ Then I say ‘God, I can't do this. I cannot do this. And if You can hear me, help me to forgive.’”
That time would finally come.
She returned to the church for a prayer service where the congregation could write things and names of people that needed prayer on a white board. For Cornelia, only one person came to mind… her mother’s old boyfriend.
“I put his name there and something inside of me, somebody just let go of my heart. And there was a switch in my brain and in my heart. I didn’t see him as this monster anymore. That was one of the most amazing days of my life,” says Cornelia.
Cornelia was engulfed by love. And soon after, gave her life to Jesus. She stopped drinking, and the nightmares and panic attacks began to diminish. With the grace of God’s forgiveness and a transformed heart, Cornelia began rebuilding the love and trust of her mother, husband and family.
“I needed forgiveness and if God gives me forgiveness, He can give it to anybody in this world! Beause that's what He wants to do. He just wants to give us all this grace and all this love and all we need to do is accept it.” Cornelia continues, “And to feel him in my heart and to know that on days that I have a rough day, that I could just lean on him…with Him I can do anything.”