Even as a preschooler I was enraptured by God. I talked to Him often, made up songs about Him, and had a constant awareness of His Presence. God had a plan for me and I knew it.
However, God was not the only one with a plan for my life. The enemy of my soul also had a plan. Early on, he began to use stray words or impressions to begin weaving his lies and distorting the vision of God.
I was convinced that I was unlovely, and hence, unlovable. The lie became firmly established in my thinking: “Ugly girls cannot expect to be loved.”
Throughout childhood, my peers attacked me with their razor-sharp opinions, aimed with appalling precision and making it clear that beauty had passed me by. “We’ve seen your sisters and they’re beautiful—what happened to you?” “Ami, you need to face it: you will never be beautiful like your sisters.” Schoolchildren sang songs about my ugliness and told me that “dogs” weren’t allowed on school property. I believed it all.
I wanted love desperately. I longed for love like a drowning man searching for a lifeline, but it seemed that my physical unattractiveness excluded me from it.
With all the wisdom of a fourteen-year-old, I decided that I needed to remove matters from God’s hands and take them into my own control. In my mind, God had clearly messed up on me. But I could fix it. I would make someone love me.
I began dating a guy who reaffirmed everything I believed about myself. I was ugly and unworthy. He made fun of me, told me he only dated me on a dare, flirted with other girls. But he stuck around, and that was all this hungry heart needed.
In my mind, I envisioned a future in which we were married, right with God, and raising children. But less than a year into the relationship, I had given so much of my soul away that I was pregnant.
I should’ve been terrified. I wasn’t. I was excited for the baby. But there was a long, even darker road I would have to travel before I could understand the devastation that had come from my misguided attempts to take control of my life.
When I became pregnant, the verbal abuse escalated into physical abuse that worsened when the young man was pressured to marry me. The violence became ingrained in his daily routine. As anyone who has experienced abuse will attest, abuse doesn’t remain constant. It grows to affect everyone within reach. First my life was threatened, then the lives of my family members, then my daughter’s life.
I was so hurt and ashamed. I had done all this, run out from under God’s protective hand, to find love, to “fix” things. Taking control resulted in a life out of control. Instead of finding a pathway to love, I found utter misery and destruction and I endangered an innocent child’s life in my chaos.
When my husband began to direct his abuse at my daughter, I knew I had to leave. At that point I wasn’t willing to stand up for myself, but my will to protect her gave me the strength I didn’t otherwise possess.
Around this time, I was given a refrigerator magnet with Jeremiah 29:11 written on it: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I lived on these words in the bleak times.
And when I actually looked up the verse, what followed startled me: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD…” (Jeremiah 29:13-14a).
It was the “seek me with all your heart” part that got me. I knew that to seek God with all my heart, I had to let go of my desire for control. I was so lost in my fear of the unknown.
I began the slow and tentative process of relinquishing the things I had forcefully grabbed out of the Lord’s hands and placing them back in His grasp. Slowly, the fog of deception evaporated and the truth emerged. The love I longed for could only be found in this kind of “seeking with my whole heart” relationship. I needed a love that would see past the labels plastered on me, forgive my sin, and love me despite all of the unloveliness that lived in my heart. I needed a love that would never run out, never abuse, never use. I yearned for the adventurous love God offered, and that yearning surpassed my fear of letting go. It was a great risk to throw myself completely into the arms of unseen Love, but here in His presence I’m the safest I’ve ever been.
Ami Loper teaches in a variety of venues with a goal of allowing the Lord to move. Her desire is to see her testimony and her teaching bring a message that is not just informational or inspirational, but transformational. Contact her at amiloper.com to invite her to speak or to read her blogs, view her vlogs, and hear her messages. Find her on Instagram (@amiloper), Facebook (Ami Loper – Bible teacher), YouTube (ami loper) and LinkedIn (Ami Loper).