Today on Karl and Crew Mornings, we concluded our theme week, Grace: the Power to Live amd Thrive. The topic for this Freedom Friday was a Shame-Free Savior. Our scripture reference was I Timothy 1:12-17. We had great conversation about how the grace of God overflows for us no matter how bad we may have blown it. Doing it on our own is not an option and will never work. Karl and Ally shared the Gospel and explained the freedom of letting go, and surrending your life to Jesus. Shame can keep us from this freedom. As an example, Ally shared an article she wrote based on a true testimony (https://www.projectsurplus.org/blog/theunansweredprayer). Take a listen to the Karl and Crew Showcast to hear some of the best moments from today.
Veata had heard the dramatic stories of people who, in a moment of desperation, asked God for a sign and saw Him respond with the miraculous.
She needed one of those miracles one night as she knelt on the floor in her bedroom, overcome by absolute despair.
She’d been trying to please God. Trying to be a perfect wife and save her broken marriage. Trying to wrench herself free from years of abuse and feelings of guilt and worthlessness. She’d been trying... But she was at the brink of giving up on all of it.
“God, where are you?” she managed to utter through sobs. “You said that you would always be here but I don’t feel it. I cannot take this anymore.”
At a breaking point, she pleaded with God for a sign.
Just send someone to knock on the door to make sure that I’m ok, to know that you are there and you do care for me.
Veata waited for hours in her pain, but no one came. There was no knock. No answer to her prayer. Just awful silence. It would take several years for Veata to see what she could not see that night. In the silence, was a miracle. And it would completely transform her faith in God.
Veata was an infant when her parents fled their home country Cambodia on foot to escape the brutal Khmer Rouge regime that took the lives of 2 million people. Her parents worked the fields during the day and moved stealthily through the jungle at night until they reached the border of Thailand. Baby Veata was kept hidden in a large metal pot during the treacherous journey.
The next four years were spent in a Thai refugee camp, of which Veata says she is grateful to have no memories. Only later would she hear about the malnutrition and illness that ravaged the camp. Veata was so sickly, her mother once instructed a family member to dig a grave to prepare for her daughter’s burial. Somehow, Veata survived.
At the same time, in a small town in the American midwest, a church group was making plans to sponsor a family to come to the U.S. At age 6, Veata and her family left southeast Asia and boarded a plane to start a new life in America. With the help of the church, Veata’s parents found housing and jobs and took English classes. They embraced the freedom and newfound opportunity, but were fiercely opposed to what they saw in American culture.
‘You can’t be how American people are,’ Veata remembers her parents warning her. ‘Our culture is different.’ Though her parents worked hard to provide food and shelter, Veata describes the atmosphere in her home as “critical and controlling.”
“[My dad] struggled at that time with alcohol. I’ve seen a lot of physical abuse that he inflicted on my mother as well as us. I was never allowed to go out. I was never allowed to go to school functions. The only thing they would allow me to do was go to church on Sundays.”
Veata’s family didn’t practice any religion, despite coming from a predominantly Buddhist country. But they agreed to allow their daughter to ride a church bus each week to attend a Christian service. Veata had never heard about Jesus but she welcomed the excuse to get out of the house. She began to learn stories from the Bible and even memorized her first scripture verse, John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
“I really didn’t know what that meant,” she says. “Throughout the whole time, my view of God and religion, I think I saw it from my earthly father and how he was. If you did something wrong, you would get in trouble. I always had guilt. I always had a fear [if] I did something wrong, I’m going to get condemned for it. It was so exhausting.”
Determined she was “never going to measure up to what I needed to be,” Veata says she eventually stopped trying. As a teenager, she walked away from her faith completely.
“I became very good at lying and living two different lives,” Veata says.
On one side, she was an excellent student who worked hard to keep her parent’s approval. On the other side was a young woman craving love and acceptance. This led her down a path of “unhealthy dating relationships” and risky behavior that she hid from her parents.
When her father found out she was sneaking out to see a boy, Veata says she “got beat pretty bad for it” but it didn’t stop her. At age 15, she defied her parents’ rules and became seriously involved with a 17-year-old young man who, Veata says, “became exactly like my dad.” His jealousy, control, and violent outbursts made Veata fear for her safety, and for the safety of those around her. But when she tried to break up with him, he wouldn’t let her.
“I knew I was doing wrong so I couldn’t go to God. I was trapped,” Veata says, her voice softening. “I couldn’t go to my parents. I couldn’t do anything. I just started shutting down.”
After two years in the relationship, Veata resolved break it off completely with her boyfriend. “Whatever you want to do, I’m done,” she told him. “I’m not taking no for an answer.” It’s been 20+ years, but she still remembers coming to after being beaten to the point of losing consciousness.
“I woke up and I was like ‘I’m still alive,’” Veata recounts. “I didn’t call the police on him. I’m sure I could have. But I was so scared.”
Although she never reported the assault, the young man ended up being arrested and jailed shortly after on unrelated charges. “God took him out of the picture,” Veata says.
Shortly after, Veata began dating Theo, who she says was the complete opposite of her ex-boyfriend. He came from a Christian family who went to church every week and ate home-cooked meals together. Veata tears up remembering the first time she visited his home and had homemade mashed potatoes. “I grew up on TV dinners,” Veata says, her words broken up with emotion. “I thought mashed potatoes came from a box because that’s what I had.”
It was the picture of the family she’d always wanted. So at age 19, Veata got married.
“We were both young and naive,” Veata says. “Looking back, I just wanted to get out of my dad’s house and be with someone who actually loves me and thinks the world of me because I’d never had that.”
The young couple settled into newlywed life and wanted to start a family quickly. But six months passed, and then a year, with no sign of pregnancy. Veata was haunted by a nagging fear that she was to blame for their infertility.
‘Oh God, I think you’re punishing me for all the things I’ve done in my past,’ Veata remembers thinking. ‘If Theo knew about my past and what I did and why we’re not having kids now, he’s going to leave me and hate me.’
She suffered silently, while her husband battled his own disappointment with being unable to conceive.
“We were dealing with it in our own ways, but separately and not communicating very well. We kind of just drifted apart.”
The slow drift led her husband down a dark path of secrets. First it was alcohol, and partying on the weekends with his friends. Then came the drug use, and ultimately an affair.
Though friends encouraged her to leave the marriage, Veata was determined to stay, if for no other reason than to prove people wrong. She couldn’t accept failure.
In the beginning of their marriage, Veata and Theo had visited different churches together on Sundays. Theo had long stopped going, but Veata decided to continue, searching for some way to fill the void she felt. She began to develop a friendship with a Christian couple who asked her directly ‘where are you at in your faith right now?’ Veata had to admit she didn’t really know.
“What I had before, I didn’t really know what it was. Yes, I learned about stories in the Bible, I learned that Jesus died for my sins, but I didn’t really know what that meant. I know that I’m missing something. I’m needing something, but I don’t really know what that is.”
Veata says she felt prompted by God to recommit her life to Him. She started reading her Bible, listening to Christian music and going to church regularly. But the religious guilt and fear that plagued her during her childhood years was never far off.
“I said that [salvation] prayer, but I don’t feel like I’m saved. I don’t know if I were to die today if I would go to Heaven, so I just felt like ‘I’m going to just keep saying that prayer until I believe it.’ It wasn’t like a relationship. It was like ‘I don’t want to go to Hell. I just want to go to Heaven when I die because I’m scared.’”
Her relationship with Theo was equally wrought with fear and uncertainty. While Veata was committed to honoring the vows she’d taken with her husband, he was “spiraling out of control.” He was never physically abusive, but Veata says their home became “unhealthy for me to be there.”
“I started thinking ‘There’s something wrong with me. My relationship with my mom, my dad, with my ex-boyfriend - the common denominator is me. I just started feeling like I was worthless. I was falling into depression. Like God, what is the purpose of me being here? My husband doesn’t love me. Nothing is working out. God is like “I’ve been here. I’m always going to be here for you.”
“It was my darkest time, but it was also the time where I was seeking God the most.” It would get even darker before it got better.
All Veata wanted that night was for her husband to stay home. She didn’t know what would happen if he went out for yet another night of partying.
“I was begging him - don’t go. Don’t go do whatever you’re going to do. [I’m} pulling him, like ‘let’s work on this together.’ And he left.”
When the door closed behind him, Veata dropped to the floor. As she sat sobbing, she contemplated ending her life. Instead, she cried out to God to send someone to check on her.
“I just needed that confirmation from him like I haven’t forgotten about you.”
No one came. And for years, Veata wrestled with anger at God. She continued to serve Him, but she had to wonder if maybe He had forgotten about her.
Veata was sitting in a Bible Study one night when a leader asked her to revisit her memory from that night alone in her bedroom. “Picture Jesus there,” she told Veata. “When you are crying out to Him, what is He saying to you?”
As Veata allowed her mind to go back to that night, the emotions were almost overwhelming. She started to verbalize what she was seeing as she replayed it in her mind.
“I see Jesus standing in the doorway of the room... I’m so mad at Him,” she said, the words almost choking her. “All I wanted was for you to send someone to check on me to make sure I’m ok. To let me know that I was not invisible to people.”
“What is Jesus saying to you?” the leader prompted her, giving Veata permission to continue.
“Jesus is coming toward me, saying ‘God did send someone that day. I was there with you.”
Veata said she could picture Jesus embracing her in that moment. But she saw herself fighting against Him as she cried out over and over in anger, “You weren’t there!”
Finally, Veata heard the words from the Lord that changed everything.
I didn’t send anyone to you because I’m enough.
“I remember sobbing and letting His presence fall on me. I chose to believe that. Because there is no one [He] could have sent that would have been enough. That was the breaking moment of all this time I was searching for love and affection and attention. God always has been there for me. He never left me. It was a breath of fresh air after I realized that. No matter what happens in my marriage. No matter what happens in my family, God is enough. Jesus is enough.”
Veata walked out that night free, and finally at peace with God. It was also the beginning of a new path for her marriage. After a long period of separation, she and her husband reconciled and both committed to healing their marriage. Then came the surprise that after eight years of marriage, they were expecting. Five years later, came miracle baby number two.
“It wasn’t graceful by any means,” Veata says. “Allowing God to just work in us individually and us as a couple.. we didn’t do it perfectly but I think we were both willing to work on it and God is so graceful and so merciful. He can put even the ugliest pieces back together and make it beautiful. We’ve made more mistakes than anyone I’ve known. Everyone’s like how are you guys still married after all of that? It’s God. God and his never ending love for us.”
Veata has also learned the power of God’s forgiveness which she says allowed her to forgive her parents. It “frees you,” she says. The shame of her past and the fear of what others will think no longer consume her.
“I’m not perfect. My walk with God is not perfect. But it’s so freeing. It’s so much more rich and authentic and real. I just stand in awe. When I’m at church, when I'm worshipping, I cry all the time. But it’s because I see God in such a whole new light. I can’ t help but be in awe of him.”
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