“I started running away from home at the age of four. My father was a very violent man. When I was born, he wanted to have a boy (and they already had an older girl), so from then on, he rejected me. There was a lot of physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. He would try to drown me. He gave my sister a shotgun and told her to aim at me. It was the 1970s, and every time I ran away from home, the authorities found me and brought me back.
But when I was nine, my grandparents realized something was wrong and took me to the police. I became a ward of the state and was in and out of institutional care. It was just surviving. I became an angry, bitter teenager with no fear or sense of consequence. I started shoplifting. I once stole a car. I was only 16 and had no driver’s license. Why should I care? I had no emotional connection to anything. However, I wanted to love and was promiscuous, leaving me in many abusive relationships. I ended up living with a young man, who was divorced, with a young child. I was still a minor. We got engaged, but it ended badly. I ran away again, desperate for some answer.
By the time I was 17, my sister had already made a few suicide attempts. I decided I would do it right. Unless I could find meaning and purpose, I would take my life. But at the same time, I was living with a couple who had become Christians. Maybe I was a little softened or open. The woman asked me if I wanted to come and listen to some singers playing at school.
Instead of attending school, I decided to see what the church looked like. People laugh when I say that now. Why did I do that? I think I was at my lowest point. And I was curious. I remember the gospel story told during the service. Hearing about Jesus – this man who walked the earth, suffered like us, was crucified, and died for our sins! I was so hurt and broken and angry. I hated myself, and that’s when something changed. The preacher spoke, and I wanted that love from God. I liked that forgiveness. At the end of the service, I went to the altar and prayed. I didn’t know how to pray, but in my heart, I gave the whole wreckage of myself to God. I cried and cried. I asked Jesus into my heart. And God heard the cry of my heart.
It was a powerful encounter with God, yet the journey of knowing God and forgiveness was long. It was not a direct conversion. Although the people in the church were hospitable, I felt like an outsider. They were a polished, happy family, and I didn’t belong. But a few years later, I discovered YWAM. Their motto was to know God and make Him known. That’s what I wanted! So I went to their training center in Brisbane. I told them I was a mess, but they still took me in! And I finally understood what it meant to have a personal faith in God. It was mental heart surgery. I let my walls come down. I was forgiven in Christ so that I could forgive myself and others. It was still a long journey of healing! But I know that God can bring healing. I know how the story ends and that I will see my Creator face-to-face one day! Somehow through this messy journey, I found Jesus. God wiped the slate clean, and I no longer have to run.”
To read more of Lavinia’s story or purchase her book, visit www.laviniawilson.com.au.
Lavinia’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, curated by Naomi Reed. Click here for more faith stories.