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Haunted by the Past, Healed by Truth

Shawntá Pulliam shares, “I remember my mother wanted some money to get high and I threw it on the floor.  I was so angry and I just thought, you know, ‘You're better than this.  You'd better not stoop that low to pick that money up.’  I stormed out the house. If she did pick it up, I didn't want to see it.  I didn’t want to see her do that.’”

Shawntá had to be the grown-up.  She took care of her two younger siblings, while her mom descended into an addiction to crack cocaine.

Shawntá says, “She was my hero and I had no one.  I had no one but me.  I didn't feel valued. I didn't feel important. I wasn't getting love.  I felt kinda like ‘Why did you give up on me? Uh why did you give up on us?’”

Angry, afraid, and lonely, Shawntá did poorly in school, constantly getting into fights.  Then in the tenth grade, her mom sent her to a Catholic reform school.

Shawntá  remembers, “There was a sense of hope that this was going to help me in some way.  We would read Scripture, we would start our day in the Word of God.”

But those words didn’t really come together until she went to a rap concert with friends.  She didn’t know the artists were Christians.

She says, “I was looking to party.   Maybe do some drinking, some smoking.  But they're talking about Jesus, how Jesus saves and how he heals and how he delivers.  I walked up there and I gave Jesus my life.  I felt limitless.  I felt like there wasn't anything that I couldn't do once I had given everything to Christ.”

Shawntá, it seemed, had put her past behind her, and was finally on the right track.  

She continues, “I became smarter, I became better, I became brighter, I became more peaceful more dedicated. And so I wanted to continue my relationship uh with Christ. I wanted to continue walking in his light because everything was working for me. Everything.”

Until she went to college.   Now among a diverse group of people with different beliefs, lifestyles, and philosophies, Shawntá started questioning her fledgling Christian faith.  The battle in her mind, had begun.

She explains, “It was a state of total confusion.  And they challenge you and you don’t know how to defend yourself.  They leave you kinda vulnerable.”   

The onslaught of criticism and doubt sent her on a two-year search, leading her away from church and god.  At one point she even explored voodoo, believing it was part of her African roots.  

She says, “It was giving me an association to something. And I think that's what I was looking for.  You know, ‘Where do I belong? Where am I supposed to be?’”  

Her lifestyle had become marked by partying, promiscuity, and drug use.  But nothing fulfilled her need for acceptance and love.

She says, “I was becoming what I knew, and what I had seen, the environment that I had come out of. It was leaving me very empty, very empty.”
 
She believed she had strayed too far for even God to save her.

“I felt as if there was no redeeming from the things that I had done.  He was not going to forgive me for that,” she shares.

Then one night, someone put something in her drink at a club.  Shawntá remembers, “I started seeing colors, I started hearing voices.  Then the fear came. You know, I felt very afraid. I felt very-just in a panic.”

Awake for three straight days, she was admitted to the hospital, where she was told she’d had a brief psychotic episode.  Sent to the mental ward, she was ready to hear from God.

Shawntá says, “One day, it just hit me. I heard the Holy Spirit say, ‘You have to make a choice, and you have to make the choice now.’   It was up to me whether I was going to walk away from all this unconditional love or stay uh where I needed to be to feel all his grace, his love, and his mercy.”

She continues, “I just started crying and I couldn’t stop crying.  I was asking the Lord, ‘Please forgive me. Please forgive me. You know, I am so sorry. Please forgive me. I want a relationship with you.  I repent.’ And I could literally feel chains falling off of me. I could feel the weight uh just falling, falling off of me.  And I knew I was dealing with a real, loving, powerful, forgiving God."

Shawntá was released from the hospital a few days later, after being diagnosed with depression and put on medication.  Though she had a long road of healing ahead, she would never again doubt the love and truth of Jesus Christ.

She says, “My greatest need from Jesus was to know that he is real and that I could call on him and he would be there, no matter where I was, no matter what I was doing, he would come through for me and I could depend on him.”

Today, Shawntá is no longer on meds or battling depression.   She’s married to Don and runs a non-profit to share God’s love with at-risk girls.  Her mother has been clean since 2001, and Shawntá has restored relationships with both her parents.  

Shawntá says, “I serve a God that I can take any struggle, any fear, any doubt to him without fear of him condemning me. I know he's going to give me the grace to go through with whatever it is I'm going through and shower me with that love uh that I didn't have.”

Find Shawntá's book, Hell Bent, Heaven Bound on Amazon.

Shawnta Pulliam Arise: shawntapulliamarise.com

Nurturing Hearts: www.nurturing-hearts.org

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