Finding Freedom

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“I thought my family had enough dark clouds: my parents’ divorce, my dad’s incarceration, and the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. It all felt like enough ‘bad,’ and I didn’t want to own anything else, especially my own sin,” said Missy Marucci. “I thought I had to achieve to receive love from others, and that meant keeping a happy face on. People around me had no idea how hard it was or that I was struggling. I quickly learned and knew the right answers to have people stop asking questions.

“My sister and I were in church all the time as kids. There, I learned a lot about the Bible and how to share the truth of the gospel with others. But I wasn’t in a church that was open about sin. I selectively shared what I thought was acceptable but hid my personal sexual struggles that began after childhood abuse. I felt so much shame and kept it completely hidden. I didn’t think that Christians struggled in that way, especially Christian girls.

“I knew what the Scripture said, and I knew my actions were wrong, but I couldn’t see myself ever finding freedom. I didn’t know what to do and began doubting the Lord’s promises.

“After I was diagnosed with a chronic muscle condition in high school, I experienced a lot of change and interruption in my life. I missed a full month of school while I was in and out of doctors' appointments, trying to figure out what was going on with my health. This became a season of having to let go of things I was holding on tight to, like mission trips with the church, athletics, and different school activities. It felt like the Lord had provided me with opportunities and then decided to just take them away. I was really confused. But in that season, for the first time, I truly relied on Scripture. Jeremiah 29:11 reminded me that God has a plan, and I can trust that it is for my good to give us hope and a future.

“As soon as my health improved after surgery, I found myself relying less and less on what the Bible says and finding more independence away from God. At this point, I’d classify my sexual sin as an addiction. I didn’t even try to fight because I thought I would be a slave to my sins forever. I knew what the Lord wanted for me, but I was failing. I was ready to completely walk away from my faith.

“When I moved to Dallas in 2017, I decided to attend Watermark one Sunday. It was the first time I saw leadership at a church being authentic and honest with struggles and sin. I was reminded of the God and the gospel I knew early in life. It was a turning point for me – I knew I had to decide to either walk completely with God or be done.

“It would’ve been easier to walk away, but I chose to surrender to the Lord. My next steps of obedience looked like joining a community group and getting involved with serving at Watermark. I continued to struggle with sexual sin occasionally, but in my community group, I was able to be honest with others for the first time. It took time to build trust and develop relationships with the girls to make community a place where I felt comfortable sharing. I learned so much from the women around me because they had deep relationships with the Lord, were willing to ask me hard questions, and held me accountable.

“There were times when I went back to my old sins, but I now had a group of women fighting with me to live a life honoring to the Lord. I had a support system I could immediately call to confess and be reminded of God’s love.

“I was encouraged to start re:generation, Watermark’s biblical recovery ministry. I learned that I minimized my sin of people-pleasing. I thought it wasn’t ‘that bad’ because it was keeping those around me happy. But at the root, I was lying about my actions for so much of my life. I didn’t want people to know I failed. Understanding that even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) changed my perspective on my failure and sin.

“I’ve seen and experienced freedom because I know my identity isn’t tied to my performance, my actions, or my works. My identity is a woman of God. I cling to Ephesians 2:8-10. I know I can do nothing by my own strength, and I can’t do anything to earn the gift of salvation with Christ.

“As I’ve grown in my relationship with God, I’ve found freedom from sexual sin. As I serve in student ministry (Wake and re:gen for students), I’ve had the opportunity to share my struggles with the young girls I lead and be transparent with what Christian women go through. I can encourage them in their faith and display to them how the Lord does provide freedom. It doesn’t mean the struggle goes away or that you don’t have to fight or have safeguards. But He truly does provide freedom and rest when we are safely walking with Him.”