“After experiencing sexual abuse in high school and college, I fell into a dark depression,” said Kathryn Long. “I really struggled with life and knowing my identity. My faith did not ground me. I didn’t have a place where I could share what I was going through. I thought I could only take it to confession with a priest and wasn’t supposed to talk about it anywhere else. I felt like I was trapped and that I couldn’t express or find help for my own sin or struggles. I was so isolated.
“I grew up in the Catholic Church, and it was a huge part of my family. I went to Catholic school until high school. My faith was so rooted in culture and traditions, but I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus on my own.
“Because of the abuse in my past, I had a lack of trust in most people. I kept many relationships at surface level. I carried so much bitterness – towards every person, every man, every woman. I held on to hurt and resentment, which later would result in major blowups. Often, I’d just numb myself with boys, parties, social media, and television.
“Fast forward a few years, and I married Jarred. We got married in a traditional church and had two kids. When I think of our early days of dating, I think of how horrible our communication was. We were not healthy or practicing a loving relationship. We would fight against each other. We were such passionate fighters – to the point that police were called on us for screaming at each other.
“We were attending church, but I got to a point where I wasn’t sure what we were teaching our kids. I thought having a faith was important, but I didn’t feel like I had an honest faith of my own. How could I teach my kids if I wasn’t certain? I felt like a huge hypocrite.
“I wanted a genuine faith, but as I grew and learned more about God’s character in the Bible through different resources, I realized the things I was learning did not line up with the way I saw things growing up. For so much of my life, I was focused on upholding tradition and appearing to have it all together, but I was ready to break it all down.
“I started listening to audio messages from re|engage, Watermark’s marriage ministry, and heard people talking about sin in marriage. Hearing others talk so authentically and openly about the heaviness of sin and their freedom from it drew me in. I wanted to know more about living a life for Christ.
“At the exact same time, the Lord was working similarly in my husband’s heart. We decided we wanted to start looking for a church to attend.
“One Sunday morning, we decided to try Watermark. The message that morning taught me that you’re never too far gone because of your sin. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I had never really dealt with my past or my hurts before this time, but the message reminded me that God still loved me regardless of anything from my past.
“Jarred and I both agreed that pursuing membership at a local church was the next step in our relationships with Christ (Hebrews 10:24-25). We knew it was healthy for our marriage and for us as individuals.
“We took steps to get involved in different ministries and classes at Watermark. In re:generation, I realized I needed to fully surrender to the Lord. I was in a long season of waiting where I had to rely on and walk with the Lord so intently. With the trust issues I carried, I think my surrendering needed to be a slow decision. I had a lot of questions and needed to learn more and more to trust in the Lord.
“The first few years we were so excited and on fire for the Lord, but now we are facing the realistic challenges of parenting and marriage with our newfound faith instead of falling back on our old ways and what we know. We have our personal relationships with Jesus, but we are trying to set a new heritage for our kids moving forward.
“We are so blessed that we grew toward the Lord together at the same time. God really pursued both of us together. As we’ve grown in our relationships with Christ, He has taught us that because we are married, we are one (Matthew 19:6). The value we place on marriage now is so different from before because we see it through a biblical lens. I’ve been able to finally heal from my past because of Christ.
“I feel rooted in my faith in a way I never have before. And I crave for my kids to have an experience like mine, where they come to know the Lord on their own as their Savior. If nothing else, I want our kids to see that we are okay being broken because we completely rely on the Lord.”