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The Courage to Press On When You Want to Give Up

  • Jennifer Maggio
The Courage to Press On When You Want to Give Up

I sat in the living room and stared blankly at the floor as ten sets of eyes stared back at me. I turned multiple shades of red and hives began to form on my cheeks and chest. Oh, and my ears turned red – very red! My breathing was labored and beads of sweat collected on my forehead. All the signs of sheer terror were present. So why had I said I would do this? Why did I tell them I would share my story? I wondered to myself, as we all sat silently for what seemed like an eternity.

I was leading my first single moms’ Bible study, one I was certain I was ill-equipped to lead.

We had been sharing personal life experiences. This week, it was my turn to share my story. I had taken my time to write each part of the story the night before and had rehearsed it in the mirror. How would I have the courage to share things that I had never spoken before?

I began with stumbling, stuttering, and stammering. “My first memory was when I was three years old…” I began. For the next thirty minutes, that small group of single mom’s sat silently as I found the courage to tell my life story. I made no eye contact as I unpacked the horrors in my past.

Opening Up about My Past

I shared how my mother had been killed when I was only a year old. I explained that the tragedy of losing a wife so young led to my dad spiraling into a bottomless pit of alcohol and women, counterfeits he used to medicate wounds only God could heal. My home became an unsafe place, as my dad married a total of 6 women, with countless girlfriends in between. I was left in the care of neighbors, relatives, and friends who sexually assaulted me for almost a decade.

The next years were filled with a variety of stepmothers who abused me through physical and verbal assaults. At the hands of my stepmothers I was forced to steal at a young age, forced to view pornography, and was malnourished. By the time I was fifteen, I was so desperate for love, validation, and affection that I entered into a seven-year relationship that left me more broken and hurting than I had ever been before. I got pregnant at seventeen and called my dad to tell him (I was fearful of what he may do to me if I told him in person.) His response was to kick me out of our home. At seventeen I was homeless and separated from my family.

Crying Out to God

Even amidst all of this, I was my high school’s valedictorian. I had scholarships to go to colleges all over the country, and yet, at the tender age of eighteen, I birthed my child, moved into the projects, got on food stamps and welfare to make ends meet. I became a single mom with few friends, no money, and no hope.

I gave birth to a second child only a year and a half later. I was embarrassed, ashamed, broken, lonely, isolated, and suicidal. The depths of my broken heart manifested in many poor choices in the coming years. The thought of sharing them publicly would have never crossed my mind. Yet, God had a different plan.

Though the story has many twists and turns not possible to share in one short article, suffice to say there was a lot of crying out to the God, even though I was certain He hated me. There were many nights lying awake on a tear-soaked pillow begging and pleading God to rescue me from the depths of pain I was in. 

God's Grace to Me: the Local Church

Many people ask me now how I survived those days and what turned my life around. Although much can be said, my short answer is “the local church.” After a particularly volatile night, where my long-time boyfriend abused me, I cried out to God and made a choice to go to church the next Sunday morning. I loaded my sweet babies into my beat up Chevrolet and stumbled onto the back pew of a small church.

Nothing miraculous happened that day, except that I stayed in that pew, though fear consumed me. And I made a choice to go back again… and then again… and again. Before I knew it, I had found a church home, and slowly, God began to transform my life, one step at a time. I found hope, a new love in Christ, a new job, a new city, and ultimately a husband who loved me more than I surely deserved. God had made all things new and replaced the ashes of my past with a beauty that only He can offer.

My story is only just beginning.

But my story wasn’t over. My story is only just beginning. You see, I never forgot those lonely moments as a broken single mom in the projects. I went to my local church and asked if I could start a single moms’ Bible study. We started with three single mothers eleven years ago. Today, I have the great privilege to serve as the Founder and Chief Executive Officer for a national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. We serve more than 72,000 single mothers each year.

I’d love to tell you that each time I speak to a crowd or write another story, or field a question from a hurting single mom, that sharing my story gets easier and easier, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, when every single fiber of my being wants to quit, there is a courage that rises up within me that only the Lord our God could offer me. The courage that He gives that says, “share it one more time,” is supernatural. The freedom I have to share the intricate details of a broken life that would’ve likely ended in suicide is only explainable through a God that gives courage to the fearful and a voice to the voiceless.

Nothing is Impossible for Him

I don’t know what you face today or how big the mountain seems, but in faith, I encourage you to shout, “Mountain, get out of my way, for I am a child of God and nothing is impossible for Him.”

This article is part of our courage theme for the month of August on iBelieve. What is courage? Usually, we associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences -- good and bad. We believe this kind of “ordinary courage” is what God calls us to live into every day of our lives.

Check back each morning in August for a new story of courage as our writers tackle what it means to be faithful, courageous women in a culture that values comfort and conformity.

Jennifer Maggio is a wife, mother of three, and author of four books. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and her personal story has been featured in countless media venues, including The New York Times, Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk Radio Show, Daystar Television, and many others. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com