God is good and able to restore what is lost.
Updated: May 12
This is Savanna’s story:
My name is Savanna Hagerthy. I am from Maine. I am 31 years of age going to be 32 in June. I was raise in a Christian home all my life. My family went to a Baptist church every Sunday. I attended youth group and purity classes as a teen. I didn't date or anything all through junior high and high school. Dating wasn't even a thought of concept in my mind or desire. When I was 16 I started doing theater with a local theater group. The people I participated in the musical I did over the summer did some questionable things backstage and much of this got me questioning my own sexuality. By my senior year in high school I started to question whether or not I was bisexual.
Months went by and I was drawing near to the end of my senior year. I met a guy who was 21 and I was 17. We started dating. For the month we were dating he sexually abused me and left me with a huge mistrust of men. He broke up with me the day before my 18th birthday because I would not give him everything he wanted sexually. I was hurt and broken, and my innocence was lost. I was depressed and had many thoughts of suicide. The people at my church who tried to help me unfortunately made me feel worse and I didn't know how to open up.
I was told that that being a gay was a sin over and over and I needed to stop or I would be asked to leave. I knew this was true but my heart was hurting and I was struggling deeply in my own mind and emotions with this but I didn't feel safe sharing this struggle because of their precieved judgement. I was also at one point told I was not allowed to attend a youth retreat because my depression made people uncomfotable. I get what they were trying to do but they never helped me deal with these feelings healthily so I felt only deep rejection, making it even harder to trust them with any of my feelings.
As I started to prepared to head to college I was a mess. I at that point still struggled with my sexuality and the wounds from my assailant. I attended school at the University of Maine at Farmington, home of the Beavers I made friends in the Gay Straight Alliance and found what felt like a safe space with my hurts. I started to become more comfortable with the idea of being a lesbian. Many of the Christians around me tried to help me with the struggles I had with the wounds from the sexual abuse and depression but unfortunately most of their help and trying to fix me felt like judgment.
People would show me Bible verses on why homosexuality was bad. I knew this. People would point out my faults without forming a trusted relationship. I would be told why I needed to find peace in Jesus and just stop acting depressed. I knew what was wrong, what I didn't know was what was right with me and how Jesus saw me. I was also once told I was not allowed to go to an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship retreat because my sexuality made people uncomfortable.
A few people just listened and treated me with love and patience but most just showed me what they thought was wrong in my life. One thing I remember that helped me through my emotional struggles was a friend of mine named Glison who invited me to Bible study every week at her apartment and we just talked about Jesus and she loved on me for who I was and where I was at.
By the middle of my Freshman year of college I met a girl and we connected started a long distant relationship. My church found out and they had an intervention and told me if I didn't break up with my girlfriend and reject homosexuality I would be kicked out of church. I still considered myself Christian, unfortunately however because what I was taught most of my life was mostly rhetoric and rules, I didn't really understand how to have a true deep relationship with Jesus.
I was declaring I was Christian but serving a false form of love. Being told to just stop being gay didn't help. No one ever looked at the root of why I felt how I did. My lesbian identity was at that point a form of protection from being hurt sexually again. I didn't know how to put my true identity in Christ.
I met a friend named Angela my sophomore year. She reminded me how much God loved me and the things I didn't know about myself. She told me what God saw even when I wasn't fully ready to hear it. So many people told me everything that was wrong with me but Angela was different. She planted seeds that began my path to really having a true relationship with Jesus.
That same year I became friends with another girl named Stephanie. Stephanie like Angela was different than most Christians I had known in my life. She would tell me how God saw. I didn't always like what she said but I saw something in her that I needed. I now know this was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Something that was never really talked about in the church I grew up in.
Junior year rolled around and I moved back into the dorms at UMF. I still considered myself a lesbian and I was very vocal about it. That year I met a guy that was a little older that lived in a different part of my building. He invited me back to his room to hang out and then proceeded to rape me. This left me very scarred and afraid. However, this also led to a closer friendship with Stephanie and Angela.
For about a year I dove into a life of drinking and lots of sex trying to fill my pain. I still considered myself Christian but I was hurting and most people just told me to buck up and change my life without actually offering the love of Jesus. Two people however stuck by me. Stephanie and Angela continued to speak life into me. Sometimes I didn't want to hear what they had to say, but they had established a trusted relationship with me so they knew they could say what I needed to hear.
Stephanie invited me to attend her church when I was 21. At this church I saw a life in the people I met that I had never seen before. I still lived as a lesbian for several months after I started going to that church but after a while, all the words Steph and Angela had been speaking over me started to take root. On March 16, 2011 I took the rainbow beads off a cross necklace that I owned. This was my declaration that I was starting my new life in a real relationship with Christ and as a straight woman.
I will be honest I didn't get it right for the first few months but the Lord was very faithful to stay by me and change my heart towards Him in His time. I lost a lot of friends. Many of the people who claimed to be all about love suddenly hated me. Some of which I found pounding on my dorm room door just to tell me how much of terrible person I was. Recieving such treatment at first was hard but I have learned a lot through it.
After leaving UMF I started getting more involved at church. I took on different jobs within the church and then more responsibilities were expected from me, since I was so willing to be involved. I also became a lobbyist with Maine Christian Civic League until COVID rules put a stop to much of the involvement I had.
I am sadly however finding in many ways how I was subjected to spiritual abuse by some of the leaders in that church. I lived with my pastors for several years and now look back on places where boundries and codependancy lines were crossed. I was becoming tired and my faith was weary. After 10 years of attending that church, I found myself in a relationship with a woman. It was a rough spot for both of us. The enemy used both of our weakness to mistaken the connection we had as romantic.
Despite what happened the Lord has been faithful. I have been attending a new church pastored by a couple that I have known for 10 years. I also have been attending Celebrate Recovery for over 18 months and it has been helping me to see some of the areas in my life where there were many years of spiritual abuse from the church I left and I am beginning to recieve the healing I need. Celebrate Recovery and my church family have also been a big help in recovery from the loss of my father recently. At the moment due to this I admit I am not all that interested in relationships or marriage, as I know my dad will not be there to walk me down the aisle.
In the near future I will shortly be moving to Florida to attend River Church and take classes at River University, both lead by Dr. Rodney Howard Browne to further train in ministry and pursue my spiritual mandate. Life is not easy and not always what we think it should look like, but God reveals himself and how to minister to others with his heart through it all.. God is good and able to restore what is lost.
If I have learned anything in my life and through my own mistakes and what happened to me, it’s this:
We can't expect the people in our life that are of the world, to act like Christians. We need to minister to them and develop a relationship with them and let the Lord work His love through us. Don't make salvation and Jesus unattainable.
When people do come to Christ and are young in the Lord, be patient. Encourage people where they are getting things right and gently correct them where they are not so they don't get discouraged.
Life is a process, sanctification is not a one time thing. We need to stay humble and listen to the Lord daily. Be patient with yourself and if you are struggling, you should never feel like you are going to be condemn for needing help. Be open and don't hide. You should never get to a place in your faith where you feel like you are too mature to need help and you shouldn’t be afraid of seeking help for fear you will be condemned by people around you. For many years I was often told I needed to just push though my struggles and suck it up and have more faith in Jesus, just tell the bad thoughts to go away. I've learned it doesn't always work like that, sometimes you need a healthy place to share how you are feeling without feeling like you are going to be judged or someone is going to try to fix you.
I also want to stress that you can't be anyone elses Holy Spirit of Jesus. You need to let people hear for themselves what God is saying. If you see someone is in a rough place, be encouraging and don't try to fix everything for them. It’s important to let Jesus do what he came to do in our lives. It's important that you be careful about forming a co-dependant relationship with the people you are trying to minister. They aren’t your project and you don’t own them…God does. Be there to encourage people to hear God and speak life without being overbaring. Listen to what God is saying and ask Him how he wants you to minister what He is showing you and telling you. If you do this you will become great ministers of the Gosple.
Lastly, always remember, it doesn't matter what you've done or how far you have strayed or what has happened in your past, God can take every pain and mistake and use it for His glory