Miles Away from the Abusive Life She Left Behind
Autumn, a passionate and outgoing person, grew up a pastor's daughter. She vividly remembers Easter Sunday 1992 when she was 11. After being impacted by her dad's message at church, at home, she made a commitment to Christ and started to begin a relationship with Him. A couple of years later in high school, her passion began to shift from Jesus to guys. “I met all these cute guys, and they were interested in me. At one time, I was secretly dating 5 guys at the same time,” she says. Autumn became more and more complacent about her relationship with the Lord. At age 15, she met a guy who was very good looking, a professing Christian from a wealthy family. “He had everything the world had to offer. I broke up with the others and focused on him...and became sexually active,” say Autumn. Soon after losing her virginity to him, she found herself having to defend herself a lot. Her boyfriend would ask, “Why are you wearing that? Why are to talking to that person?” He slowly became more and more controlling and was cussing her out. “I thought I needed to change something in myself to appease him,” says Autumn.
After dating for 3 years throughout high school, he proposed. “It was a pivotal moment. I knew I was at a cross roads. I had no strength to make the right decision and said 'Yes'. We were married 9 months later in 1999,” says Autumn. Throughout the engagement period, there were red flags. “God gave me opportunites to get out and I didn’t,” she says. “He gives us free will to make mistakes. But the great thing is that He’s there in the moment we are ready to change.” Many people, even the wedding planner, tried to talk her out of marrying him, but Autumn continued with her plans. Immediately after the wedding, the abuse (mental, emotional and social) got worse. One month into the marriage, he lost his job. Things escalated. When Autumn asked, “What are we going to do?'” it ignited an animalistic instinct of hatred from him. It was her first brush with physical abuse.
The abuse slowly progressed. “He would sling me around the room, push me, throw things at me, and lock me in the room,” says Autumn. During this time, she was pulling away from Jesus even more. Her husband would not allow her to read the Bible. “I would get in trouble and be punished. I put a block up and started believing the lies Satan told me: God hates you. You are nothing,” says Autumn. The lies infiltrated her mind. She became petrified of everything and was afraid to leave the house.
The couple still put on a happy face and attended her father's church on Sunday. Autumn tried to avoid worship and kept her mind busy during the message because she didn't believe “the Truth” applied to her. She would put up a front to anyone she was forced to interact with. “The abused person’s job is to protect the perpetrator at all costs, or you get in trouble,” she says. Autumn would lie awake in bed until the early morning hours afraid to go to sleep. “I was petrified of God and thought He would kill me in my sleep. I knew I would die any second at the hand of God or my husband would kill me. It was too much. My mind was my own terrorist,” says Autumn.
Thoughts of suicide often came to her mind. One night after 2 years of marriage, Autumn was at the point of breaking. She believed that everyone including her husband hated her. “The only thing that can rid me of my circumstance is to take my own life. I can end it,” she says. Autumn decided she would commit suicide. Then she heard a voice louder than her thoughts. “Do you remember Me?” “His voice was so recognizable,” says Autumn. “It pulled me out of bed into a room across the hall. It kept rolling through my head,” she says. Then Autumn saw her old Bible on a shelf in the corner. “I grabbed it and dropped it on the table and stared at it.” Autumn felt she had two choices: to kill herself or try God again – “I thought God is too risky… I trusted God at an early age. He hated me. I am not going to open this book.” Autumn heard once again, “Do you remember Me?” She said, ‘Lord, I don't believe in You, in who You say You are, in what I was taught when I was younger....but if by chance You are, You have to speak now.’” Then she flipped open the Bible and put her finger down. It landed on Proverbs 16:31 – Long life is the reward of the righteous (GNB). “The verse spoke to my very soul. God addressed the biggest fear in my life with that one sentence. I dropped the Bible and fell on my face. That one line from God's Word transformed my life. Lying prostrate on the floor, sobbing for forgiveness for all the sexual sins and the lies I believed. I cleaned myself up under the hand of God and got my heart right before the Lord. I surrendered fully to the Lord.”
At that moment, Autumn says the chains that shackled her were broken. “They fell off. I was set free. The light protruded through the darkness. I had been terrorizing myself with the thought of death. I came to life. I went from a devastated victim of domestic violence to a victor to live life for God who changed it. I began an authentic relationship,” she says. Autumn went back to bed and slept peacefully for the first time in years.
Although she had changed, Autumn’s circumstances had not. The next day, the minute her husband left for work, she ran to her Bible. “I drank up everything it said. I spent hours in worship and prayer and reading. God revealed the truth of His Word to me,” she says. Autumn started to take God at His Word and started to interact with the human race again. She started to take walks and go further than a couple miles from her home without fear. Autumn told her family about the abuse. Her husband sensed something different, and it scared him. He pulled the reins in more and tried to exert more severe control. She sought counseling with him and learned that her problems were God's problems. She went to Him in prayer about everything and started to see Him subtly intervene.
After a year, Autumn was given a release from the Lord. She heard him clearly tell her, “You don't have to do this anymore.” She filed for divorce. (When Autumn filed for divorce, she was brought before her church elders. Although they were aware of the abuse, they opposed divorce. She was forced to withdraw her membership. Her father was subsequently dismissed. Autumn forgave them.)
She was accepted at Liberty University and became their first female ministry intern. Autumn met Miles one of the first days she was at Liberty. Today, they are married, have 2 children. Eddie was a youth pastor at their church and in 2010, Autumn got the specific call to launch their ministry. Eddie is the President of her ministry and manages the staff. “Jesus is my everything. I am now married to a wonderful husband and have 2 great children, but if I lost everything, I know I still have Jesus. He is my rock, my fortress, my redeemer. He is my strength. He is so faithful. Jesus is number one in my heart.”
Autumn goes to detention centers, homeless shelters and battered women shelters and bus the women to her conferences. “I’m just looking for the other Autumns,” she says. Many times there are more unchurched women in the audience. “The life changes are remarkable.” They are doing their first prison in conference in January. For more information, www.autumnmiles.com