Women come through our doors with far greater burdens than physical luggage. Learning to lay down our burdens and where to lay them is much more challenging than it sounds. In many ways, we desperately cling to our burdens because it gives us some semblance of control. Control over our pasts, our trauma, our guilt, our shame, and the identities we have carefully manufactured out of self-preservation and pride. These burdens are ugly and we don’t want people to see.
The last thing we want to hear coming out of the mire is that our pride helped get us there. But addiction is one of the most pride saturated lifestyles of all. It requires total abandon of anything apart from pleasing self. Our culture teaches that we should never need help and that it is a sign of weakness. But the bible teaches that in our weakness we are strong (2COR12:10) and that the strength of Christ is made perfect in our weakness (2COR12:9). Therefore, we are free to boast all the more gladly about our total inability desperate need for Him. Every person shares this need, no matter their background, upbringing, or current state of affairs.
Even in the structure of our program, it is natural to become distracted by our worries and muddled priorities. We forget all together that we are instruments in the sovereign unfolding of Christ’s redemptive plan and that focusing on anything other than that is like dining on an entrée of deception. Casting our cares at the foot of God seems like a simple solution, but it requires us to let go of the very lies we have built our lives on: the lies that control and self-exaltation are the pathways to peace and joy. But the truth is found in trust and humility. For what is required of us but to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God? (Micah 6:8)
We see this illustrated perfectly in Luke10:38-42. A woman named Martha invites Jesus into her house where it says she becomes distracted by serving. In her self-exaltation, her anxiety and worry keeps her from focusing on the only thing that matters. Her sister Mary, on the other hand, chose to sit and listen to the Lord teach. When comparing the two, He says that Mary has chosen the good portion and that it will not be taken from her.
It is through the truth of God’s word that we find peace and joy everlasting. Our discipleship curriculum is aimed at building a relationship with Jesus Christ, which fosters the trust and humility required to let go of self and choose Christ. Because only in Him are we able to choose what is good.
Morgan is one of our graduates from 2017. Here she is pictured adorning her graduation ring on the day of her wedding. The ring is a constant reminder of Christ’s redeeming work. Yes, even in addiction He reigns. It was a special day for everyone involved and yet another step away from the darkness of living at enmity with God. Our souls cry out for redemption and it is evident in the brokenness of the world, in the death and decay of all things, in the dissention of our collective conscience, and in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Addiction is not the problem or a disease. It is merely a symptom of the only problem we’ve ever had: rebellion against God. When we rest in the truth that Jesus Christ came and paid the ransom for our lives by taking the punishment for our sin, we are free to walk in His forgiveness.
Nothing you have ever done is beyond the mercy of Jesus Christ. When we hear the call of our Creator we recognize that He is the only way, the truth, and the life. Only then may we be given incomprehensible peace and sealed as citizens of heaven. Only then do our hearts become an overflow of thankfulness and praise. Only then do we revel as the old passes away and the new begins. In Him, we are recipients of Grace.
Becoming Morgan Wolf
Many women arrive at Through The Gate angry and bitter toward the Lord. Morgan was no exception. A devout Atheist, she perceived that belief was a masquerade for the wealthy and established. Despite feeling cared for, she was a troubled youth from Madison, Indiana. The various misconceptions regarding the making of an addict crumble at her testimony. She was raised in a loving Christian home and had everything provided she could have wanted and more. But at age twelve she was stricken by her parents’ divorce and began wrestling with the pain.
In the pursuit of fulfillment, she turned her affections toward drugs and alcohol. Her 4.0 GPA, a bounty of scholarships, and work ethic fell to the wayside in the wake of her substance abuse. Her life spiraled into a swelling haze of guilt, shame, and concealment. She never spent time perfecting plans and wedding dreams as young women often do. Her concepts of love and marriage became skewed by worldly standards and seemed rightly foolish. And all of her attempts to make her relationships appear fruitful proved to be an exercise in futility.
It wasn’t long before she found herself with a criminal record at her lowest point. She reflects, “I attempted to portray that I was a caring and loving person, but in reality, I held an enormous amount of hatred in my heart. Because of my felonies, the only jobs I could find were waitressing and bartending…it was a party every night.” It was there in the darkest corners she would fall into a cycle of abusive relationships in efforts to fill the God-sized hole in her heart.
Like most addicts, she lost sight of who she was and could not pinpoint a moment where it all went wrong. Her carousing took a radical turn with the introduction of methamphetamines into her appetite. The rampant consumption of narcotic cocktails that followed left her muddled from drug-induced comas, the pangs of aimless despair, and a skeletal frame. With seven arrests to her name and prison in-store, the Lord began to move the pieces.
Serving a stint of incarceration on burglary charges in 2017, her family agreed to bond her out on the condition that she get into treatment. Today, her face lights up in reflection, “My hopes upon arriving [at Through The Gate] were that it would get me out of the eight-year prison sentence I had been handed. I would never have imagined how much of an impact this place would have and how much my life would change.”
Though she had never been to another residential treatment program, she attempted sobriety with Intensive Out-Patient treatment and Drug Court. When comparing those methods to those at Through The Gate, she says the contrast is stark. She offered insight as someone who experienced Drug Court firsthand, stating, “It was very mental health and medicine-based.” At Through The Gate, we don’t allow habit-forming prescriptions and recognize the over-medication of our society as a contributing factor to the popularization of drug culture. “Secular therapy tells you there is something wrong with you,” she divulged in our interview. “They focus on victimization and trauma to identify you,” whereas the scriptural approach of Through The Gate insists that in Christ, you are a new creation. The word ‘addict’ is seldom heard at the facility, where we focus on the heart problem rather than the behavioral symptoms.
When Morgan first arrived at Through The Gate, she was in a “deep dark hole of despair.” Though, she felt in her heart that she was a child of God. We often see that, because of the horrible accumulation of guilt and shame, our residents believe their sin is too big for God’s grace and mercy. They think they do not deserve it. But we are here to tell them that they are right! It wouldn’t be grace if we had to earn it. We help them learn to put their trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, where imputation sets them free. “I couldn’t grasp why this had happened to me. It happened because I wasn’t allowing God into my life”, she adds with resolution. “You never know what God has planned for you. You have to trust and be content in Him.” As we know, God is most glorified when we are satisfied in Him.
It was at church where she became acquainted with Andrew Wolf, a 24-year-old Subaru employee with boyish good looks. Never having had contact with people with criminal pasts, he held a negative view of the budding ministry adjacent to his church. Since his involvement he admits that his perspective has changed dramatically from harsh judgment to solidarity. He confesses passing judgment on anyone with a record before, but now sees, “they are sinners just like me,” he empathizes in humor, “And I mean if you get right down to it, I mean yeah, I speed!” In his perception of people who struggle with addiction, he reveals that she has helped him immensely in that area. “She’s helped me understand my addictions, just because they weren’t substance abuse.”
Neither of them took notice in the other initially. Morgan was focused on completing the program, and Andrew was working through sin issues in his own life. It wasn’t until months after graduation that the Lord began moving in her heart regarding godly men and gender roles. She found herself thinking differently about marriage than what she learned from the world. Suddenly, she saw Andrew in a new light. From the first day they sat next to each other in church, she fondly recalls, “he has honestly cherished and pursued my heart since then. He’s never stopped! Being with Andrew is so extremely different from anything I’ve ever done in my entire life.”
She goes on to describe how Through The Gate prepared her for marriage, “At TTG I learned what a godly wife’s roles are, what to expect and look for in a godly husband, and to not settle for anything less than what God has laid out. Hard lessons to learn. I had never seen a successfully married couple before TTG.” She was custom to taking the lead and having [the] control. “To learn that’s not what God designed for me as a woman was a hard transition. But now I love it. A lot of women are scared of ‘submission,’ but the way God designed us, it is natural and comes with ease the same way that a man naturally leads. As a church we believe in complementarianism. Where he falls, I am strong and vice versa.” Andrew follows with his outlook, “God has been preparing me [for marriage] through different experiences in life and His Word. My brothers [in Christ] and pastors have definitely helped. They gave me the nudge I needed to pursue. When my pastor called me into his office, I knew exactly what he wanted to talk about. For him to approve of me dating his ‘daughter’ that’s pretty huge.” He adds that “Without knowing Jesus you can’t know what marriage is, the ultimate example of how the husband treats wife is Christ and His church. There are so many things in the secular world that you are influenced by, which gave me a poor perception for a long time.”
While she was nervous about being a good help-mate, Andrew showed no concern in her suitability for him. His green eyes brighten at the mention of her name, and his confidence unfolds as he describes her worth. Taking her as his wife, he says is “better than he could have ever thought. It’s so clearly God who put us together.” He believes they were made to be united and delights in the prospect of setting a Godly example for others.
The life of an addict comes with a past that is rife with rampant disobedience to God and the crippled efforts of an unrepentant heart. Sexually immoral behavior, foul speech, theft, slander, covetousness, and such idolatry leads to a broken spirit. Only a relationship with Jesus can satisfy our souls. Through the biblical curriculum at TTG, Morgan was able to discover freedom in salvation. Andrew takes notice as she continues to grow in her walk with the Lord. Her heart becomes revealed to him in the way she serves in the ministry and at their church. “I remind her that her past doesn’t define her; her identity is in Christ. And I didn’t feel like I deserved her. There are things that made me feel unworthy.” A look of wonder washes over her as she describes the way he allows her to walk in a new life, “Oh, I just love that about him…. Andrew treats me like an absolute princess. He cherishes every moment when we’re together, always putting me before himself. I’m used to selfish men who are abusive physically and mentally. He’s different from anything I’ve ever imagined.”
Morgan candidly admits that there was no reason or purpose to be clean before her relationship with Jesus Christ. The couple is devoted to the church body: thriving under church authority, valuing instruction, surrounding themselves with fellow believers, and serving in ministry. She cheerfully reports, “It’s my focus every day, it’s like I don’t even remember doing drugs…I can truly say that Jesus has set me free from bondage.”
Extrapolating on her experience with Through The Gate, she adds, “I never thought I’d be where I am today. Three years ago, I was on the street, and now I’m getting ready to move into my own home.” She hopes to see TTG grow to help more women: that those same women will add to the graduates already on staff and one day lead to multiple locations. The message she wants to leave for women going to the program who feel irredeemable is that “God can transform anybody. I was an angry bitter woman with nothing to live for, and God transformed me into a woman sometimes don’t even recognize. A woman who handles anger well and is happy…I even have a laugh that I never had before. My love for the Lord outweighs anything I’ve ever loved or done in my entire life.”
One would not even recognize her today from the old pictures of her grey and emaciated appearance. Once underweight with lifeless eyes and disheveled attire, she is now something to behold: a beautiful and godly woman. You would never know from her spirited personality, sapphire eyes, rich blonde hair, and classy ensemble, that her past was plagued with hopeless despair. “ ‘Id been hurt so much by so many guys” she reflects. “I sought love in physical ways. I had to become content in Christ before Andrew came into my life. I was ok being single and not finding my identity in a man. It only leads to darkness. So, I dove into the Word and my relationship with God. When I was no longer dependent on anything but Him, He opened my eyes to how beautiful a godly relationship can be and blessed me with Andrew. And now that I have Andrew I know that I had never experienced love before.”
Women from all different walks of life cross the threshold at Through The Gate. It is our joy to disciple them. Our mission is to see them standing firm in a new life founded upon the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In doing so, they can live a life of forgiveness and mercy that allows them to extend the same grace to others: considering others as more significant than themselves. In Christ, our souls have peace. We believe that He is the answer the all of our problems and the hope of the world. We see this truth to be self-evident in the lives of our graduates and the people who pour their hearts out for this ministry. It is our chief end to bring glory to God and enjoy Him forever. To Him be the glory unto eternity. Amen.
"How Through The Gate helped me overcome gender dysphoria"
I arrived at Through The Gate gender fluid. Although I never saw the point or took the time to find the exact label to describe my gender identity, I didn’t ascribe to anything traditional either. In my mind there was no point in drawing a line between male or female and creating a million categories in between was equally as meaningless. Some days I woke up feeling more masculine and dressing like a boy, and other days I felt feminine and wanted to wear a dress. People would ask about it which indicated that it wasn’t typical. I was attracted to people who were of a similar mindset and intrigued by those who pushed the bounds of normalcy. Honestly, wearing lipstick made me feel more gay than wearing a tie. When I received compliments for dressing like a woman, it felt like I had somehow fooled them.
My friends and I always knew something was broken with the world. We would drop acid or drink alcohol and cheerfully discuss the problems of the world, engaging in philosophical debates until the wee hours of the morning. But there was never an agreeance. Never an answer. Never a solution. Nothing ever came of it. At best, someone felt enlightened and temporarily inspired. We were existentialists, relativist, nihilists, and cynics. We thought we were progressive and onto something. All of our opinions were futile and in bondage to our limited worldviews. And to some extent, we would even discuss that. The fact is that there is only one problem in the world: sin. Rebellion. And the solution is reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ.
I understand what the feminist and gender movements think they’re doing because I was a part of it. To differing degrees they think they are fighting for equality, they think men and women have the same abilities and should be able to do all of the same things, they want to make a difference, they want men to behave in a way that makes them feel heard and restores a sense of power that they believe they lost or never had. But that’s not actually what they are doing. They don’t want to be equal to men, they want to be equal to God. It’s not the system they hate, it’s God. The truth is that they don’t trust or love Him. He is the Father whose perfect love is perceived as unfair and cruel in the eyes of His rebellious children.
I am referring to the God of Israel, the God of the Bible, the Creator and Sustainer of the world. Not this feel good Joel Olsteen fellow who wants you to have it all and never experience hardship. There are two clear idols in the feminist/pride worldview, entitlement and comfort. They think God would want them to have their fill of this world and never suffer. And any God contrary to that can’t possibly be good because in pride, they think they have the authority and merit to set the standard of righteousness. Pride is the perfect word for the movement, because that is exactly what it is.
Through the truth of God’s word, I have been able to embrace my given gender identity in a way that I never thought was possible. I have been able to lay down my own desires and opinions in exchange for the will of God, my sanctification. Am I still attracted to women? Yes. God didn’t take that from me but He gave me something stronger. He gave me love for His word and a desire to please Him. In it, He doesn’t ask us to understand everything but rather to trust Him and walk humbly with Him through this life.
Our mistake is in thinking that the perfect design for gender roles and sexuality are about us, our pleasure, our plans, and our wills. But they aren’t about us, they are about Him. Nothing is about us, it’s ALL about Him. But it’s FOR us. His design and His glory are for us to enjoy forever. His glory is the life blood of our spirits. I have come into a beautiful state of serenity and been overcome with His peace, which surpasses understanding. The truth is beyond anything you can imagine. I could say so much more and perhaps someday I will. But for now, I have felt compelled to write this because I have been set free from darkness and confusion. I want to extend this hope, that no one has to continue walking in the futility of their minds. Seek the Lord diligently and you will find Him. He promised that. He will restore you and establish you. He promises that too. You were created for more than this world, this world is evil and will soon pass away forever. Quit fighting against Him and turn to God for reconciliation." TTG graduate
Alive in Christ!
"Today is a special day for me. At this time last year I was captive to a gruesome meth and heroin addiction. I was a slave to the world and everything in it, ensnared by the hedonic treadmill. It's a hole from which I narrowly escaped: rescued by the grace of God. Many times I took what should have been my last breath after another lethal injection. But God preserved me. Many times I severed ties with those I once held dear because they stood between me and my self destructive mania. But God was in concert beside me in my disobedience. And after all the pain, and death, and suffering, I can say this....
Thank God for making me worthy of suffering, in order that I may experience the truth of Him more fully. If it took several attempts of suicide, a lifetime of anxiety and depression, and years of romancing futile philosophies and world-views to bring me to the end of myself so that I could see the truth, then it was worth it. And I would do it again a thousand times if it would demonstrate His worth.
And secondly, thank God for using Through the Gate to draw me closer to Himself and fortify my faith. The discipleship treatment I received for my addiction there was unlike any other solution I have ever heard of. I've never seen a more effective way to rid a heart of darkness, than through the teachings of the atoning love of Christ. I know who He is and who He says I am. Through the Gate has shown me how to surrender my life to Him and I do it every day. The love, joy, peace, hope, truth, and identity that is found in serving the Lord surpasses understanding. I am so honored to be a part of Through the Gate, which I can only describe as an instrument of God's good will. Oh, to be loved by Christ."
-Through The Gate Graduate
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Matthew 25:35-40(NIV) 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
The following is an excerpt from a final class paper written by a current resident here at TTG:
This book has truly helped me realize my fear of man. I began reading this book with the mindset that I wouldn't get anything from it, but I was completely wrong. My fear of man is outrageous. I always blamed it on my personality and tried to use that as an excuse. I never saw my fear of man as the big problem it really was. I realize now how my fear of man has completely controlled me. It would cause me to lie, to say what I thought people wanted to hear, avoid embarrassing situations, and to be completely fake in front of people because I wanted them to like me. I also learned that comparing yourself to others is an excuse to sin. I tell myself, "Well they claim to be a Christian and have sex outside of marriage, so why can't I?" I know the answer to that question now and it's because I know it is wrong. I know it is disobedient to the Word of God. I now love, respect, and fear the Lord and that allows for me to know what is right and do what is right by God. Every human being struggles with the fear of man and can be called codependency, people pleasing, peer pressure and upholding your reputation. I've learned how to fear God more than man, how to grow in that area of obedience, and I'm able to know now when I am fearing man before God.
The following is a paper written by a current resident of TTG from one of the many classes being taught here at TTG:
God wants you to glorify Him in everything you do including how you use your money. If you work hard, which God gives you the strength to do, you should be a wise investor among many other things. It is a wise steward who invests to increase their finances little by little. Do not envy others that have more money than you, and if you are blessed with money, do not be stingy; be generous. Do not love money because loving it brings evil and you will never be satisfied. It is better to give than receive because freely giving will make you richer and that brings blessings upon your name from the Lord and He will always provide. Never be prideful or arrogant. God gave us work and the money He brings from it and we should enjoy the things that come of it. Be content with what the Lord brings into your life, whether it is a little or a lot of wealth. Never forget He gave and He can also take away. One should never expect to receive without giving of themselves whether it be financially, or with your time or your service. God gave to us and we are to live in His image of greatness.
Last week’s church sermon was on Mark 10:13-16. This is the passage about Jesus blessing the little children. People were bringing children to Jesus just that He may touch them and the disciples rebuked these people for bringing them. Children in this culture were not viewed as precious. Most times they were used and disrespected. Some were raised solely for the job of becoming a prostitute or gladiator. They were seen as a possession, and sometimes as something to sacrifice to their many gods. In one sentence Jesus refutes the entire culture, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” He was greatly displeased that the disciples were rebuking those who were bringing these children to Him. Mark 10:15 Jesus states, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Think about this for a moment. At first we would assume He means that we should come with all the attributes of a child, including innocence and naiveté. But Jesus is speaking to the disciples here, to the adults who were beyond innocence, to the hardened hearts of many years of experience and trials. Jesus, rather, is referring to receiving the kingdom with all the attributes that a child LACKS. Children are dependent upon adults for survival. A 6 month old baby has nothing to contribute to its survival except an empty belly, a dirty diaper or a need for sleep. It has utter and complete NEED of a parent to give it the nourishment it needs to survive. Since I heard Pastor Steve present it like this, the gospel has taken on an entire new level of meaning to me. I keep picturing myself coming to the beloved feet of Jesus with nothing but a handful of dirty rags, my sin. And offering it to Him in exchange for the greatest gift ever, eternal life with Him in His kingdom. What a humbling image. Although I had absolutely nothing to contribute to my salvation except the sin that got me there, I am still loved and forgiven. And He died for that.
In His Love,
During the course of the past two years the Lord has taught me what it means to really, truly trust Him. He brought me through moments of heartache, loneliness, and uncertainty of what my future would look like. But no matter what season I was in, the Lord proved His faithfulness to me.
In January of 2015, my boyfriend of nearly 5 years ended our relationship. It wasn’t because we grew apart, he got bored, or was no longer interested. Rather, it was because he knew that I had allowed our relationship to become the most important thing in my life. I loved him more than anything else in or out of this world, including my Creator. Although this decision was very difficult, he loved me enough to end it so I could focus on the most important relationship I could ever have: my relationship with God.
In the beginning I was very heartbroken. I felt like the floor had been ripped out from under me. The future I had been so sure of for so many years was no longer certain. Despite my heartache and confusion, I pressed into the Lord. Through studying God’s word, spending time in prayer, and fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ, I found comfort, peace, and encouragement.
As time went on, God in His loving mercy revealed Himself to me in ways I had never experienced! For the first time in my life I began to understand what the Bible means when it says our God is a jealous God. As a child of God, I truly am His. He created me, sustains me, and loves me in ways that only He can. He deserves nothing less than my whole heart, as He is the One who created it. He is the ONLY Thing that can satisfy the longing I feel inside. The ONLY One who can love me unconditionally. The ONLY One who can bring me joy that lasts. Happiness is circumstantial, but true joy is found in the Lord!
Although it was hard to let go of the idea that I would one day marry the man I always planned to, God granted me peace. He allowed me to become content with the possibility that it would never happen, and through that I was able to trust that He would provide exactly what I needed.
Over a year passed from the time my relationship ended and I was experiencing joy in the Lord in a way I never had. I was content with where God had placed me and no longer felt lonely. I still desired to be married, but understood that God would provide things in His time. One verse I clung to was Psalm 37:4; “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” God knew my desire for a husband, and He knew I still desired to be with the man I first loved, Austin.
By His grace, God brought Austin and I back together after nearly 2 years of being apart. Throughout our time of singleness, the Lord worked in each of our hearts. He used this season to help us rely on Him and trust that He would lead us where He wanted, knowing what would be best through His sovereignty over us.
As I write this, I am reflecting back on just how amazing it has been to see God orchestrate everything in our lives. In just a few short weeks, I will be walking down the aisle to marry the man of my dreams. His love for the Lord is absolutely beautiful and I am so thankful that I will be blessed enough to call him my husband.
I have had people ask me if I wish things would have happened differently, in a way that was less painful. My answer is absolutely not! I know that without this experience, I would not have the relationship with God that I do now. I would not understand the freedom that comes from fully relying on Him. I wouldn’t know the joy that can only be found through true satisfaction in the Lord.
Yes, it was difficult at times. But it was SO worth it. James 1:2-3 says “Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” This is absolutely true. I am so thankful that Austin loved me enough to want Christ to be first in my heart. I am grateful that God used this experience to draw me closer to Himself. And I am incredibly thankful for the testimony we now have through a relationship that has been redeemed. God’s timing truly is perfect.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” Lamentations 3:23-35