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