From Darkness to Light

"I told my boyfriend I was going to Young Life camp and he told me to go to hell instead.”

Those were the first words I heard from Laura* when I met her on the bus to Frontier Ranch (Young Life’s camp in Buena Vista, Colo.). I was new to the area and this was my first event with kids. I hadn’t met Laura until that day, but immediately liked her for her candor and willingness to open up to me. I was pretty sure I wasn’t so wild about her boyfriend, though.

The more I found out about this boyfriend, the more concerned I was. Laura shared that he was emotionally abusive toward her, and she worried he might hurt her physically. She said he was really jealous, wouldn’t let her talk to other guys, and would get really angry if she did something he didn’t like.

I was in a tough spot, because I hadn’t had a chance to build a friendship with Laura like we normally do before taking kids to camp, and so I hadn’t “earned the right to be heard” yet. I decided to love her with no strings attached … to try not to say anything judgmental about her boyfriend, and instead just listen and support her, and meet her exactly where she was.

Over the course of the week, I also learned Laura’s friends had tried to intervene throughout the years Laura and her boyfriend had been dating, and while she agreed there was nothing good about the relationship, she felt trapped and couldn’t get out.

So I decided to talk to the one whom Young Life is all about: Jesus. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more for Laura. I remember the night the camp speaker gave kids 20 minutes to spend alone with God. I sat on the side of the mountain under a beautiful starry sky, and asked God to intervene in Laura’s heart. She had been to church much of her life and made the decision to try to follow God early on. But her relationship with this boyfriend was so full of darkness and fear that it left little room in her heart or life for God — she felt so far away from Him.

Laura was also talking to God that night. She admitted that only He could get her out of this downward spiral and this relationship that was destroying her. She told God she was ready to live completely for Him, and spent time listening to God about what that would look like. The response she heard was that she needed to break ties with her boyfriend.

I remember crying with Laura that night as she shared in cabin time about what God had told her and the commitment to a new path she had made to Him. The other girls in the cabin cried too — many had been praying for years for these two to break up. I also remember crying with Laura the day they broke up. But an amazing thing happened the day after … Laura had peace and joy like never before. She felt free, because she was free. She had moved from darkness to light, and she looked great in the light.

It’s been a year since they broke up, and Laura is out of high school now and one of my best friends. I can’t wait to hopefully sit at her wedding someday when she marries someone who treats her with kindness, respect, love and dignity. In the meantime, I love watching her relationship with God grow. She’s become very involved with Young Life and worked hard to give back to the ministry that made such a difference for her. Her example has led countless other students to take steps in their lives from darkness to light. It took so much courage for her to change, but she followed God’s leading and has tried to never look back. I admire Laura so much, and sometimes, when I feel like the darkness is trying to overwhelm so many of the people around me, I remember the end of Laura’s story: God won. Light had victory over darkness, and things will never be the same again.

*Name has been changed.