The Real Story – Melissa Lovatt’s Testimony
Growing up, I knew of God. My family was Catholic by default. As Filipinos, it was culturally normal to attend mass every Sunday. But it was just a religion to me. A list of do’s and don’ts, reciting prayers in hopes to gain good standing, and attending a Catholic school with little to no remorse. It felt good to be religious. But the feeling never lasted.
If I could describe my life before Jesus, I’d use one word: “rebellious”. Meaning resistance to an established government, ruler, authority and control.
I was introduced to drugs, sex and alcohol by a group of friends at a very early age, 15 years old. Like most teenagers, I was searching for a place or group of people to identify with. I found myself in a very toxic relationship in high school, and surrounded myself with toxic friends. I had a very broken view of my self-worth. I thought the only way to feel loved was to give my body away. I thought the only way to have fun was to intoxicate myself. Being sober was boring. Being sober brought my reality to the forefront.
And the reality was, I was robbed of my innocence through sexual abuse by a distant relative growing up. I remained silent about it for years. I was slowly dying inside. I trusted no one. I felt invisible. I felt unwanted. And the only way to prove to myself that I was worth something was by being promiscuous and rebellious.
By the time I was in college, my low self-esteem and brokenness led to boastful pride. I walked around knowing I could get anyone I want, do anything I want and pay little to no price for my poor decisions because of the reputation I had built for myself.
My passion at the time was producing film. I enrolled in a Broadcasting & Film course at Centennial College. My ambition was selfishness, greed, power and control. But I called it art.
In my second year of college, we had an assignment to produce a documentary on someone who impacts their community. I immediately thought of the young adults pastor at the church my parents attended, Malvern Christian Assembly.
By this time in my life, my parents had turned their life around and accepted Jesus. The only reason I knew of this pastor was because I’d unwillingly attend church with them to keep the peace in our home. I would show up here high and drunk from the party the night before.
Looking back, I know this exact moment was when the Gospel of Jesus intersected my life. And I’m eternally grateful He did.
So that Sunday I walked up to the young adults pastor. She had no idea who I was. And surprisingly, she gracefully said yes and agreed to be interviewed and filmed for this documentary.
I had never been exposed to church outside of a Sunday morning. Both the pastor and the young adults were very exuberant and unashamed of their faith. So to say I was shocked and perturbed while filming is an understatement. But I was exposed to the full extent of the Gospel through it.
I’d attend their young adults nights every Friday hoping to get some good footage. I literally thought they were all crazy and possessed as I watched them lay hands on each other, pray ridiculously loud and speak in foreign languages.
The young adults pastor was extremely welcoming however, and introduced me to her leadership team. They were all around my age. They were all so kind, respectful, joyful and lived their life with a purpose. Their character intrigued me. They would invite me out for dinner after filming. They would invite me to hang out with them just cause. They always included me. They became my friends.
Yet, they didn’t even know me. The real me. The vulgar, promiscuous, prideful, drug addict me. But they continued to love on me hard. They purely displayed to me the love of Jesus.
Being around them was the first time in a long time that I experienced having fun sober. I didn’t think it was possible. One guy in particular on the leadership team would call me out on my cussing. It was annoying. It was also the first time a boy told me that I was more beautiful when I didn’t cuss, and didn’t want me for my body. His name is Craig Lovatt.
Through these friendships I was able to trust again. I felt seen. I felt wanted. And I was hungry for more of it.
After the documentary, I was asked if I could produce a young adults promotional video for the church. I agreed.
The Sunday the promotional video was shown in this sanctuary, November 28th, 2010, I accepted Jesus. I realized that it is because of Jesus that I could place all my trust in Him. It is because of Jesus that I know that I am seen. It is because of Jesus that I know I am wanted by my Heavenly Father. It is because of Jesus that I have an identity. It is because of Jesus that I know I am created for someone and something greater than myself and selfish desires. It is because of Jesus that I discovered true sacrificial love. Jesus set me free that day from all my shame, brokenness, pride, rebellion, and addictions. I was no longer a slave to my past. And I no longer had to prove to myself or anyone else that I am worth it. Because Jesus tells me daily that I’m worth dying for.
If I could describe my life now with Jesus, I’d use one word: “abide”. Meaning believing, trusting, resting and receiving in and from something or someone. For me, it’s Jesus.
I am so incredibly undeserving of this life. I should have been arrested, or died of an over dose, or continued a life of destruction. But a group of friends decided that I was worth loving. So if you find yourself today with a friend who says you are worth loving, know that it is because it’s true. And there is a God who loves you deeply, and it’s never too late, and you are never too far gone, to step into His love.