We love sharing and hearing narratives from our community, as they provide tangible glimpses of how God is pursuing and transforming his people by his grace. Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring guest posts from several women in our community, describing how they have found deepened hope in Christ through a variety of everyday realities—work, marriage, children, singleness, and more.
Today we are featuring a story from Gabrielle Morris. Gabrielle has been attending Redeemer for 7 years and has been married to her husband Calvin since April 2015. Gabrielle is a staff deacon at the Midtown campus and serves as Director of Midtown Ministries.
If the Apostle Paul is the Chief of Sinners, I am possibly his closest competition. God began a work in my heart at a young age, but as I grew older He shattered my expectation of what I thought He should be. I didn’t only turn away from the Lord: I ran from Him.
Like most sin, I began with just testing God: “Will he still love me if I _______?” Quickly, I found my identity in a man. When that failed me I moved on to alcohol, and when that failed me, I found myself so deep in a pit of sin I scrambled to find anything that would help me crawl out.
In God’s kindness to me, my deliverance did not happen overnight. He provided believing friends from unlikely places who began speaking into my life slowly. Though I was still entrenched in sin that I refused to relinquish, the Lord never stopped pursuing me. It wasn’t until three years after what I consider my darkest that my heart began to soften towards Jesus. I began what felt like inching towards Him, but my line in the sand was that I would not go to church.
In the spring of 2008, the woman I now consider my closest friend told me about a group of people starting a church in Midtown, just down the street from where we were sitting. She told me how much they desperately loved Jesus and wanted the City to come to know Him. She begged me to come with her. In a not-so-kind way I said, “No.” In my mind, there was no way I would ever step foot in a church that thought they could survive in the City.
And so, even as the truth of Jesus was slowly settling into my heart, I kept running. By the fall of 2008, I was living with a man that was abusive. I knew I shouldn’t date him, let alone move in with him, but I loved that his brokenness shadowed my shame. Through friends speaking truth to me, I eventually tried to leave him, but I felt trapped. It was there I was confronted with the reality of who Jesus is. Everything I tried to wrap my identity in was no match for who He is and what he is able to do.
I began praying for deliverance from my relationship. It was the first time I prayed every day. I watched my prayer transform from “Get me out of this,” to “Show me why I am here,” and I felt completely abandoned and forgotten. Until one morning, the boyfriend just let me leave. In God’s kindness, I was able to move out, and that guy never reached out to me again.
During that relationship, I began attending Redeemer consistently. As I heard the gospel preached week in and week out, God began to soften my heart and draw me to him. God provided my breakup, he provided a new housing situation in a home with Christian women, and he brought me deeper into community at Redeemer.
Over the next few years, God also transformed my heart toward hospitality and how it could be lived out. I began serving on a ministry team, and in 2014, I received an invitation to come on staff at Redeemer as the Director of Midtown Ministries.
Around that time, I also met Calvin Morris. At the beginning of our dating relationship I told him that for many, I had a lot in my story that would be considered a deal breaker. We shared stories and when I was finished with mine he said, “You know, God has extended grace to us so that we are able to extend grace to others. Consider yourself forgiven.” Through so much of my life, I had experienced deep shame of how people would react to my story. But again, God was more kind than I deserved and showed me his ability to work in others to extend grace to me, the way he had done on the cross. We were married in April 2015, and Calvin has showed me grace thousands of times since.
Thankfully, my story of redemption is not over. I am in need of Jesus’ grace just as much now as I was then, but now I am able to rest in Him while getting to know Him more deeply.
Even when I didn’t want him, He knew my path and kept me close.