October 12, the Jewish High Holy Day of Yom Kippur, is a time when Jews atone for past sins and forgive others for theirs. But we needn’t be Jewish to atone or forgive. For a remarkable story of forgiveness, meet Christine A. Wilson of Boyne City, MI.
Christine survived a painful childhood and marriage and now helps others do the same. Through her program, Recovered Essence, she connects with people “willing to be raw and real.” She wrote a memoir about her experiences. We met recently in Petoskey, MI, at a library sponsored Northern Michigan authors event. As your curious columnist in search of interesting stories, I was all ears.
Christine grew up on a farm in Ontario in “a broken, dysfunctional home.” Her father, a factory worker, was “narcissistic and emotionally unavailable;” her mother, an alcoholic and victim of early sex abuse. When Christine was 11, her mom moved out. Unwilling to live with her mother’s boyfriends, Christine remained with her father. He “taught” (my quotation marks) her sex education. Christine says, “The message I learned was: don’t talk; don’t trust; don’t feel.”
At 18, Christine moved in with her boyfriend, a drug dealer. She became a hairdresser, smoked, drank and partied hard. At 21, she quit smoking and, she says, “stopped my reckless behavior and gave my heart to the Lord.”
Christine married at 25; a year later, her first daughter was born. Christine came to realize her first husband was as controlling as her father and was likewise engaged in inappropriate relationships with family members. She describes these in her memoir. (Let’s just say my jaw remained agape for pages.)
Meanwhile, Christine had a second daughter with her first husband and fought to save her marriage. But, she says, “My dream of the white picket fence and a happy family turned into a nightmare. No matter how hard I tried, everything fell apart. After 7 years, I sought a divorce, wondering why God didn’t hold up His end of the bargain.”
Christine began a slow, uneven journey toward wholeness. She was involved with divorce and estate lawyers. She learned her mother had had an affair with Christine’s drug dealer boyfriend, among others.
“I’ve been through a lot of betrayal,” she says. “I didn’t want to stay angry because I had 2 daughters to love. It was challenging because you can’t give what you don’t have. I told God I didn’t want to hate anymore. God said to me, ‘Just let me love you. We’ll start there.’ I came to realize perfect love isn’t anything a person can give you.”
Ultimately, Christine forgave her mother and father. (Her mom died of cancer 2 years later, at 58.) She worked hard to overcome the emotional damage done to her as a child, to establish boundaries, to recover her “true essence.” As she changed what she calls “limiting beliefs” about herself, she began to “have a greater capacity to love others wisely.”
Christine believes in Godsigns. On her 38th birthday, she says, “I had begun to like myself.” Her daughters were thriving. She enjoyed hairdressing and was good at it. She was on solid ground spiritually and okay without a man in her life. Standing in the doorway of her home, she noticed a basketball rolling in the street. The ball traveled all the way down the block and stopped at her feet. She picked it up and spotted the word “Wilson.”
What did it mean?
After noticing the name Wilson on trucks, Christine went on Match.com. No one named Wilson came up. 3 months later, she checked again. There it was. Malcolm Wilson. She couldn’t quite distinguish his face but was “drawn to everything he described about himself.” They talked on the phone for about 3 weeks before they met. Eventually Malcolm emailed a better photo. “He was so handsome!”
From their phone conversations, she says, “I found him to be wise, open and authentic. It was a green light all the way and we married only 4 months later in 2005. I’ve never been so sure of anything.”
She and her daughters moved from Windsor, Ont. to Midland, MI. 8 years later, she and Malcolm, a Licensed Professional Counselor, moved to Boyne City. Malcolm became a counselor for the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. Christine took psychological training and now works with her husband. Through Wilson Wellness Counseling, Coaching and Consulting, they see people with childhood trauma, addiction and relationship issues.
Christine developed a system to help others “let go of fears, shame and anger.” She writes about all this and more in Recovered Essence: How Toxic Relationships Impact Your Inner Child. After each chapter detailing her personal experience, she presents 2 more providing spiritual and psychological guidelines. She’s also involved in the Sozo Ministry in their church, Family of Christ in Petoskey. “’Sozo’ means saved, healed and delivered.”
The victim of unspeakable treatment, Christine found the capacity to forgive those who wronged her. She did so as much for herself as for her abusers. She writes, “Forgiveness allows closure and spiritual strength to grow. It empowers you to move forward into emotional freedom.”
Or, as M.L. Stedman, author of The Light Between Oceans, said: “You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.”
Through a lot of suffering and hard work, Christine figured that out. This petite blonde dynamo personifies the resilience of the human spirit. Thanks, Christine, for showing us no matter how we’ve been wronged, forgiveness is possible.
Care to see more from Suzy?
Suzy recently was interviewed for a regional TV series on the challenges of everyday living. This video clip begins with a 1-minute promo for the series, then Suzy is introduced and you can listen to her responding to many of the questions you might have about her work. Enjoy.