“I always wanted to be different. I wanted to stand out.” Upon her arrival at CEM, Kalah’s defining characteristics were her dramatically drawn-on eyebrows and her hair extensions. Kalah’s obsession with image began in the fourth grade, when her unmarred appearance drew unwanted attention from the other kids. From then on, each significant change in appearance would signify an outward response to suppressed inner turmoil.
In the fifth grade, when she changed her appearance, Kalah had just begun to respond to dysfunction in the home. In the sixth grade, Kalah experienced her first betrayal from her best friend, who effectively turned everyone at school against her. In need of friendship, Kalah began to converse with the opposite gender, eventually gaining the reputation unfoundedly as a slut. Kalah began to crumble inside, but rebounded, deciding that if this was the label that was thrust upon her, then she would live up to it in its entirety.
“I started secluding myself in my room a lot. I started buying [provocative clothing], black eyeliner, and had pencilthin eyebrows.” Continued rejection from her peers only reinforced her new behavior and online messaging apps only enabled it. By the eighth grade, Kalah began to slip into depression, immersing herself in the world of Kurt Cobain. Kalah started to self-medicate with prescription drugs and experiment with depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens. Meanwhile, she had lost herself in this label. “I was always the type to go ten steps beyond everyone else.”
As Kalah braced herself for CEM’s 15- day backpacking trip, she found herself praying again. The seeds that were planted in her so many years before began to blossom. “[On the trip] I was sitting looking out at Island Lake. I was baffled at God’s creation for the first time...I was mesmerized with how beautiful the world is.” As Kalah pondered questions of faith, she was met with a surprising peace and stillness. “I felt like my life was changing…”
Kalah began to experience real joy, real love, but with that, also real guilt. As she wrestled with her inability to change her behavior, she experienced consistent, unwavering love from her interns, time and time again. As she battled with temptations to relapse into destructive behaviors, she heard God’s still small voice.
Kalah began to listen for God and take her daily devotional times more seriously. “I was transforming even more…” As Kalah began to walk out her faith, those back home couldn’t help but notice the change that was happening in Kalah.
Kalah finished the CEM program this month, concurrently receiving her high school diploma. Though her time at CEM is complete, we know that “He who began a good work in her will bring it to completion…”