Forgiveness. It’s a word that gets tossed around all the time. And as a concept we know it’s harder to put into action, even when we know we should. But for Jaide Ortega, forgiveness wasn’t just a buzzword, or a valued idea. It was the key that unlocked her life and her faith.

Sexually abused as a child, Jaide felt like the pain inside began to define her as a young woman. While she grew up in a loving home, she didn’t think she could share the awful experience with anyone in her life. The secret and the hurt drove her to over achieve and try to prove her worth to the world. When she wasn’t striving to be the best, she felt hamstrung in her relationships: remaining guarded and distant and unable to have deep and meaningful connections with people.

“I lived in a loving home. I grew up in a Christian home. But this was something that I could not share with my family.”

This pattern became normal way of life and as a church-going adult with a family, Jaide didn’t realize that the anger and pain inside her hadn’t been healed. Yet one message on forgiveness at EastLake Church changed everything. It was during that message that Jaide realized that forgiveness was the missing piece in her journey. Forgiveness both for her abuser and forgiveness for herself. Taking these first steps of forgiveness opened her up to the realization that there was freedom and fulfillment she didn’t know was previously possible.

“By not forgiving, I was actually hurting myself”

Looking back, Jaide sees that her life, her faith and her mission were all incomplete without her ability to forgive. As she worked through forgiving her abuser, she found healing and wholeness. She now sees her story as a platform to help women in similar situations. She sees how God can use her and explains simply, “my experience exists to help others.”