According to the Urban Dictionary (2015), to level up “is when a player of a videogame has earned enough experience points to acquire a new level in a skill or skills. Leveling up is often accompanied by the ability to wield new weaponry, access new places, or begin new assignments.” Molested, abused, abandoned, rejected, depressed, suicidal, self-loathing, promiscuous, hopeless and helpless are just a few of the words that depict the story of my existence from adolescence through adulthood. Born to a seventeen-year-old single mother, who herself had no mother and an alcoholic father, during a time when it was neither popular nor positive, would set the stage for my tumultuous life.
The release of Damaged but Destined was the breaking of the accepted family rule that, “what happens in this family, stays in this family!” It wasn’t the first nor the last time that I would defy the rules or buck the standard of expectations, the cost for which I continue to pay dearly but no longer regret. If life has taught me anything, it’s that leveling up does not come cheap. Understand that sharing my personal story was never my intention. I had grown content to let people size me up and conclude who I was or was not by what I allowed them to see. A carefully guarded facade did not include access to the unhealed scars that were so deeply woven into the fabric of my story.
I would see more than any child should see, hear more than my memory can forget and experience more than my heart could handle on its own. Leveling up from damaged to destined was a precarious journey riddled with arduous climbs up rough mountains and extended stays in the lows of the valley, but I would learn along the way that even when I felt most lonely, I had never truly been alone. Even though I was streetwise it was not enough to navigate where God was taking me.
Despite seeming success, I didn’t truly level up until I reach the place where change was inevitable. I could not go back to where I came from nor could I stay that way that I was, years of pain would force me into my greatest level up moment when I cried out to God to heal the deepest places in me. I would learn that healing and wholeness is a process, one that does not happen overnight and does not come without a fight. The paradox of my life was that leveling up meant getting low enough to face the fact that though I was damaged, God was still speaking destiny.
Dr. Nikita C. Garris-Watson, the “Stiletto Preacher,” is a humble and willing servant of the Lord and His people. A survivor of childhood and adult physical, sexual and emotional abuse, she has chosen to use the painful tests, trials and tribulations of her life, not as excuses for failure, but rather as battle axes and weapons of war to bring Deliverance to the Neighborhood and the Nations. A licensed and ordained minister of the Gospel, Dr. Garris-Watson has been blessed by strong ministerial training and leadership affording her the opportunities to serve the body of Christ as an intercessor, evangelist, prophet, bible teacher, praise team member, associate minister and conference preacher. Professionally, she is the director of a college preparatory program and an adjunct professor.