With a history of sexual abuse, abandonment and rejection, Theresa Vassar Mago chose a promiscuous lifestyle out of both a sense of anger about her past and a desperate desire to be loved.
After being molested as a young girl, a downward spiral began when Theresa decided to lose her virginity on her 14th birthday so no one could take it from her.
"I became a model and an actress so I made a game of keeping track of how many guys I made out with and prized myself on the saying 'the more the merrier'," Theresa admits.
"I had made out with over 500 guys by the time I started college and had already been with a few girls in lesbian relationships."
Although her mom had taught her about God and the Bible at a young age, Theresa says she deliberately chose to ignore it.
"My mom would often say to me, 'Without faith it is impossible to please God and whatever is not done in faith is sin'," she recalls.
At 19 years old Theresa remembers feeling a strong impression to avoid sleeping with a particular man but she ignored the prompting and went through with it anyway.
Months of sickness followed as a consequence and after various tests Theresa's heart sank when she tested positive for HIV/AIDS.
"I was told that my T-cell count and my TR4 count were extremely low and they could no longer help me," she recalls of that horrifying moment.
As she paced the streets thinking about what would happen if she died, Bible verses came flooding back to her and she began praying fervently:
"I told God that I didn't want my life to be a total waste and I really needed another chance," she says.
"After bargaining and being angry with myself for being such a fool, I finally decided it was time to let go and pray."
She remembers whispering, "Dear Jesus, I confess I am a sinner and have missed the mark in every way. My life has been lived for me alone and I have not really trusted You with it. Please forgive me."
"I began to think of all the people I had hurt out of my own pain when Jesus spoke in that still quiet voice and said: 'Come to the cross'."
As she walked to the top edge of the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she stopped in her tracks when she saw a picture of Jesus on the cross, broken, bleeding and dying.
It was there Theresa felt God say to her that she needed to surrender all of her past mistakes, bitterness and longing desires to Jesus and receive His free gift of salvation and forgiveness.
"Tears rolled down my cheeks as I began to really understand that no matter what I had done right, I could never do enough and although I had done so many wrong things, they were covered by God's unconditional love," Theresa says.
"I knew God wanted to give me a fresh start and I thought about what I would do if I had a clean slate."
As she continued to pace and pray for healing, Theresa says she felt a warm sensation wash over her and had a strong sense that she needed to go home and read the Bible.
"God began speaking to my heart again and warning me that the enemy would try to convince me that I was unworthy to receive this gift of salvation and eternal life," Theresa says.
"I felt God say: 'you will battle all types of doubt, feelings of total unworthiness and fears but stand against it with what I did on the cross. You could do nothing. I did it all'."
The words rang true for Theresa, having always felt like the harlot mentioned in Luke chapter 7 verses 36 to 50.
The woman had wept at Jesus feet and washed them with her tears before Jesus defended her against the Pharisees saying, "She who has been forgiven much, loves much."
"That night was the first night I slept sound until morning with no more symptoms of my sickness. From that moment I was healed!" Theresa exclaims joyfully.
Although she received physical healing she continued to struggle with feelings towards other women.
"Just three months later, I attempted suicide because my pain at being gay and heartbroken was so real," she confesses.
"Things did begin to turn around when I started to pray and ask God for strength instead of going it all alone until I found myself in a tight spot."
Two years later, Theresa started attending church, got baptized as a public declaration of her faith and slowly began to let go of the things in her past.
"Once I got the baptized, things that had me bound for over a decade, such as cigarettes and sex addiction, fell off overnight," she explains.
"But keeping them away took prayer, fasting and Bible reading until I was strong enough to resist without second and third thoughts to give in."
Years of gradual healing followed and Theresa pursued a career as a mental health counselor with the passion and experience to help other people through similar ordeals.
"Today I know that God's true love has no conditions and is something given freely, it's the only thing that can truly change us," Theresa says with a smile.
"His love covers a multitude of sins and your private burden of sin, disease and death is no exception!"•