As a teenager, Danielle Strickland pursued rebellion as a way of life in hopes of finding freedom. It wasn’t until she met Christ in a jail cell that she experienced what true freedom really meant. Danielle reflects on her perception of God during her rebellious years.
“I thought He was authoritative, I thought He was punitive, I thought He was perpetually disappointed with me, and for good reason because I was naturally – it seemed – fairly gifted at breaking all the rules on a regular basis.”
“I remember my mom said, ‘You’re so good at many things, Danielle, but you’re particularly good at being bad.’ I believed this big fat lie that rebellion equals freedom. That’s a pretty deep-seeded lie in culture.”
“I pursued rebellion as a means to be free; shook off the church thing, the God thing, the parents thing. I left home when I was really young. I stole my first car when I was twelve. I was always trying to escape and that just led to more versions of slavery. Terrible relationships led to drugs, which led to dealing. It led to crime and eventually I found myself locked in a cell.”
Danielle describes how God used a woman from the Salvation Army to show His tangible love for her.
“She would just keep picking me up, keep visiting me, and never gave up on me. She managed to visit me in the holding cell before I was sentenced. I remember seeing her coming and thinking to myself, oh brother, here comes a lecture from someone who thinks they know better.”
To her surprise, she did not receive the reaction she was expecting.
“Instead of giving me a lecture, she just wrapped her arms around me and she whispered in my ear, ‘I love you’ and left. That was it.”
“As she left, the door clanged and I was all alone.”
“But Jesus appeared to me in the cell – the same way the woman had come. Interestingly enough, I assumed the same thing about Him as I did about her; that He was going to be disappointed, that He was going to bring a lecture and that I was trouble. Instead, He did the same thing that she had done. He wrapped His arms around me and He whispered in my ear, “I love you.”
“There was a light that turned on inside of me. I remember coming to my senses saying, ‘What am I doing in jail?’ Literally coming to my own condition, my own humanity, and deciding that if God was for me and not against me, that there was maybe another way to live.”
Danielle’s story reminds us that love can awaken the hardest of hearts. No one is ever too far gone to be rescued by the love of Christ and true freedom is available to us all.
Danielle Strickland is currently based in Toronto, Canada. Her aggressive compassion has served people firsthand in countries all over the world. From establishing Justice Departments for The Salvation Army to launching Global anti-trafficking initiatives, to creating new movements to mobilize people towards transformational living. Danielle trains, advocates, and inspires people to live differently. She is the author of several books including The Ultimate Exodus: Finding Freedom from What Enslaves You.