She was lovely, this young woman up on stage, telling her life story to the crowd. Dressed in deep periwinkle and adorned with bronze sequins, she looked like a princess. Because she is.

As she took the stage and picked up her microphone, waiting to be interviewed, I was struck by her grace and perfect posture. She moved like a dancer. Because she is. Rather, she was. Back in her old life, the best way she knew to support herself was working at a strip club as an “exotic dancer.”

She told us of the night she headed to her car in the club parking lot after finishing her shift and was brutally assaulted–leaving her with broken teeth and a broken knee. A broken dancer.

The doctor prescribed meds for pain and sleep, and so began her swift descent into addiction. Pregnant and addicted. Then three months after giving birth, pregnant again, still addicted. These drugs had her, and it looked like there would be no escaping their steely grasp.

Then one desperate night, as she shoved a handful of pills into her mouth before her husband could get to them to flush with the rest of her stash, she realized she was in trouble. So she did the only thing she knew to do. She sank to her knees and cried out for help. And so began a gradual transformation to the woman we saw on stage tonight, radiating humility and dignity in equal measure.

So what changed? Everything. Caring people came alongside her to support and mentor her in her fledgling faith and recovery for as long as it took. She learned how to take care of herself and –most importantly–learned to believe she is worthy of that care. She now knows, in every cell of her body, she is loved by a good God. That simple. That profound. That powerful.

Was she just as loved when she was lost in dark, smoky strip joints or high on painkillers? I am certain of it. But she wasn’t. Does God love her more now? No. But the difference in perspective that can leave a young, formerly addicted stripper looking and feeling like royalty, is that now…now she knows that love firsthand.