by Rachel Johnson
I’ve been staring at my computer screen waiting for the right words to materialize. How do I sum up so many incredible qualities about one person in just a teeny tiny paragraph? Frankly, this is what I struggle with for every spotlight piece I write but I’m especially having trouble with this post. There’s so much to write about Crystal Renaud but not enough time to write it. Crystal is an amazingly brave woman who, like many other of our featured spotlight friends, has overcome serious obstacles to achieve her goals and make a difference in the world. Read on to learn about Dirty Girls Ministries, the non-profit organization that Crystal founded based on her past struggles with pornography and sexual addiction.
Q: Crystal, thank you so much for participating in our Spotlight Series. Tell us about Dirty Girls Ministries and the role you play within the organization.
Dirty Girls Ministries is a non-profit ministry that exists to help women overcome pornography and sexual addiction. Our desire as a ministry is to break through the stigmatic barriers that are keeping women in bondage to these types of addictions as well as bring awareness to an issue usually thought to be only a struggle for men. Beginning with surrender, moving to confession, embracing accountability, owning responsibility, to finally sharing with others, Dirty Girls Ministries (DGM) seeks to take women on a recovery journey that guides them from a state of woundedness to one of healing. I founded DGM in February 2009 and I continue to serve at the Executive Director. It was through my own 8-year experience as a pornography addict that I began to help women through similar addictions in support groups and then through DGM.
Q: You worked in your church’s communications department for nearly seven years before deciding to work full time with Dirty Girls Ministries. What was that transition like, and why were you compelled to make this choice?
In the three years prior to my departure from my job at the church, God had given me glimpses into what it could be to do DGM full-time. He did so by providing opportunities to shine and thrive in the role of ministry director. These experiences led me to write a book and establish DGM. And yet with each opportunity, I became restless with my current job. My heart fell deeper in the love with the new life of ministry God was ushering me into.
And yet I cowered in fear and battled my pride for nearly a year. About whether I was really hearing God right, about what it would be like to quit my job and still go to church there after so long, about how I’d be perceived for asking for donations not just for the ministry, but also in order for me to live day to day, about where I’d go if I did quit but this whole ministry just fail right out of the gate.
While I was nervous about the unknown, I knew God was there waiting for me to join Him there. It was scary. It was wonderful. It was wonderfully scary. And it still is!
Q: You are so brave for sharing your struggle with pornography and sexual addiction so openly and honestly – you’ve even shared your story with the likes of ABC News, the New York Times, and Christianity Today. What is the scariest part about revealing your innermost thoughts and struggles with people you don’t know?
It’s actually not all the scary to share my thoughts and past struggles with people I don’t know. There’s a lot of freedom in knowing that even if they don’t like what I have to say or judge me for it, I don’t know them anyway.
Yes, I receive criticizing comments and emails. I know that my stance on pornography use is not common of ‘the world’ and some backlash is never surprising. Of course it hurts. It hurts to be thrown into the same category as clergy who hurt children – some people have made that comparison.
The criticisms have shown me where I needed to grow some tougher skin. If anything, it gave me more resolve to keep doing what I am doing because while the criticisms come, no one see the emails that also flood my inbox from women (and even men) pouring out their hearts and their stories. Thanking this ministry for finally speaking out on their behalf. That is worth every criticism. God has been faithful.
To be honest, it’s a lot scarier sharing with people I do know. Having friends and family reading and learning details about my life I have never shared with them before is a bit unnerving. People have a certain idea and opinion you and when that changes because of the actions of your past, it hurts more than anything a stranger could think or say. But it also shows who are you can really count on and that’s a priceless gift.
Stay tuned for part two!