Speaking at the 22nd annual Silicon Valley Prayer Breakfast, Connie Segreto shared how God helped her overcome adversity in her personal life and encouraged others to remember that God is faithful - even when it seems like he is far away.
Segreto, who is a 15-year executive at Deloitte Services, LLP, and founder of Science, Arts & Math camp for disadvantaged children in grades 1-12, addressed hundreds gathered at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, CA on April 1st.
The San Jose, CA native began by sharing some of the events she experienced as a child that deeply impacted her life and allowed her to understand God's grace and mercy.
"We lived on the wrong side of the tracks; we didn't have a lot of opportunities a lot of other families had," she recalled. "Even at the earliest age, my response to that was to feel less-than and inadequate, like I just didn't measure up."
During that time, a priest from a local parish began spending time with her family, and would join them for meals and game nights, and even bought them a puppy. But, behind closed doors, he would forcefully molest Segreto and reassure her with false promises of love. After several years, he was finally moved to another city - however, the nightmare wasn't over.
"He sent me a letter," she said. "And in this letter, there was a picture cut out of a magazine of a beautiful woman. And the letter..included all the wonderful things about this girl, and the words, 'She's your replacement.' Just denigrating whatever value I had as a person and had a devastating impact on me just as I was entering womanhood.Deep inside I had a lot of anger, confusion, guilt, and a drive to prove that I had some value. A drive for recognition and acceptance."
Eventually Segreto left her small town and attended college, and began climbing the corporate ladder. All the while, she carried inside of her an emptiness that no accomplishment could fill. She later got married and had two sons; however, the marriage ended in divorce 22 years later.
"The abandonment just seemed to unearth all the rejection and pain of the past and reinforce my worthlessness," she said. "I tried to hold up a strong front, but inside I was in pieces."
One pivotal day, she fell to the ground, overwhelmed with all of the painful emotions and memories welling up inside of her. She cried out to God: "Would you please put a song in my heart to replace all this confusion, guilt, anger, bitterness, the resentments that have piled up and taken residence in my heart?"
Miraculously, God answered her prayer, and over the years, has continued to give her songs and poems that remind her that he is her healer and Lord of her life.
"Where was God over all of those years?" Segreto asked the audience. "It may sound crazy to you, but I believe that God was right there with me, holding me, weeping with me, and pointing me to the path of freedom...God is always near no matter where we find ourselves. If we turn to him, he is ready to answer."
She added, "I believe there are wounds that only God can heal. There are holes in our hearts that only God can fill. There are some challenges that only God can walk us through."
In Silicon Valley, there are endless and exciting opportunities, Segreto noted, but ultimately, they won't satisfy the longings of the heart.
"That peace that we seek, the unconditional love that everyone here needs - it can't be achieved, but it can be received from a God who loves us dearly and has a plan and purpose for our lives for today and for eternity," she said.
Because of God's mercy, Segreto was able to not only forgive herself, but also those who had inflicted so much pain on her. Today, through various organizations, such as Lighthouse for Women, a nonprofit group that provides shelter for abused women and children in India, she guides and mentors others who, like herself, have been emotionally and physically abused.
"I want them to know...they are of value and worth that no one can take away from them. God has given the gifts and talents, and a purpose and a plan for their lives," she said.
In concluding, she also encouraged professionals to remember that God gives peace and wisdom - no matter what challenge presents themselves: "God is there every step of the way, God knows our thoughts, he knows our deeds, and he cares."