When a routine scan showed that Chloe Howard had a hole in her heart and two clubfeet, doctors told her parents to have an abortion. But they knew God knew better. When she was born, her heart, and one of her feet, were healed—a miracle they could never have expected.
Her clubfoot has required six major surgeries, but Chloe’s parents never let her forget that she was made in God’s image. ‘They did an incredible job teaching me that I was not a mistake, I was not an accident,’ she told Vision’s Neil Johnson.
‘God did not mess up when He made my foot. Everyone is made differently, and my difference was just easier to see. I think it’s so important for parents everywhere to teach their children that truth.’
But at 14, Chloe suffered a traumatic assault that left her questioning everything she believed. At her Christian high school, she was targeted and bullied because of her disability.
‘I was told to take off my shoe, and I said no. I was told several more times, and I said no several more times. My arms were held to my side. I was lifted up by someone stronger than me and my sock and shoe were ripped off. My deformed foot was exposed to a large group of my peers.’
‘Some people hear my story and say, “Chloe, it’s a bummer that happened to you. I’m sorry, but I don’t get why it’s such a big deal. It’s just a foot.” But it’s my foot, and my body, and no one has the right to touch anyone without their consent, ever. This foot has a lot of weight to it. This foot and I have been on quite a journey with all the surgeries and the weight of what comes with growing up with a disability.’
‘This moment took the 14 years of self-acceptance and love towards this foot that my parents had instilled in me, and completely ripped it all away within 90 seconds. As my foot was being held out in front of me, naked in front of these angry prying eyes, I remember looking at that foot and seeing everything I had always seen in front of me. The silver scars I have tracing my twisted foot, all the spots on the end of my toes where there should be toenails but there aren’t, all the bruises and permanent discolouration, I saw all of that.’
there is beauty to be found in brokenness
‘And for the first time in my life, I recognised what I was seeing as something ugly, as something worthy of shame. I quickly grew this hatred within me for this left deformed foot. This day sparked within me this period of depression, of suicidal thoughts and of feeling invisible because these perpetrators, these assaulters had not listened to my “no”. I felt that maybe my words did not matter, so I quickly began to isolate myself from everyone. I stopped going out, stopped seeing my friends, my body was heavy and tired—I was becoming scared of my own thoughts. I felt like God had left me truly alone and couldn’t possibly have a plan for my life. I remember saying, “God, if you’re a good God, why do you allow these terrible things to happen?”’
‘I spent months in this dark place, and it wasn’t until a pastor at my local Church recommended that I read the book of Jonah that I started to see and realise that maybe God was with me through it all. It was such a hard concept to grasp that bad things happen and that such a good and just God could exist in that moment.’
A verse that really stood out to Chloe and provided her with the strength to carry on was Jonah 2:6 ESV: ‘You brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God!’
Chloe came out of her trial with a message, and God gave her the platforms she needed to spread it. At just 19, she’s presented a TEDx Talk, written two books, and built an anti-bullying website, ‘standbeautiful.me’.
She admits that trusting Him hasn’t always been easy. ‘This journey has been really hard these past 19 years, and I know my life won’t stop being hard. But I have come to find that there is beauty to be found in brokenness, and hope to be found in the dark and a future to be found in saying yes.’
Watch the TEDx Talk here