At first glance, Anne Beiler, founder of Auntie Anne’s, encompasses the American Dream: A Mennonite farmer, she grew her business from a single stand in 1987 into the world’s largest hand-rolled soft pretzel franchise.
Beiler’s success, however, was forged after years of depression and shame stemming from tragedy in her life, including devastating personal loss, an abusive sexual relationship, and spiritual manipulation.
“Without God, there would be no Auntie Anne’s today. I can say that with confidence,” Beiler told The Christian Post. “I would’ve died. I was about to run away and start a new life. Instead, God said, ‘Get up off your knees.’ What I know now is that all of the things I’ve experienced have been for a purpose; out of my pain, purpose was born.”
Growing up in a small Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Beiler was taught that “life is good, and God is harsh.”
“The theology I was taught as a little girl was very black and white,” she recounted. “I took those very conservative years with me well into my adulthood.”
At the age of 19, Beiler married her high school sweetheart, Jonas, and the two started a family. But Beiler’s life — and everything she thought she knew — was shattered when in 1975, her 18-month-old daughter Angela was tragically killed in a farming accident.
“I struggled so much and blamed God for allowing Angela to die,” she said. “I couldn’t stop grieving; I couldn’t stop crying. I began to feel guilty as a Christian because I believed that I was a conquerer and able to overcome and be victorious through Christ. But I couldn’t get over that deep sorrow and longing to see my daughter.”
“At the end of the day, I began to live a life pretending I was someone I wasn’t,” she continued. “I wasn’t able to be transparent about what I was experiencing. I would cry in secret and smile in public because I wasn’t able to describe where I was living in my heart. I went back to life as if nothing had ever happened.”
During this time, Beiler sought counsel from her pastor, a well-respected member of his community. But instead of giving her the help she needed, he seduced her and told her not to tell anyone.
“When I left his office, he took advantage of me physically, and that led to rape and six years of violence and secrets and darkness,” she said. “I never said a word to anyone for six years, because he told me not to. I believed in his leadership because that’s all I knew how to do.”
After nearly a decade of this spiritual and physical abuse, Beiler found herself on the brink of suicide, weighing just 92-pounds. All the while, she prayed by her bedside, begging God to save her from her pain.
“I kept in touch with God, and that’s the only thing that saved me,” she said. “Prayer is vital in our brokenness. No matter how dark it is, we must pray.”
The chains of sorrow and shame were finally broken when Beiler made the decision to tell her husband, Jonas, of the pain she’d silently endured for years. Slowly, the couple found God restoring their marriage as they took steps toward reconciliation.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett