Embarking on this blog is both an exciting and nerve-wracking venture. I am finally stepping out to do the thing that has been so burning on my heart for years now. And yet, I am also making myself vulnerable, which always comes with some trepidation.
So why? Why would I care so much to write about this God of mine, this Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? Well, I wasn’t quite sure how to really convey my “why” without starting from the beginning and sharing my story. Because really, that’s what makes us who we are – our story.
I want you, dear friends, to understand the depth of my love for Jesus, but also to know that when I share with you, it is framed through eyes of compassion, empathy and understanding…as someone who’s been through the trenches. Not from a place of perfection- because that is most certainly not me. Those who have been forgiven much, love much. And our suffering allows us to appreciate our blessings.
I used to hesitate in sharing my “beginnings”, as I so lovingly refer to them, because I did’t want anyone’s sympathy. But I’ve come to realize, it’s not just my story, it’s God’s redemptive story. As with Joseph in the book of Genesis (50:20), I believe that what Satan meant to harm me, God meant for the greater good.
So without further adieu, “My Beginnings:”
I can’t say that I have no good memories as a child. There were some good times weaved in there. But much of my childhood had a shadow of brokenness cast over it. When I was only 15 months old, my mother lost her battle with depression and took her own life. Though my dad was a Christian and kept us in the church, there is just such a deep wound created when life is lost in that way. My dad is a saint to raise three young children alone while himself still mourning. I can’t imagine. And I so appreciate the good things he did for us.
But we were still left with the brokenness, with the dysfunction.
How do adults make sense of their faith in the midst of a loss, let alone little children? So many parents hope to shield their children from the pain of the world as long as they can, but that was really not an option in my family.
For as long as I can remember, I knew my mother was dead. I knew bad things happened. I knew suffering didn’t just happen to “other people.” So my faith was born in the midst of a world where suffering existed.
I don’t know why God was so gracious to me, but I remember having an interest in Him at a very young age. I was already concerned about having him in my heart at the age of 4. I can say I sincerely loved him even then, with that innocent, child-like faith. As I approached middle school, I started to understand more what it meant to have a daily walk with him and began reading my Bible and talking to Him (aka praying). It was just part of my life.
I genuinely had Christ in my heart, but I was still a broken mess. And God is so sweet as to not leave us in our brokenness.
In the midst of my zeal for Him as a teenager, he began poking at my hurting places (those emotions of abandonment, not being enough, the anger toward a mother who could do “something like that,” and worry that maybe I’m “just like her”). And I think as the reality of my hurting places came out, combined with the ever-growing awareness of the ugliness of our world, I spiraled into a deep depression. I developed a pretty severe eating disorder. I hated everyone who hadn’t been there for me and everyone who didn’t understand me.
Yep, me- “the girl who talked to God.”
During my junior year of high school things got even worse when I had an adverse reaction to anti-depressant medications the doctors thought I needed “because of my family history.” I ended up being home-bound from school for 6 months of that year. I was sick, isolated and miserably depressed.
Everything that had made up my identity was stripped away. I couldn’t go to school. I lost my job. I couldn’t sing at church or school. I had to cancel the girls’ Bible Study I led. Most of my friends either forgot about me or didn’t want to deal with me.
“God is so sweet as to not leave us in our brokenness”
My grief turned to anger which turned to hatred and I cursed God. I remember making a very conscious decision to curse him and turn my back on Him.
But, remember, God is so sweet as to not leave us in our brokenness and He does not so easily let us go.
Throughout that dark year, God kept sending me angels, so to speak, through the form of teachers, a counselor, a mentor and family friends. The moment that most stands out in my mind is running into a woman I casually knew from church. She rushed past any formal greetings and wanted to know if something was wrong. She then explained that she’d woken up in the middle of the night recently and couldn’t shake the feeling that she was supposed to pray for me. She had no clue something was wrong. She just knew she needed to pray.
All I could think was ,”this God I hated did that for me? He cared enough to do that for me?”
And so, amidst all the ways God was whispering his great love for me, I came to a place of surrender one cold February night as I sat curled up on the kitchen floor in my weary state, tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t keep doing life like that. I needed Him. I didn’t know how my situation could improve, but regardless, I knew I needed Him to walk me through it.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20
Coming to the end of all things made me finally give up my need to control. For the first time, I let God work on those deep places in my heart. There isn’t the space here to share all the details of the heart surgery performed on me after that point of surrender, but know, it was a long, steady process; no instant fixes.
There is a story told of a woman who wanted to further explore the verse from Malachi she’d read in her women’s Bible study.
Malachi 3: 3 – “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”
She visited a silversmith, not telling him the reason for her visit. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, “how do you know when the silver is fully refined?” He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s easy – when I see my image in it.”
I can honestly say, if life had stayed “just good enough”, I don’t think I would have ever dealt with the brokenness in my heart. Because really, how often do we choose to deal with something difficult? I may have simply continued in the church activities and Bible studies, all the while dragging these burdens behind me, clouding the reflection of Christ in me.
“When I see my image in it.”
So while I know God did not wish the tragedies on me that surrounded my childhood, I know that he makes good out of the bad; he makes beauty from ashes. And do not doubt God’s redemptive power.
God is continually refining my faith to make me more reflect his image, but the burdens I carried as a teenager no longer haunt me. God has done such a transformative work in my heart, it feels surreal to think back about who I used to be. He quite literally is my Healer, my Redeemer; my Savior.
And that is why I care. I care that you learn more and more about this God that relentlessly pursues relationship with us. I care that you experience this amazing Heavenly Father that adores you. I care that you encounter the same healing, redemptive power in your life.