Friday, July 1, 2011

Defining Moments & Broken Paths

For starters:  I am pretty much an open book when I write.  People that know me well, know that I'm not generally as open (with the exception of very few people) when actually talking.  I generally tell it like it is when I write a blog post, but at times I do hold back.  Believe it or not!  I either don't want to be even more vulnerable, don't want to offend or hurt someone, and sometimes it's out of protection of others feelings or privacy.  I preface this post with a warning so to speak:  I don't mean to step on toes and I don't necessarily feel comfortable with sharing "this" much of me....but yet, God has been laying it on my heart consistently in the past days and I'm learning that it's futile to resist. 

I'm not exactly sure what I intend for this post to actually say, it's one of those that I just have to write and let whatever comes out come out.  I do know this, someone reading it is in NEED of it.  I know there are two main points I'm wanting to make.  One:  God can use you.  Your past doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter how far gone you think you are.  Two:  Hang on tighter and fight stronger for your marriage.  It is worth it.  Unbelievably worth it.

Here goes:

Think back.  Think back and see if there has been a moment in your life that you had to make a choice.  The choice about knowing your life is going to change one way or another.  Either you are going to trust God and jump in or you are going to continue running the other direction.  Even for those of us that basically were born in the church and really knew no other way of living, there definitely are still defining moments.  The moments that something happens and you have to make a distinctive choice.  There may actually be many of those times or it may be a single one, but you've had them. 

Though there have been other moments that I've had to make that choice (especially in recent months!), the one that forever changed my life happened this exact weekend 18 years ago.  The exact half way point of my life thus far.  This weekend marks a milestone of sort.  At the time, I thought my life was ending but a life-time later...I know it was only beginning.

You see, up until that point I though life had been tough.  I just didn't know how easy it was.  I thought the drama of middle school and high school was excruciating.  Keeping up with expectations of who I was expected to become and balancing all of the demands of being the perfect student and chasing scholarships was tough.  Being a teenager and trying to assert independence in a household that greatly frowned upon it.  Hard.  Maneuvering the uncertain waters of having divorced/remarried parents was difficult to say the very least.  Trying to move beyond the faith of my family and making sure it was my OWN was a struggle.  Death of my best friend.  Preparing to move into adulthood.  We all remember how difficult those days were!  I thought life had been very tough and I didn't realize that I didn't have a clue about the realities of the "real" world.  I think we can all look back and say that now!

However, life did get very difficult.  Everything I believed up to that point came into question in my own heart.  Eighteen years ago my life changed because of some poor decisions I made.  I didn't listen to God's Holy Spirit warn me I was quickly walking down the wrong path.  Though He gave me MANY warnings, I still didn't heed his advice.  I thought I was strong enough to walk my own path.  In the end, not listening cost me tremendously.  Without being too explicit or sharing beyond my comfort zone, I will just say this:  I paid dearly with having my "innocence" ripped away.  Part of me was stolen in a way that I thought I would never heal from.  I thought God would NEVER be able to use me again.  I thought everything I had believed up until that point was gone.  I thought I was too damaged to love.  I thought I no longer had anything worth giving.  My plans for what God was going to use me in could no longer happen because the poor decisions I made had made me lose my testimony/ministry hopes (in my opinion!!!).  Even though I KNEW that what I went through wasn't something I deserved and God had not used it as a punishment, it still changed me.  The broken vessel I became broke God's heart.  Though He could see beyond that moment, the moment that someone took something from me that didn't belong to them, and could recognize that He was still at work in me...I couldn't.  Because I carried such guilt because I made decisions that left me vulnerable and because I had a sense of shame on OVERDRIVE ( I had yet learned the concept of GRACE!), that day became MY MOMENT.

My moment---I had to make a decision to turn and run away or turn and run towards a savior that sees beyond the sins we've committed, the sins committed against us, and every hidden secret pain.  In that moment, I had to either decide if I was going to just float along in the faith of my parents (which I felt DEEPLY) or if I was going to embrace it because I TRULY felt it now that life had certainly taken a big bite out of it.  I chose to run towards Him.  I wish I can say I never looked back.  I wish I could say that the doubts disappeared.  I wish I could say that forgiveness of others was instant.  I wish I could say that I didn't struggle with forgiving myself.  I wish I could say that I searched for healing in the right places. 

I can't say any of those things.  It has been an ongoing process.  It has taken MUCH longer than I ever dreamed.  It has affected me in ways I never imagined possible, both in good and bad ways. 

What I can say is this:  my moment of choice was the best choice I have ever made in my life.  It opened the door for AUTHENTIC faith.  It opened the door for REAL, UNCONDITIONAL love.  It opened the door for amazing mentors to step in and walk me through some painful growing and healing.  A couple of you that follow along and read my blog, KNOW you are on that list (especially BJK)----and I thank you.  I thank you for the way you sent my life in a new direction.  It opened the door for me to finally (though EVER slowly!) embrace forgiveness.  Today, I can 100% say I have finally forgiven completely and thoroughly those involved.  I can say that MOST days I have forgiven myself and the other days are days that I have to rely on God's grace.  It opened the door for the beginning stages of God's DEEP, REAL transformation.  It began the shaping of who He wanted me to be and started the foundation of the refining that continues to take place now.

What it also did was open a door of trust.  When you are so broken and are literally at rock bottom, you HAVE no place but to look up.  Those days are when I began to be able to see that my true strength came from one source.  Learning to trust SOMEONE again and trust GOD again is a very hard thing to do.  However, when you take that step....LIFE never is the same! 

You see, out of broken dreams and broken circumstances comes the real path God chooses for us.  My broken path brought me to the man I have given my life to.  The day he walked in to my life was absolutely NOT the right timing.  His set of circumstances that made him who he was and my set of circumstances that made me who I was at the time did NOT match.  He was not what I needed at the time.  God knew differently.  He made sure and let us know that what we thought and what others thought about our relationship was NOT what He was seeing.  We soon found that He had a big plan for me by bringing Kevin into my life.  He came in at the wrong time, but yet at the PERFECT time.  We came in together with VERY big loads of baggage and heartache.  From the outside looking in, we were an impossible pair.  However, from the very first second God let us know that He had put us on the same path for a reason.  To borrow words from such a powerful, popular song: "God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you" and "But you just smile and take my hand. You've been there, you understand, it's all part of a grander plan that is coming true."  We soon found that there were reasons we had been down broken paths.  God was never more vocal on our lives and we knew without a doubt that our lives were designed for each other----flaws and brokenness included.

However, no matter how much we KNEW God put us together, we still found ourselves in the position of throwing it away.  No matter how CLEAR we knew God was in bringing us together for a reason and how clear we were in understanding that we had made a life-time commitment, we found ourselves ready to turn our back on that knowledge. 

What I know is this:  no matter how strong your love is or how much you know God absolutely has a plan for you, marriage is still VERY hard.  It is MUCH easier to walk away at times than it is to stay and fight for what you know is right.  We've had some VERY big obstacles to deal with, many of which would have been the ticket that would have justified either of us walking away and not looking back.  Hurt is real.  Scars run deep.  However, commitment runs DEEPER.  I believe God did "send angels to guard the door" (just like Warren Barfield writes/sings in Love is Not a Fight).  In a world that sees marriage as a piece of paper (as Gretchen talks about in her blog today----perfect timing!), it is so easy to just toss it away. 

I'm here to tell you and adamantly implore you----don't believe marriage is a piece of paper.  Few people start out a marriage not believing they are marrying the right person (I know some may, but in general).  You didn't stand before God, family, and friends thinking that the person you were marrying was just OK.  You married that person because he/she was THE one.  THE one you are with today is STILL "THE" one.  Granted , there are a FEW situations that don't line up with that due to huge issues of abuse/adultery, but let's face it----most of the crumbling marriages don't fall in that category.  Your spouse is still "the" one for you, you just have to rediscover that and let it grow beyond greater than anything you dreamed possible.  I without a doubt understand how difficult that task is, but I also know that it is worth EACH and EVERY second when you come to the point and realize you have rediscovered that person and he/she has rediscovered you.

Back to "the" defining moment----though this milestone of sorts could bring about in me a downward spiral of haunting memories, it no longer does.  Healing of wounds didn't happen over night and really took practically half of my life.  What I know is this, and this is the part I want to make sure gets heard, there is NO situation that can separate you from the love of God.  There is no circumstances of your own doing or that someone else thrust upon you that God can not use for His good.  In those moments, reach out to Him.  He won't leave you empty handed.  Though your healing may seem like it takes FOREVER and it may feel like you are getting NOWHERE, you are!!!!  Don't give up.  Don't turn your back on God.  There WILL come a time that you will realize that your wounds are just faint scars.  You WILL see that God was right along with you every step of the way.  He was angry when someone hurt you (physically, emotionally, verbally).  He cried along with you.  Even when you made mistakes, EVEN HUGE ones----even outright blatant sin----He forgives.  He truly remembers your sins no more when you ask for forgiveness with a truly repentant heart and they are as far as the east is from the west.  It is never too late to let a defining moment in your life be turned into something good.  My defining moment opened the door for my heart to love completely and for me to learn to accept love.  It set my life on a different path, but looking back it was the path God had for me all along.  I just took a few million detours.  Your life is no different---you just have to make sure to run to God in those moments and NOT away from Him. 

In conclusion, as I've thought about this milestone in recent days I have noticed a SUPER shift in my heart.  I know that I'm finally healed from the scars.  It just didn't happen as quickly as I hoped and there were more scars that happened to develop in the process.  It was worth it.  I remember specifically  a letter that someone important in my life wrote me as I was going through my "storm".  I still have it packaged away and run across it every once in awhile.  She quoted Romans 8:28 (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.)  Though MANY people will quote that verse as a "quick" answer to something you are going through and it may "rub" you the wrong way at the time because it feels like a brush off, I KNOW the heart of the woman that wrote it.  She believed it with all she had in her.  She said that though my heart was too bruised at the moment to actually fully embrace the verse, she wanted me to anyway.  She wanted me to claim it as my own even though my healing was just starting.  GJ---I have never forgotten those words.  I have never forgotten how you knew that I would come out of that time with an even deeper, authentic love of Christ.  I can honestly say that those words are deeply embedded in my heart these days, and you were right all along!  I also want to say thank you for also pointing me in the direction of the man that has become my best friend and not just my husband.  I'm so thankful you could see what the world couldn't see and you knew that I just need to TRUST!  You probably didn't realize how important your words were at the time, but I'm thankful God used you the way He did. 

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