This is a story of trying to run from God, only to discover that He would never leave me alone....
"I have felt the Lord’s hand on my life since I was a small child, hearing the call of God around the age of eight. Telling no one of my youthful “encounter with God”, I held tightly to "our secret", and felt a deep, almost intrinsic love and respect for the Lord that I could not explain.
Like so many, however, my teen years were a struggle. My knowledge of God’s word was minimal; only that of the Bible stories I’d heard in Sunday school. Though I deeply revered God, it had grown to be more of a fear of someone who would lower the boom on me when I messed up. Not fully understanding the grace and mercy of our loving Father, I felt that God surely made a mistake when He called me years earlier, or else I had misunderstood. Still desperately clinging to His message to me as a child, I now considered myself to be unworthy and "unusable" after an incident that a decade later would be officially labeled as "Date Rape". Until then, I had assumed it to be my fault and shouldered the responsibility, establishing the first layer of the shame I carried for years.
The 70s were a time of reckless abandon, many times to unhealthy lifestyles. A remnant of the 60s rebellion, we were the “Me Generation”. Only a handful of acquaintances actually lived out their faith, some rather vocally. These we crudely labeled as “Jesus freaks”.
Popularity was my sanctuary of security in high school and junior college, nevertheless allowed me the enjoyment, as well as privilege of cheerleader and homecoming queen at both schools. I developed a false belief that as long as I had the approval of others, I could obtain whatever I wanted. After all, I certainly was no academic scholar, and felt it was all I had going for me. (sad, I know)Unfortunately, the role of “popularity” often leads to a misappropriation of values and priorities, resulting instead in compromise, forfeiting the protection of your heart, mind, and soul. I learned too late that I paid a very high price for such shallow approval.
In October of 1978, I married, but for selfish reasons, giving the worst possible foundation for any chance at a healthy marriage, and completely unfair to my husband. Within ten years, we had three children, and I was absolutely miserable though my husband seemed entirely oblivious to it. He was a wonderful businessman though, and that’s where he spent all his time and energy. He had become more of a vending machine and I believed he preferred it that way. It was much easier for him to work than it was to communicate or express any feelings or emotion with me or the kids. With a painted on smile, I learned to become The Great Pretender. Little did I know, my pain was even deeper than the problems in our marriage.
On the day of our 10-year anniversary, we were filing divorce papers and a few weeks later, I hit rock bottom and fell into a deep and dark depression. My long-standing game of pretending was over; the smile had worn off, and I was angry. I blamed my marriage, I blamed my husband, and I blamed myself for marrying my husband. I blamed everything else for my misery leading to the choices I made, which essentially led to my severe depression. I hated my marriage and I hated my life. I even had a fleeting thought of “I can see now why people commit suicide”.
I didn’t really want to die; I just didn’t want to live like this anymore!
I wanted something different...something more...
And during that moment of emotional (and spiritual) darkness, the Lord came to me in a dream as I slept. Although I had always felt His presence--even remembering His words to me as a child--the path I had chosen to soothe my deep pain had caused me to drift so far away from Him that I felt farther and farther from His desire for me, but Jesus knew my frame (Ps. 103:14) and that I was a visual person, therefore, He chose a dream to show me His great love for me.
In my dream, I found myself in pitch-black darkness, behind a fence similar to those surrounding a prison. Utter darkness, accompanied by a horrible sense of fear and condemnation was to my right, pulling on my right arm with tremendous force. I screamed and tried with all my might to pull away, but simply did not have the strength on my own. The darkness was over-powering me.
Then, I felt the warmth of a bright light to my left (John 8:12). I turned toward the light to find the most brilliant of lights. In the center of this immense radiance stood Jesus, surrounded by a host of angels. (Heb. 1:3) He was INSIDE the prison fence stretching His right arm out toward me. (Isaiah 41:10, Ps. 138:7) I cried, "Lord, save me," and instantly, I began to move away from the darkness and the evil that had such a firm grip on me. (Isaiah 59:1) I was not able to touch His hand, but by His power alone, (Hab. 3:4) He pulled me from darkness into His glorious light. (Colossians 1:13, Is. 9:2)
"Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there."
Months later, while reading from the book of Matthew, I came upon a verse from the sixteenth chapter. Jesus, speaking to His disciples, said, "But who do you say that I am?" (Matt. 16:15) This became my "signature scripture", as through it I recognized how superficial the faith I'd claimed to have had been. The dream revealed my need for Him; His Word stirred my spirit to follow Him, as He began His sanctifying work in me in spirit and in truth.
My life has never been the same.
Christ set me free to be the woman He originally called me to be.
Interestingly, our divorce papers became lost in the court shuffle, at least that's what I was told. Perhaps my attorney recognized something that I didn't. Another God thing I'm sure. We have now been married 35 years! We discovered that God specializes in relationships and He truly desired to be included in ours!
I had given my heart to God as a young child and promised Him I’d serve Him. I just got off track along the way…and He sought me out and plucked me off a dangerous pathway. (Psalm 18:6,19)
"This [daughter] of mine was dead and has come to life again; she was lost and has been found." - Luke 15:24
Has life been perfect from that moment? Absolutely not. I've stumbled and struggled as believers will do, and the enemy attempted at least three more times to steal my life through traumatic health issues years later, in which Christ again reigned victorious! God never promised a perfect life, but He did promise His Perfect Son. He never promised there would be no storms in life, but that He would be there in the midst of them.
Though God could have delivered me at any moment, any time, I thank Him for allowing me to experience just enough pain and darkness to sensitize me in those things to which I once had been so blind. Those moments enable me now to see people differently, recognizing their pain and darkness and "leveling the playing field" so to speak, because I've been there.
God has shown me since my youth of His endless mercy, matchless grace, overwhelming compassion, unfailing love, infinite patience, as well as His relentless pursuit for me even during my prodigal days. He is slowly but faithfully revealing to me portions of His intent and plans for me as He allows His perfect will to work itself out in my life and in His timing.
We use the expression "God's not finished with me yet" almost flippantly, but seeing how close I came to an early death, I most certainly am thankful for be ALIVE physically. I am even more thankful for the life I have in Christ, the love of my heavenly Father, and the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
"Jesus is my everything, and what He's done for me is my reason to give praise for every season in my life!"
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
Hallelujah to the Lamb of God! Hallelujah to our King!