Lately I’ve been feeling the Lord nudging me ever so gently yet persistently to start sharing my story. But just when I push the thoughts aside or allow other things to take up my time I receive another nudging. And that happened just the other day after an encounter in the middle of Walmart which left me literally shaking and fighting back tears.
It started when a young man who lives in my old neighborhood spotted me and came over to say hello. What started as a benign exchange of “how are you’s” quickly turned into something which took me back to a time and place I’d rather not ever revisit. This young man began showing such rage and contempt for his soon-to-be ex-wife and in hushed tones he began ranting about her in an angry yet controlled manner. In between his hate-filled words and through his clenched jaw he tried to convince me that he really is a gentle person — a real nice guy. Then stepping in a little closer to share one more thing with me — something regarding his girlfriend and what is going on with her rotten-no-good-soon-be-be-ex — he whispers, “and let me tell you something else…” Slowly, as the realization hits me that what he is saying is aimed directly at me, he abruptly says, “well, gotta go, bye” and walks off. Standing there dumbfounded over what had started out as an innocent “nice to see ya!” left me looking through a window into the past.
Sometimes you think you’ve gotten over something, you’ve moved on and past it, but then God steps in at just the right moment and brings something into your life which shows you the truth. For me that truth is needing to release my past and grant forgiveness. A few months ago someone close to me embarked on a new journey with my help and little did I realize at the time this venture would become a catalyst for me to come face to face with that truth and the starting point for sharing my story.
We all have a story to tell. A story of a journey we have traveled which has or will lead us to a place of discovery and growth in our life. It’s through the telling of our stories in which we ourselves can find healing if needed and in which others walking similar paths can glean insight, encouragement and hope.
And that is my prayer — that as my story is brought out of the dark shadows into the open not only would my own heart and soul be mended after all these years, but that others will find whatever it is they need through it also.
Abuse. An ugly word. A word which took a long time for me to speak out loud. It is that word which begins my journey — it is my story.
Twenty years is a long time to live with abuse. Two decades.
My story began 26 years ago.
Sometimes a story is best told by revealing where the journey ended so that all the pieces can more easily fall into place when eventually we go back to the beginning.
Almost 6 years ago, on the day before Valentine’s Day, he walked out. And what a huge fanfare it turned out to be.
The night before his exit he spat at me through a clenched jaw in a hushed-angry-yet-controlled voice, “I’m packing my van and leaving!” Only later, a couple years later to be exact would all the pieces fall into place allowing me a complete picture of what had truly occurred on that day so many years ago. The day I actually realized that his leaving was not a spur of the moment thing, but a well calculated, manipulative move on his part I remember feeling stunned and yet not that surprised.
How does someone who vowed to love and cherish another do something like this? How can they truly not care about destroying that person? How does someone become so intent on hating that to love becomes this unknown?
My initial reaction on the day he left was: “It is finally over.” A heaviness lifted from my shoulders, a tiny pang of joy leaped within my heart…and then the tears came. Tears of relief/hurt/sadness/anger/confusion — oh how many emotions washed over me not just in those first few days, but in the months and next few years to come.
And I found that writing became a constant friend. I started my first blog at that time and the words flowed as easily as all the emotions leaking out. Writing allowed me to process what was happening in my life. And not only did I write on my blog, but I scribbled scriptures, quotes and thoughts down with pen and paper also.
A couple years before life changed so drastically I had bought a prayer journal with the intention of jotting down prayers for those around me. Instead that journal lay untouched in my nightstand. I would glance at it when I opened that drawer and think how I really should write something in that beautiful journal, but then the drawer would close and there it would lay.
Finally I pulled that beautiful still-blank journal out of my nightstand and started writing. Words started to fill those blank pages — words turning into prayers from the deep of my heart seeking direction and crying out in desperation. And scriptures, quotes from books I poured over looking for answers and just my thoughts as I searched for understanding.
Those blank pages began filling up and became a place for me to capture my thoughts and any words which would guide me through this time of confusion, hurt, anger and fear.
One of the first quotes I jotted in my journal was this:
“The bible tells us that our times are in God’s hands. That means that God is bigger than time, dates, and appointments. God’s plans for your life do not hinge on someone else’s schedule. God’s plans for your life cannot be frustrated by what others do or don’t do. God knows where you’ve been, he knows where you are, and he knows where he is leading you. His plans for you are made according to his wisdom, his love, and his power to perform them.” ~source unknown
God’s timing is never ours — but is always perfect.
Isn’t that so true! Not only is His timing perfect but it’s always right on time too. Now I’m not a real patient person. I want things done now because I hate waiting. Mostly I hate waiting because often times it’s in the waiting that we are being refined — and being refined can be painful. And I hate pain — did I mention that? I hate the hurt that pulls at my heart and my soul, that makes me want to do something, anything to make it stop. Even when I know that some things are out of my control — well, probably most things are out of my control.
But God continually works on me, refining me so I will one day reflect the image of Christ.
“For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.” ~Psalm 66:10
That first night alone I lay crying in the dark. Although for many years I silently cried myself to sleep because tears were something which only gave way to anger, this night I cried openly and those tears began the cleansing of my wounded soul.
In between sobs I asked God “why”. For isn’t that the question we often ask in the midst of darkness? I cried out to Him why all those years and now this, and what it was He wanted from me. I cried and then reached for the only true comfort there is — my bible. Admittedly, it was the first time in a long time it had been opened other than on a Sunday morning at church.
And that night, the first of many quiet peaceful nights, I opened to the Psalms — and this is what I read:
“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” ~Psalm 118:5-6
Laying back on my pillow I wondered if it were true. Had God set me free? Had He truly been with me all these years? And heard my cries of anguish?
God did set me free. What I would choose to do with that freedom was my choice. But He had heard my cries, and that of my children, and He made it clear to me that night that He had never left me and had been there all along.
The peace and quiet of that night felt as if I were wrapped up in a warm cozy blanket safe from the cold where nothing could harm me. And it was the most beautiful feeling compared to a life always full of tension and uncertainty, a life where you are constantly on alert and walking on eggshells, always standing on guard in anticipation of what will likely occur.
I rested that night — slept like a baby for the first time in a long time. I knew, really knew at that moment that I was okay even though I had no idea where life would continue to take me or what the next day would bring. But just for that one night in the safe warm arms of the Lord — I rested.
What I learned that night so many years ago is that the sun will rise again, a new day will dawn and life will go on.
Yes, I was set free. And I could be rest assured that no matter what lie ahead of me there was nothing to be afraid of.
As a side note: life got much, much harder after that first night and there would continue to be tears, struggles and doubts, but the one thing which kept me going was praying and writing. I learned my real worth in the Lord through His word and realized I meant too much to Him to allow myself to continue to stay in a harmful situation. If you are living with abuse please get out. God loves you too much and there is never, ever an excuse for someone to abuse you.