He took me by surprise. I met him my first week living on my own in Indianapolis. We started dating a month later. As my relationship with God grew, so did my healing. I was at a point in my life where I was really comfortable with who I was. I didn’t “need” someone to complete me yet I knew very early on that John was “the one”. He was the first person I told my entire story to, the good, the bad and the ugly. That highlights one of my favorite qualities about our relationship, great communication. We talk about everything. No subject is taboo. He's the one I laugh and cry with...the one who "gets" my sense of humor. If there is a weird moment between us, we stop and fix it then. We are very committed to "not letting the sun go down" on our anger. But perhaps what I love most of all is how much John loves Jesus. He loves Him even more than he loves me and that makes me want to love both of them even more.
We were married and I quickly became a mom (thanks anti-biotic vs. the pill). You'd think that having a husband and child to care for would be enough of a distraction for me to keep my mind off of my past. Wrong. It's hard to have an intimate moment with your husband when out of the blue comes a flashback. It’s hard to shove the memories back when you realize your child has reached the same age you were when the abuse started.
It had been several years since I started walking through emotional healing but there was still one thing I'd been holding on to: Shame. Shame serves a very useful purpose in the normal day to day life of a human. It keeps us from making complete fools out of ourselves, but there is a point where shame becomes toxic. Like poison, it floods your heart and your mind and the hand holding the syringe is often Satan’s. The devil uses those intense memories of abuse and the feelings they marked us with to encourage us to hide in the darkness of shame and the secrets of the past. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in healing is to resist the urge to continue hiding by bringing things into the light.
Sometimes, that means talking to someone safe about the flashbacks and feelings. Other times, it’s just allowing God to peel away the layers of your soul like you would an onion, and like an onion that may cause more tears. But when things are brought to light, we are choosing to say no to the devil and his attempt to hold these nightmares over our heads. We are choosing to say no to the poison of shame. Saying no to shame was such an important step for me, but there was another step I needed to take...
A few months ago, I was at a conference and we were having a quiet time of communion and prayer. When the team began singing the song "Majesty" by Delirious, I experienced one of the most holy breakthrough moments I've ever had. In that moment, it was as if the God of the Universe looked me straight in the face and said, "Look, Rachel... You've got a past. I get that. You've had bad stuff happen to you. I get that. You've done bad stuff. You've asked me for forgiveness. You've asked others for forgiveness. Why are you still insisting on holding on to this? I have given you grace. If anything, insist on holding that..."
"Majesty, majesty. Your grace has found me just as I am. I'm empty handed but alive in Your hands..."
Psalm 23 talks about The Good Shepherd restoring our souls. For the first time in my life I finally owned restoration. His love restores our shattered hearts. It blankets us as we walk through painful memories. His gentle kindness leads us to repentance for the things we've done to hurt others. And as we let Him, He quietly opens the door to our closet of shame and begins to remove the death (skeletons) we've been hiding. I’ve found myself questioning, "Are you sure I should let that go? I've had it for so long already...what if people find out that was MINE?"
His response? “I want them to know, so like you, they can become MINE.”
Restoration requires courage, boldness and complete surrender. It requires courage to bear our entire soul to our Creator, boldness to tell our stories so others can know there is hope, and complete surrender which allows God to use our nightmares to reveal the depth of His love for humanity. Are you willing to muster up some courage? Are you willing to breakthrough the walls of shame with boldness? Do you want to see God use your own personal tragedy to help someone else?
"And they have defeated him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony."
Will it hurt? Yes.
Will it take a long time? Yes. It’s a process.
Will it be messy? Probably.
Our premarital counselors used to tell us “Change will come when the pain of staying the same is worse than the pain of change.” Freedom is such an exhilarating feeling - a feeling of being alive again. I began to realize that I had already been given freedom through Jesus taking the punishment for my guilt and shame. He offered restoration. He offered UNFAILING love - not like the human love our hearts are so used to. He offered life through his death on the cross and resurrection. My job now is to sympathize with the world and proclaim the life and restoration I’ve been given.
“It is easier to fill the head than to prepare the heart. But heart drew the Son of God from heaven, and heart will draw people to heaven. The world desperately needs men and women of heart to sympathize with its woe, to kiss away its sorrows, to show compassion in its misery, to alleviate its pain. Christ was eminently the man of sorrows because he was pre-eminently the man of heart. “Give me thine heart,” is God’s requisition of men (Proverbs 23:26 KJV). “Give me thine heart” is also humanity’s demand of us.” – E.M. Bounds (1835-1913)
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