I was raised in the midst of two extremes—Sundays found me in church, learning about a God who was watching and judging me, but every day in between, was a hyper-vigilant, exercise in self-preservation.
My earliest years were filled with alcoholism, sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, an epileptic mother, anger, bitterness, divorce. . . I was born with the label of “bastard”—not a big deal by today’s standard, but in a small town in the 60s, it was very big.
Fear ruled my existence—fear of the world, and fear of God. I grew up believing I was going to hell, because, no matter how hard I tried to be good, I was a miserable failure.
I was wrong, of course. Even then, God had a plan for me. God said in Jeremiah 1:5:
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”
This is true of all of us, and through all the pain, I felt God’s presence in my life, preserving me. I knew I didn’t fit into this world, but somehow, I’d find the way home. Until I did, He provided me a sanctuary from the storms in my grandma, who probably saved my life as well as my sanity.
As I grew older, physical abuse gave way to emotional sabotage. Weaknesses and confidences could be wielded against me at any opportunity. Though my family had our good times, we had a running joke that we’d never be the Waltons. No one outside our family would have guessed just how messed up we were.
The more I read the Bible, the more I began to question—loudly—the disparaging discrepancies between what my family and church professed, and what they lived. This didn’t do much for my popularity, at home or in the church. I wanted what God’s Word promised, but no one would show me how to get it.
In my desperation for stability, I turned to the only consistent thing in my life—food. Anorexia and bulimia gave me the illusion of some control in my life. I soon learned I had just become a slave to a new master. Finally, in anger I rebelled, thinking I was rebelling against my “spiritual leaders,” but in reality, rebelling against God.
I couldn’t stay away long, though. I felt empty and worthless without Him.
I believed God could do through me what He did through His Apostles. I also knew He required something of me to make this happen. But, I was too afraid and selfish to give Him my all.
When I started my own family, I realized it wasn’t just my life I was playing Russian roulette with. I wanted my kids to have everything God promised, and I knew the double-standard I’d grown up with was not the way. I was going to have to get out of the middle of the road and choose a side.
I still remember the shame I felt at my embarrassment praying over meals in my own home. And, I was terrified at the thought of sharing Jesus with anyone, including my baby. Jesus was just not a topic of conversation in my family growing up. But, I knew The Bible well enough to know Jesus had said that if we were ashamed of Him on earth, He would be ashamed of us before God and the angels. So, I pressed on, praying for His help.
This is where I’m supposed to say everything was wonderful, and we lived happily ever after, right?
I continued to play tug-o-war with God through an abusive marriage, an old back injury, depression, the births of six children, and the deaths of two, the deaths of my grandma and mother, infidelity, a nasty divorce, and poverty.
Then God said, “Enough,” and He took everything else I was hanging onto in fear—everything keeping me from Him. That was fun—not. But, when I finally surrendered to Him, I began to experience that “peace that passes all understanding” and God’s supernatural power in my life. God’s Word came alive in me.
God began pouring blessings into my life that HE chose. Blessings I would have never thought of asking for, like a wonderful, Christian husband and another beautiful child.
And, it wasn’t just material things; the more God stripped away old thought patterns and habits, the more room there was for Him. And, the more He revealed Himself to me, the more of Him I wanted. He was faithful in His time and His way.
Trusting God means understanding that our ideas of what’s good for us aren’t always the same as God’s.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
In 2009, I went to my doctor with a debilitating pain in my right leg. An MRI revealed a large nerve sheath tumor. There was a time when I would have been devastated by the idea of cancer growing inside me, but I was filled with an indescribable peace—a supernatural peace. I knew, like everything else in my life, God had a purpose for that tumor. Live or die, He would be glorified in me.
I began sharing my journey in a hospital blog. Two surgeries revealed two miracles God worked in my body, but even more importantly, God showed me through this blog that I am a living testimony to His power, faithfulness, forgiveness, and love, and I need to share it.
Even my past failures could bless others and bring God glory. Not the failures in themselves, but God’s faithfulness to forgive and carry me through. He was in it all from the beginning.
Now, if God could find worth in a non-conformist rebel like me, there’s hope for everyone.