My heart wrestled its way to the love of God.
I have believed in Jesus my whole life, and as a child felt intimately close to God. But something else was at work in me. Suffering. On the one hand, I experienced emotional deprivation. On the other, I knew God was real and I loved Him. My heart would have to choose a way to deal with pain.
Until my teens, I centered my heart on God. I read the Bible, and when I read it, it came alive. God was in the room. I was filled with His love. However, when I reached my teens, I purposefully shut God out of my heart because of the emotional pain I felt. I expected God to fill my needs and had no understanding of suffering, or how to suffer while trusting Him. I made demands of God and when He didn’t pass my tests, I put Him aside.
I didn’t run out and do anything wild or obviously immoral, I simply turned my back on a strong connection to God. I was tired of trying to be a perfect person through suppressing my humanity. I didn’t want to fight anymore, and so I did the only thing I knew to do. I let go.
Within a year I felt like a different person. It was as if every good thing in my heart had gone away. I noticed I didn’t have patience, peace, genuine kindness… I was empty of goodness. This bothered me and I decided to return to God. God welcomed me, but from that point, the desires of my heart, which were full of selfishness, did not go dormant. Instead, everything that was truly in me came more powerfully to the surface.
I persevered in my own strength for the rest of my teens. I worked extremely hard to hold it together and it seemed to work. I gave the appearance of being that perfect girl I wanted to be, but I grew in arrogance. While I was ashamed of the part of me that harboured selfish desires, the part of me that was on the surface was gaining such acceptance from people. I believed the lie that my mask was who I really was.
In my early twenties everything in my life crumbled. I started dating my first boyfriend and all the issues of my past started playing out on the stage of my life. Through my actions in that relationship, I came to see that I was in fact just as selfish and manipulative a person as my boyfriend, who did not treat me well. We were equal to blame for the devastation of that three year period.
After our harsh break-up, I thought I’d survived my worst. I focused on trying to heal and God was faithful. By the end of nine months I was free from the baggage and hurt that relationship had caused. But I wasn’t out of the woods yet. I spent the next two years repeating patterns of relationship that revealed I was more than manipulative and selfish, I was narcissistic. I was sabotaging the people around me. My heart was more ill than I had ever dared to think, and yet I still worked to suppress my own darkness. People weren’t so easily fooled, by God’s grace.
In my mid twenties, after spending five years away from home, God put me in check-mate. I was forced to move back to the town I’d fled after high school, back in with my parents and back to square one. I was miserable. All I wanted was to get married, start my own family and be at peace with my loneliness. I was making demands of God again, and He was silent. However, I had been humbled enough to stick it out this time. I sought God with all my heart, while a rage of suffering swept me. This time I knew that I was suffering not just because of pain in my heart, but because of the things I had done.
I held onto God, and stayed where He’d clearly placed me for the next three years. Three years where I never felt one ounce less miserable. At the end of that time, God opened the door and I moved to Southern California to be near friends. At that moment, I began walking out of the dark season that had consumed my twenties, and as far back as my teens. The Lord gave me a job in CA that put pressure on me in all of the right ways – correcting my character after so much running away. And He graciously gave me a husband, whom I did not deserve.
Within a year of moving to CA I was married. My marriage became the single greatest tool in God’s hands to shape this clump of clay into a vessel (like a tea cup) He could actually use. Marriage, not to mention having children, required me to become a person worth having a relationship with. I had to face down my demons and straighten out of my crooked ways. I had to continue to move towards God and not people in order to be close to either.
We’ve been married six years, and God is still teaching me lessons about that. I have my days of weakness, my moments of dwelling in darkness but overall the freedom in my life is overwhelming. Battle after battle has been won over self-pity, anger and bitterness.
It turns out those things were sources of spiritual oppression. I’ve learned to master darkness rather than be mastered by it. That is what it means to be an overcomer. I will never be more than clay. I will never reach a place where I am above the deceitfulness of sin. I will always be a child – of God, in need of His mercy and help. But I am thankful to say I have been set free and the person on the inside is the person you see on the outside.
– Psalm 107 –