Sunday, September 28, 2014

There's More You Don't Know

It shouldn't surprise those who read this blog regularly that I believe there is a very real devil in this world and that he is in the business of convincing us to believe lies about ourselves.  I spent 33 years of my life listening to lie after lie, and just believing any negative thing that came into my mind, specifically about myself.  It has always been a struggle, and there are still days that I wrestle with this.  More days than I care to admit, honestly.  It will likely be something that I have to battle for the rest of my life.  And I do not think that I am alone in this.

I have written several posts about lies that women believe about themselves, and at the heart of each of these lies is a very shrewd, very evil entity, seeking to wreak havoc on our lives.  And as we allow the lies to play through our minds, very quickly they take root, and they grow until our minds are entwined with one lie after another.

This is something I spoke to yesterday, as I gave my testimony in front of 40 incarcerated women in southern Missouri.  It has been my struggle, and I God has been teaching me how to overcome this.  So it was only natural for that to be part of my story.

And not unlike Friday night, Saturday was such a blessing to me.  In the morning, a couple from church did a little tag team story telling and it was very powerful.  The train wrecks of their lives, before and after their marriage is not a pretty, white picket fence type of story.  It was raw and painful and it is truly a miracle how God has brought redemption to their lives and made something beautiful from their ashes.

As we were breaking for lunch, a woman in her early fifties (I would guess) wanted to share a piece of her story with us.  I can't imagine what the entire story might have looked like, but just the part she shared was enough to bring a grown man to tears.

Being an alcoholic for more years than I think she said, she had never once been arrested for a DUI.  She had been fortunate that in all the times she drove drunk, she had not been pulled over.  But all it took was one devastating night to change everything.  One night is all it took to shatter the life that her family knew.  Though she had never been pulled over or arrested, on this night in particular, she chose in her drunken state, to put her 19 month old granddaughter in the car with her.  And the worst possible thing that could happen in that scenario DID happen.

It won't surprise you to read that she was involved in an accident that not only killed her grand baby, but also left her so badly wounded physically that they feared she would never walk again.  5 months after the accident, she did walk again, but psychologically, she will carry the burden of knowing she was responsible for that baby's death for the rest of her life.  Can you even begin to imagine the nightmare she must have woken up to, finding out that not only had she been involved and at fault for the accident, but that her very own grand daughter who was entrusted to her care had been killed?

How does someone recover from that?

How does her daughter, whose child her very own mother killed, forgive and move on from there?

How does this woman, incarcerated for what amount of time I do not know, have any hope left at all?

Can you imagine the lies the devil tries to tell her?

You're a horrible grandmother.

You killed your granddaughter.

You're so stupid.

You're a murderer.

You are worthless and no one will ever love you after what you've done.

Wouldn't you believe all of those lies about yourself in the same situation?  Wouldn't you have a hard time believing that they were, in fact, lies?

But this woman's story didn't end there.  God is not wasting her pain.  He never does.

It's from the deepest wounds
That beauty finds a place to bloom
And you will see, before the end
That every broken piece is gathered in the heart of Jesus
And what's lost will be found again
Jason Gray, Nothing Is Wasted

Something that this woman said to us after sharing her story really touched my heart.  Of course, we were all wondering if she had made amends with her daughter.  We suspected she might have, because she had indicated that her daughter was having a baby shower that same day.  So the same daughter who had lost her 19 month old little girl is expecting another child.  Of course it doesn't replace the one lost, but it does bring a small measure of joy to this family who must have endured terrible heartache along the way.

As we were wondering if the daughter had been able to forgive the mother, this woman shared with us that she and her daughter were very close now.  That she was grateful to be where she was today, in prison.  You could see the love of Jesus in her eyes, though tears clouded them.  She was excited about what God was doing in her life and heart there.  She said it was the best thing that could have happened to her.

And then she told us this.

She said that she spoke to her daughter not long ago and her daughter said to her:

"Mom, I understand now why she had to die.  My baby had to die so that four other babies could live."

You see, they donated the baby's organs and four other children were saved as a result.

And as redemptive as that is, the next statement from the daughter is what brought me to tears and to my knees, figuratively and emotionally.

Her daughter told her that she had to go to prison so that she could grow closer to God, and that is exactly what this mother/grandmother has been doing.  She has been working hard to find peace in the midst of tragedy and allow God to heal her wounded and broken heart.  And God has done above and beyond just healing this woman's heart.  Instead of allowing bitterness to take root in her daughter's heart, God allowed the daughter to forgive what many of us would struggle to forgive.  God is using this pain.  God is using this horrible tragedy to affect so many lives.  At the very least, the woman incarcerated who made the bad choice of driving drunk, as well as her daughter who has to have huge faith and dependence on God to get her through this awful nightmare, and the four children whose lives benefited from those donated organs.  And beyond that, God has blessed her daughter with another baby to love on and cherish.  He has give mother and daughter a second chance, and He has pursued this inmate's heart to the point of her recognizing that being in prison is exactly what she needed in order for God to really get through to her.

I am not an alcoholic.  Sometimes I have a drink socially, sometimes I have one at home.  But overall, I'm not a big drinker.  If it's fruity and sweet, I'm good, but I'd much rather spend my money on chocolate cake than say, cake vodka!  That's another addiction entirely!  So I already felt like my story couldn't really have much of an impact on this woman.  Certainly not like the impact her own story had on me before lunch.

I was slotted to speak first after lunch, and as always, I heard the same old lie creep in.  Your story doesn't really fit here.  You are not a drug addict.  You are not an alcoholic.  You are not a prostitute.  You didn't kill anyone or get caught doing something illegal.  In essence, the devil tried to convince me that my story didn't matter-that it couldn't bring hope to anyone, because I hadn't been through what they've been through.

But you see, I've learned better.  No story is alike, but we can all find pieces of our stories within the mistakes of others.  While I may not be a drug addict or alcoholic, while I may not guilty of something the law deems illegal, I AM an adulterer.  I AM a carrier or guilt and shame.  For years I wore the shackles, imprisoned in my bondage to shame.  I AM A SINNER.

But here's the good news.  For me, and for you, and for all 2,000 women incarcerated in that prison.

God's love is unconditional.

And not only that.

It's ALL we need to get by in this life.

His love, the hope that we have in Him, is enough to heal any hurt, to bind up the wounds of the broken, and to carry us through another day, until the day that we stand face to face with the man with the nail-scarred hands and God looks at us.  And instead of seeing our sin and our mistakes, He sees us covered by the blood of His own son, who died a terrible death so that we didn't have to bear the punishment for our sins.

And that is part of my story.  This shame that weighed me down, that ruled my life for so long, that is what I spoke to yesterday.  Sure I shared about my affair, the mistakes I have made.  But what I really wanted to get across is just how guilty I felt, and how much I felt like I NEEDED to be, I DESERVED to be punished for what I had done.

I looked at these women as I spoke, many of them nodding their heads with tears streaming down their faces in unison with my own tears, and I saw that they are no different than I am.  They are in a place they cannot walk out of just yet, sure.  They are in prison.  But the physical prison they live in is no different than the prison I lived in for so long, being led around by my guilt and shame.  Allowing my mistakes to define who I am.

I spoke briefly at church this morning about the woman who chose to get behind the wheel of her car with her granddaughter in the back, and about how the daughter was able to find a deeper faith in God through the horrible circumstances.  And it gave me an opportunity to share something new God revealed to me.

Of course I know my children are watching how Kris and I walk out this life of faith.  But it became so real to me recently.  Some of you know my oldest daughter.  She will be fourteen next month.  And at camp this summer, each kid was asked how they knew God was real.  When it came her time to share, unbeknownst to me at the time, Katherine told the group that she knew God was real because her mom came home.  She knew God was real because she could see a change in her mom and NO ONE BUT GOD could change her mom.

It just made me realize, and this is something I shared with the women yesterday, several of whom likely have children of their own, that their story is still being written and God can still use it to bring hope to their children.  I can't even fully put into words how Katherine's comment made me feel.  Suffice it to say, I am grateful that God used the ugly, painful brokenness in my life and heart to show my daughter that HE is real.  I'm thankful that my story helps her to stay strong and remain faithful to God.

And I urged each woman there yesterday to hold on to just a tiny sliver of hope.  No matter what they were there for, not matter for how long, God had a plan and would not let those days, weeks, months or years go by wasted.  He would bring good from the heartache.  He would bring peace where it seems only unrest remains.  He would turn their ashes into beauty.

And as if God wasn't already good enough, through a series of event, he led me to a song by Danny Gokey called "More Than You Think I Am."  The message of the song is clear.  You may have heard some things.  You may know a little bit about me.  But I am so much more than you think.  I love you so much more than you can imagine.  I am so much more than you think I am.

Praise God for that!  Praise God that He isn't only on the mountaintops.  That he comes to us in our valleys, in our deepest, darkest pain and brings healing and restoration to our lives and hearts.  Thank God I finally stopped punishing myself and began to understand that what Christ did on the Cross was not only for me, but it was enough to cover all of my sins.

And it's enough to cover yours too.

You always think I'm somewhere on a mountain top But never think behind bars You'd be amazed the places that I'd go to be with you, where you are So forget what you've heard What you think that you know There's a lot about me that's never been told I'm more than you dreamed, more than you understand Your days and your times were destined for our dance I catch all your tears, burn your name on my heart Be still and trust my plan, I'm more than you think I am Rumor has it there's a gavel in my hand I'm only here to condemn But let me tell you secrets you have never known I think of you as my best friend So much has been said Even done in my name But I'm showing you now, who I really am I'm more than you dreamed, more than you understand Your days and your times were destined for our dance I catch all your tears, burn your name on my heart Be still and trust my plan, I'm more than you think I am Let me open your eyes to see the heart of me, differently Come closer than you've ever been Let me in like never before, bring me every broken part The wounds and scars of who you are, and hide in me and you will see I'm more than you dreamed, more than you understand Your days and your times were destined for our dance I catch all your tears, burn your name on my heart Be still and trust my plan, I'm more than you think I am More than you think I am I'm more than you think I am More than you think I am More than you think I am I'm more than you think I am

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