I’ve learned that there is a big difference between repressing your past and coming to terms with it. I’ve always thought that by acting like nothing hard or traumatic has ever happened to me that I was allowing the deep wounds of my past to heal. In reality, ignoring my past has only made my wounds deeper by allowing bitterness and shame to sink in. I wasn’t allowing myself to heal – I was doing the exact opposite.
My childhood was peppered with abuse, family difficulties, and bullying. Three things that are incredibly hard to understand as an adult, much less when you are seven years old. Confused and hurt, I became bitter with God for letting such traumatic things plague my life, and the lives of the people I loved most. As I got older the abuse ended, but the family difficulties and bullying continued. I began to believe that I had done something to deserve the difficult things that were happening to me.
In late middle and early high school, I began wrestling with questions of worth and purpose. I began to question if I was good enough. I continued to wonder if the things that happened in my past were somehow my fault. I became hyper-aware of my weight, of the clothes I wore, and of the way I carried myself. I began to wonder if my life was even worth living anymore. All of this stemmed from my past, and my inability to understand what the Lord was doing in my life. Instead of turning to the Lord for strength I resented Him for allowing such huge trials to enter my life.
Through God’s grace, I never lost my faith during these trying times. However, I was not the extremely spiritual person that people thought that I was. I knew how to go through the motions extremely well. No one knew how bitter I felt towards the Lord. I would pray and read my Bible, but I would do it with a cynicism about God and His will. People so often talked about God’s goodness, and I struggled deeply with that. How could a God who was supposedly good allow someone to be bullied as viciously as I had been? How could a just God allow innocent girls to be abused? How could a God who was a loving and perfect Father allow my family to fall apart so many times? God didn’t seem like a good, just, loving Father to me, but I knew He was real, so I decided to start pushing for answers.
My junior and senior year of high school I finally turned to God. I said a prayer that sounded something like – “God, I have absolutely no idea why I’ve had to go through the crap I have. I don’t understand why You’ve let all of these things happen, and honestly, I’m pretty upset with You for it. I keep trying to get away from the baggage of my past, but I can’t. I’m not getting anywhere on my own. You’ve got to take this from me.” Now, I know it definitely was not an eloquent, even-tempered prayer. I’ll be the first to admit that. It was a prayer that was said through gritted teeth, with tears streaming down my face and a feeling of vanquishment in my stomach. I had felt as though God had abandoned me, and there I was, begging Him to take me back. Oh, how wrong I was.
It turns out, that it was I who had wandered away from God. How much my Father’s heart must have broken watching me struggle and strive and attempt to make sense of my past on my own. How deeply He must have wanted to scoop me into His everlasting arms and give me the peace and healing I was determined to find without Him. Yet I was too stubborn and strong-willed. So, my all-knowing, gracious Father continued to stand there, waiting for me to realize that it was Him that I needed. For nine whole years, He waited with His arms wide open while I marched about on my conquest to find healing.
So, this stubborn prayer tinged with bitterness marked the beginning of true and proper healing for my past. It has been a long, hard journey these past three years. Sometimes I am still reluctant to rely on the Father and find myself taking things back into my own hands. Sometimes I feel bitterness creep back into my life as I think of the trials I have gone through. Some nights I lie awake reliving my past and asking God “why?” I’ve found that healing is a process. Sometimes you take three steps forward and four steps back, and I’ve learned that that is okay, just as long as you keep moving.
Since my healing journey began, I have continued to deal with some hard things. One of these things was discovering that I had an anxiety disorder. Yet, through these difficulties, I have turned to God and prayed for strength and healing. Sometimes I still lose perspective and slip back into the bitterness that so humanly comes when things do not go my way. I won’t deny it. But I am so grateful for the healing work that the Lord has been doing in my life. Especially recently.
This past week, Cedarville University had the honor of hosting a missions conference. As a student there, I was required to attend the services and I am so so thankful for how the Lord used them in my life. One of the things that stuck out the most to me was when Jenny DeKryger, a missionary who recently lost her husband, said:
“Some of the deepest valleys we’re called to walk through become the well from which we draw to have the greatest kingdom impact.”
This hit me so hard. God took Mrs.DeKryger’s message and allowed me to finally come to terms with my past. The abuse, the family problems, the bullying, the anxiety I now deal with on a daily basis – The Lord sent me through those valleys so that He could turn them into wells. The things that I’ve gone through have equipped me to have a bigger kingdom impact.
One night, after the evening conference service, I was sitting by Cedar Lake with my friend Mary Ann. We were crying, sharing our pasts, and talking about God’s calling for our lives. While we were talking, I caught myself completely off guard because I turned to Mary Ann and said: “God has been so good to me.” For the first time in eleven years, I was able to refer to the entirety of my past and say that the Lord has been good to me. What a huge blessing that was! I had finally come to terms with the fact that God allowed my past to happen not to harm me or to defeat me, but to mold me and widen my ability to impact His kingdom.
That is why I decided to finally write this post. For a few months now I’ve been trying to write about healing, but I just couldn’t seem to get it right. I guess that was because the Lord was trying to show me that I hadn’t fully accomplished healing yet. I still haven’t. Like I said before, healing is a process. It takes a lot of time and it often involves moving a few steps backward before you can move forward, but finally being able to say that the Lord has been good to me was such a huge step forward for me.
I want to encourage you to seek the Lord’s healing in your life. It is so much better than trying to achieve healing on your own! No matter how many times you’ve walked away from Him, or how long it’s been since you’ve walked away, I can assure you that the Father is standing there with His arms wide open, begging you to go back to Him.
One of my favorite worship songs at the moment is Reckless Love by Cory Asbury. I’ll leave you with these lyrics from the song, it has been such an encouragement to me.
“Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me.
You have been so, so good to me.
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me.
You have been so, so kind to me.
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.
Oh, it chases me down, fights ‘til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.
I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still You give Yourself away.
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”