(If you have not read Heart of the Matter, Part 1, please take a moment to do so. What you see here is the conclusion to that post. Thank you to all my readers who patiently waited for the second half of my story. You're awesome!)
I mistakenly thought that once I left my parents' home my pain would dissipate; I would have my own life, on my own terms. It would be the "happily ever after" they didn't give me. But in order to do this my marriage had to be perfect. So when I said my wedding vows I held a bag of resentment in one hand, and a bag of unrealistic expectations in another. Without knowing it I was setting us up for failure. So just to be safe, I kept Dan at a distance, not realizing it was self-fulfilling prophecy.
And God, where was He? Well, most of the time I was running from Him. Or at least keeping Him at a distance. I knew something inside me was very wrong but I didn't want to face it. After all, running a marathon isn't too bad if you think there might be a prize at the finish line.
My daughter was born and my heart softened toward my parents. I began to see them differently, especially when I realized the immense responsibility of being a parent. I realized that responsibility again when my son was born. Yet I still held to my crazy standards. But then, out of nowhere, my ideals of perfection were completely destroyed, once and for all.
BAM! I developed severe postpartum depression. Imagine me running at full speed, only to topple over myself onto pock-marked pavement. Emotionally, I saw my own flesh torn to shreds. The blood that poured was my own. It terrified me. Yet I tried to run again.
BAM! I was diagnosed with a chronic pain disease. The road beneath me ended at the edge of a cliff. I couldn't run anymore. I hurt all over from wounds and exhaustion, the potential fall from the ledge made every movement throb with anxiety.
THIS. WAS NOT. What I wanted!! Not only was I fighting my own demons emotionally and spiritually, but my physically ability to manage life was decaying. Perfection was no longer an option and I didn't have a plan B. It all came crashing around me, devastating and isolating.
Dan couldn't talk me down from the ledge. I wouldn't let him.
The kids were too little to help, let alone understand.
My sister lived far away.
"God, where are you?" In my brokenness I wailed out to Him. I prayed He would listen because I needed help and was finally in a place to ask for it. I resigned myself to accepting whatever He chose to give.
Always faithful, God was just waiting for me to ask. He sent the perfect person to minister to me on His behalf. He sent my mom.
For 3 months she set her life aside. Every Monday she drove 200 miles from her front door to mine. She stayed Monday through Friday. She cleaned my house. She took me to doctor’s appointments. She took care of my children. She folded laundry, cleaned up toddler messes, and tried to encourage Dan. As I watched her come and go to my house, week after week, the hand of God rested heavily on me. My mother, the same woman I rejected, was the glue that held my household together. The irony rocked me. Gently, God forced me to face the fact that I had seriously misjudged something.
My dad, who had worked nearly 15 hours a day while I grew up, was more of a stranger to me than a dad. However, when I fell apart, he started called me nearly every day, just to say he loved me. At first I acted cordially but blew him off. Yet the phone calls continued to come. I realized how much I loved him, too. I looked forward to hearing from him every day. Again, the irony and the hand of God rested heavily.
The concept of forgiving my parents had never really occurred to me before then. But it seemed so clear that working harder to overcome my past only fixed my focus on what was behind me, making it my god.
One summer evening, 3 years ago, I sat with a friend and recounted to her my desire to forgive my parents. Tears streaked my face because the task seemed bigger than me. It took me an hour of pacing the floor before I hit my knees. The words fell out of my mouth in rapid succession. Like a floodgate, healing washed over my soul.
The enormity of letting go of my superiority complex is beyond what I can describe. But in the middle of my prayer a bolt of conviction shot through me, silencing me before the Lord. In those moments I came face to face with the real heart of the matter: My sin - the sin of me not forgiving my folks - was what needed the repentance. Never mind what my parents may have done against me, that was over. What I had done to God was put myself above Him, wearing my religiosity like a whore's banner as I mocked His grace. Yes, it was that serious.
God was gracious enough to sharpen my focus and gently lead me as I laid myself bare before Him. Second only to the moment I first accepted Him, this was the most powerful moment of my life. The bloodied wounds I'd been wearing were the same wounds that in those moments He bandaged and healed. You see, my wounds were unnecessary; I traded them for Christ's. He freed me from all the self-destruction, the pursuit of perfection, and the bondage of my past. His forgiveness can do that. It changed me in ways only God and I can fully know.
Within weeks I faced my parents again. To each one I confessed my sin against them, saying something along the lines of, "I have been holding things against you for a long time. I hurt our relationship and I'm sorry I did that. Will you please forgive me?" For each one, I could see weight released from their faces. God built a bridge that day between them and me. And 3 years later I have a relationship with them that isn't perfect but it's enjoyable and genuine. I love them.
Did I finally get the perfection I longed for? No, no I didn't. Are my parents suddenly transformed into passionate Believers? No, but there's always hope, which is more than we ever had before. I wish I could tell you I don't run from God any more, but sometimes I do. Remember that chronic pain issue I deal with? I think He's given it to me as a way of keeping me from depending on myself. I can truly say that I'd rather have pain every day and depend on God than to be completely healthy and try to be my own salvation.
If you read this and are tempted to think I'm some body's hero, I'd beg you to reconsider. I'm an everyday person trying to sort out what it means to give God my heart instead of my lip service.
Some of you have contacted me because you identified with part 1 of my story. My most sincere desire is that you'd identify with seeking God's forgiveness and extending His grace whenever possible. Others have contacted me with concern over the raw nature of my story. In all honesty, it is no problem for me to tell you about my mistakes, but only if I tell you what God did with them. This story is not about me as much as it is about what God did when I stopped running. That is what makes it worth sharing.
From personal experience I know forgiveness in Christ is a wealth that can't be overspent. But I dare you to try. Today.
(Special thanks to my friend, The Linguist, who talked me down off a completely different ledge Tuesday afternoon.)
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