Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Heart of the Matter, Part 2

(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.)

22 comments:

Steph at The Red Clay Diaries said...

Stacy,
That was a complicated story to articulate. I think you did it with grace and clarity.

Coming out of a similar journey, I related to a lot of what you said.

Thank you for your honesty. I think it'll yield fruit for God.

Skerrib said...

Very nice. Beautiful, actually.

Candace Jean July 16 said...

From a "Moms" perspective, the unconditional love for you that God, yes GOD, placed in her heart for you is the true picture of His grace. You are a hero - the everyday sinning hero who gave to God what He wants most - a close relationship with you. Don't be afraid to fall a couple steps back as a gentle reminder of how far you've come. He will catch you in ways you can't imagine. Our God is pretty wild and crazy sometimes and will do just about anything to get our attention. And He shows up in places and people you least expect, sometimes even in the deeds of non-believers. And in His eyes, you are indeed his perfect creation, yet oh, how He is applauding your humilty! Props to you for sharing your story, and I hope your healing courageous journey continues to bless you and your family.

Now can you please go back to being funny again so I can dry my tears after this post?!? I'll be patient. Perhaps.

Donna said...

Grace, Stacey, grace......vulnerability is hard to share....thank you......

no side hugs this time, but a full body, rub your back bear hug, sweetie....

Shawna said...

And "By HIS wounds we are healed"

Stacy,
This is beautful.
Thank you for sharing, I'm sure it wasn't easy.

Helen said...

Stacey, I admire the way you have used the popularity of your blog to share the grace of God in your life. People love your blog and your comments on SCL. It took a lot of humility to share what you did. You can be proud of your humility... sorry, I couldn't resist a small joke. Forgive me. Great job!

Da Mouse said...

Thank you for posting this. To be totally open and honest about your sins is really difficult. You've blessed my day, and gave me misty eyes at work. :)

fb said...

"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." Oh man can I identify. Stacy - thanks so much for telling us your story. Maybe it was just for me - but I am sure several others feel the same way. We are all on this journey together - at different points on the road. Your openness is really helping me see some things in my life that I need to turn over to the one who can really handle it and has already paid the price for all of it. I, too, send you a really big hug.

Anonymous said...

WARNING Do Not read without tissue in hand... This should be the precursor. Thank you for your honesty and transparency. I love you as you! Many thanks for sharing God's healing in your life. Miss you. former "Dirty Pretzel" Sis

eireann said...

hi stacy,

i can relate also - this is my struggle lately [forgiveness and figuring out how God wants me to love Him]. i appreciate your candor and honestly and that you are allowing God to work through you in this way. thank you so much for sharing.

Kari said...

Stacy,
I just want to tell you how much I appreciate your blog. Friends of mine recommend this blog or that saying how encouraging and wonderful (blah, blah blah) they are. I try. I added them to my favorites. But, I always ended up feeling inadequate, like I couldn't live up to these people's "perfect-ness". Now, that's not to say they didn't share some of their deep-down things too, but... well, I can't explain it. All I know is that I stumbled onto your blog from SCL and I have followed ever since. I love your honesty, your humor, your sincerity, your vulnerability. You are more "my kind of people" than these other people who were recommended to me were. Anyway, just wanted to give you a HUGE THUMBS UP!! And encouragement to 'keep 'em comin'!!
Thank you!!
HUGS!
Kari

Ms. Trish said...

"From personal experience I know forgiveness in Christ is a wealth that can't be overspent."

i love what you wrote, especially that quote..your story is beautiful and very inspiring.

Jeff said...

At the risk of being the only male commenter...

What you just described is what we all must do every day. "Find God's grace and apply as needed."
BTW its freely available and guaranteed...

Thanks for sharing your story

Dog snob said...

Lots to think about there Stacy :)

Stacy from Louisville said...

Jeff,

I would like to personally welcome your comments. I know there are guys reading but not always commenting. Glad to hear from you.

Stacy

Wayne said...

All right, I won't leave Jeff hanging out there all by himself.

I am glad to know you, Stacy, because I know what you were like three years ago, and I know how marvelously different you are now. Not all your readers, I know, will have that sort of perspective. Allow me to assure them that you are not just making up the fact that God has been making big changes in your life.

I would say more about how much my wife and I appreciate you, but I don't want to inflate your head so much that you float away!

YFTL

~teachmom~ said...

Wow, Stacy. I have to agree that you should have warned us all there'd be tears.
Yikes.
I appreciate you for your honesty...you have so much humility and as I read your words,I found myself wanting it too.
I need to be on my knees begging Him to really open my eyes...I know He's there, and I am not seeing Him....I know that now....
God Bless, Stacy. :)

samantha said...

wow. thank you. thank God.

stephy said...

Interesting.

Marni said...

Stacy that was so beautiful. Thank you for being so wide open. I think if we could all share our struggles so openly, satan would flee far from us.

I cued up "Heart of the Matter" and listened to it while I read Part 2. I've listened to that song a million times, but today I heard it. I may have to steal it as one of my life songs to (my overall one being Jesus Bring the Rain)

Much love to you my sister in Christ. And many prayers as God continues you down the road of restoration. I'll be praying for your parent relationship with Jesus, although I believe you are now modeling Him so well, I expect the same miracle for their souls as you.

Marni

Tasty said...

Stacy,

A-freakin'-men. I am SO happy this healing has occurred in your life!

Love,
Stacey E.

Susan O. said...

Hi Stacy,
I put your blog on my favorites list (linking from SCL), and somehow started with these three posts. Thank you for turning me into a quivering mass of snotty, swollen-faced, pre-cup of tea mess. I needed to read this exactly now. Thank you for sharing your story so openly. I'll be thinking about this, and God's love and grace all day.