I have no idea what I am going to say, I just know that most of you feel like I left you hanging when I stopped telling my story. I really don’t know how to continue without betraying parts of my story that aren’t mine to tell. I’ve decided to try though, so if parts seem a little vague or like I’ve skipped over something, please understand that is because I’m trying to respect the people I care most about in this crazy life.
When I say, crawling out of the wilderness, that is precisely what it felt like to me. It took me years to find my way out, and even then I didn’t make a quick exit. I would see glimpses of light and start heading in the right direction, but only slowly and very close to the ground; so as not to call attention to my strategy. I had been wandering for so long, I was scared to even think about what my life could be like on the outside. I didn’t think I deserved a life free of strife and uncertainty. I was so beat down and ashamed, I couldn’t even fathom walking out of this wilderness. But I did eventually meet the right friends who convinced me otherwise.
I would never have made it without those friends in my life. They offered shelter, and guidance; free of judgment and shame. These friends just loved me. We all had our scars, and we didn’t have to hide them from each other. These friends picked me up, dusted me off, and reminded me of who I once was…the girl I needed to be again.
I’ll never forget, at this point in my life, how I wouldn’t let people hug me because it would make me cry. I would cover my face and hold them at arms length…please don’t hug me. One night, my friend’s mom grabbed me in her kitchen and just held me against my will and cried with me; she rocked me back-and-forth, just holding me. I have no idea how long we stood there. It was the first time she had ever met me! That woman would later change my life…again. That night she cracked a wall that had been standing for years. I was hurting so much and I needed to let people in, but I didn’t want to feel that pain. I really wasn’t sure that I could handle it. That group of friends would walk that path with me for years. The pain of losing my mom, walking away from college, moving away from my childhood friends, estrangement from family, feeling like a failure…the list goes on and on. Not to mention a list of sin a mile long.
Being the only one of your friends to have kids at a young age, kind of makes you the wet blanket of the friend group. They didn’t really understand me a lot of times. Why couldn’t I go out on a moment’s notice? Why couldn’t I go out every night? Why was I so tired? Why did I not care as much about their drama? I was a very young mom, and that changed me. I hope for the better, but it was still very hard at the time. As a family, we had a lot of growing up to do. Priorities shift as you get older and people naturally change…that is difficult on any relationship. We had growing pains just like everyone else.
We tried to do the right thing and be active in church. We wanted to raise the kids right. I never thought that was going to be so hard for me. I couldn’t even pray in front of anyone. I felt like a hypocrite. I still carried so much shame, that I felt like every sermon was about me. I thought the other moms at school were secretly judging me for my past. To be fair, I wasn’t wearing a t-shirt outlining my sinful past or anything, so I doubt they even knew my sordid details (or really cared for that matter). I made a friend with a similar sketchy past and we became fast friends, since she felt the same way. We were both unnecessarily paranoid. That church and school were amazing and everyone loved us no matter what. The problem was in my own inability to forgive myself. That wouldn’t happen until years later when I came to the Women’s Conference at Prestonwood. I was going to the North Campus at the time and my friend asked me to join her at the conference. I was hesitant because of the hotel stay, and time away from my family…I am a total home body. I went though, and God moved in a mighty way, like He tends to do when we try to resist. I was completely broken. I mean, ugly crying, snot faced, uncontrollably broken, on my knees. I was running in just about every area of my life, and I was still hurting so much. I felt like that day in my friend’s mom’s kitchen…I needed to just be grabbed against my will, and held until I caved. That is what God did in that sanctuary, when I prayed that day. I felt this massive weight fall away for the first time in 15 years. He had forgiven me, I just had to forgive myself, and walk away from those dark days. Leave it at the cross and be free from it. Grace and mercy go hand in hand.
That was when things started to really turn around. In fact, that is when I even learned about the wilderness I had been trapped in for so long. I knew that I wanted out, and I knew that He was the way out. I started really focusing on each area of my life and trying to be kinder to myself. I set new goals for my life and really kept faith that they could be achieved. The wallowing stopped. The me as a victim stopped. The world out to get me stopped. I was renewed. I was hopeful. I had joy again. I was finding my way back to the clearing.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t have dark days. I think we have established that I definitely do. The difference now, is that those dark days aren’t lost in the wilderness days; those dark days are just temporarily overcast days. I can handle some days without sunshine. Not all of our days are going to be beautiful and bright. We just have to know that the clouds are going to pass and the sun will shine again. Ride out the gray days and wait for the beautiful ones…they are worth it. And you know, sometimes the gray days can be nice too, we see more when we aren’t squinting from the bright sunshine. Maybe there is something you’ve been missing…it’s OK to feel pain and process those feelings; no one is happy all of the time. Just don’t lose your joy.
Now that I am older, I think back to that mom who didn’t listen to my request not to hug me. That simple gesture, in her mind, changed my world. How many kids, young people, or friends do we come into contact with that need us to make a simple gesture that could change their world? Are we paying attention? Are we looking beyond their words or actions to see what is in their eyes or in their hearts? There are hurting people all around us; take the time and the risk to reach out and be there for them. I am forever grateful that someone did that for me. Like her, you might not even realize what you did at the time; that is the greatest gesture of all, when it just comes naturally to you to love them.
So, I guess that is what really brought me out of my wilderness on many levels…friendships. Friends that loved me enough to see past my mistakes and friends that loved me enough to see my pain and bring me to the one place I needed to be most… at the cross. Most of all, my best friend, my husband for sticking by me and growing with me through it all (well, most of it).
There is still so much to this amazing story, I hope that you will stick with me as I gain the courage to tell more of it. Maybe I’ll get more creative in how I can tell the really good stuff without betraying any confidences…
Thanks for reading.