God’s timing is everything!! When we are in dark places in our lives we just want it to be over NOW!! But when you finally see the light at the end you realize that had He delivered you when you wanted Him too there would not be the maturity of character and understanding that you now have. There would not be the revelation of His faithfulness and absolute love for us to deliver us from ourselves. And make us more like Him. Thanks for bearing with me in my journey to freedom!!
My journey led me into the valley
Dark menacing storm clouds
Darkness and gloom
Travail and Agony
Desperation and brokenness
Nothing left to give
A path that must be crossed over
To get to the other side….
Is there another side?
Across the river of emptiness
With Shattered lives
Somewhere in the darkness
Of questioning and doubt
I find Him
Love emanating from His being
How did I get here Lord?
How does one go about living when everything they believed in no longer exists? Everything familiar in my life was gone. My husband, my church family, and my belief system that I thought held me together all those years. It was all gone. I found it interesting that the people who had been my friends for so many years in the church building I attended didn’t contact me after I left except for just a few. I was very hurt and astonished. It was a real eye opener to the fact that there are friends who are there for life, no matter what happens to you, and then there are friends who are there because you belong to their club and you have that in common and when you leave that club they are gone too. These were people who had worked alongside me for years. None but a few were to be found after I left. I also recognized that if they actually acknowledged that I had been treated wrongly then they would have to be faced with a decision as to whether they wanted to stay under someone’s authority who might abuse them as well. It would mean they might have to look at their own denial systems. I forgave them and realized that God has them on a journey too. They have issues just like I do. It was none of my business now.
Institutionalism bred task-based friendships for me. I always thought our friendships were based on loving Jesus alone and not what we were doing. But as long as we were committed to the same things or belonged to the same “club”, we were friends. When I left the friends in the church seemed as if they felt they needed to treat me like damaged goods so they could justify why they didn’t contact me, the “errant” one, or support me anymore. If they did they would have to face the reasons why they are there as well.
Because of the financial strain of my divorce the children and I had to move out of our house into a small two bedroom apartment. As a result we had to downsize. With great sadness and dismay I watched a charity truck drive away with all my 25 years of cherished memories and material things I couldn’t keep. In the new apartment Jason, who was 18, had one bedroom and I gave up my king size bed to him. I shared a twin bedroom with my 16 year old Heather who was in the beginning throes of rebellion. She had not only been molested by both of her grandfathers but now her Dad, who rarely came around, had abandoned her. She had lost her beloved dog, Lady, that she or Jason slept with every night because we had to give her away or we wouldn’t get the apartment. She was no longer my quiet joyful little girl, but a force to be reckoned with, and I had no one to balance me out. It was a nightmare. I had a couple of supportive friends, the kind who you know will be there no matter what, right into eternity. But I felt very alone.
The first night in my new “home”, when the kids were in bed, I wandered into the living room and have never felt such desolation and despair as I did at that moment, or so totally alone. I curled up in a fetal position in the middle of the floor and sobbed my heart out for most of that first night. It was a travail of heart like I had never known, a pain that reached into the core of my being and tore at me with vengeance. The suffering in my soul was for my lost life and the despair I realized when I looked at my reality without the masks of denial. What had I done? I wept for myself, all those lost years, the ministries I had had, my husband, my precious children and what they were suffering due to my choices and for my lost sense of belonging. It was a journey through the valley of the shadow of death. The pain of loss was unbearable. My kids told me they felt like their whole life was a lie. I had never told them that their mom and dad’s marriage was in trouble and I was so good at painting the perfect picture they didn’t have a clue as to the reality of their situation or how it would end up. So, when it all dissolved, and their Dad had abandoned them, and they were forced from their home and had to give up our beloved family dog and move into a tiny apartment, they were crushed. I felt I couldn’t bear it. I knew that somehow I was to blame for not facing the truth all those years. I thought I was protecting them. How deceived I had become.
I developed claustrophobia. It began the first night I slept in the twin bed in the apartment. The room started closing in on me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and felt as if the walls were closing in on me. I would lie in that twin bed in a cramped room with Heather a few feet from me feeling as if the walls were closing in around me as if I was suffocating. I bought a fan and had to have it blowing in my face all night. I began having dreams of someone close to me dying and when I went to the viewing of the dead person they would start moving and telling me they weren’t really dead. As I would try to tell those in charge that the deceased weren’t really dead they would laugh at me and say “That is just what dead people do when they die. They can’t accept it, so at first they keep trying to tell people they are still with us.” Then they would bury them while the dead were still talking to me. I would wake up from these dreams terrified. Finally, after talking to a therapist friend he helped me to realize that the recurring dream was about me. I felt like I was being buried alive and no one cared or wanted to listen. When you have been in denial for so many years coming into reality is like being turned inside out and buried alive. After realizing the dream was really about me feeling buried alive in my pain and despair I never had it again.
Emotional stress brings out all kinds of weirdness in us. I started getting up at odd hours of the night and ravenously eating peanut butter lavished on a banana along with a glass of milk. Jason and Heather still laugh about being out in the living room with their friends and I would wander out, as if in a trance, and would stand in front of them in my night gown as if in a trance and proceed to eat a banana and peanut butter and milk.
One night I had an allergic reaction to some unknown substance I had eaten. My lips started swelling and within a couple of hours when I looked into a mirror I was aghast that I looked like the Elephant Man. It never occurred to me to go the hospital. I was told later by a coworker, who was a nurse I was working with at the time, that with that kind of reaction it could have killed me due to antiphylactic shock. I guess I must have instinctively known that I was in danger because sometime in the middle of the night I arose to check myself out. I now had huge hives covering my body along with a face that no one would recognize and I had trouble breathing. I calmly reasoned that if I died in my sleep and my children found me the next morning I wanted to be half way presentable, even if my face was askew. So I got up and got fully dressed in the middle of the night and attempted to put on make up which only made me appear more grotesque– but I thought maybe, after death, my body would return to normal. I wanted my kids to find me looking good should it be my time. Then I lay back down and folded my hands over my middle and went to sleep while I waited for death. As I look back on that time I realized that this was another attempt to paint the picture of living a perfect life. Even when I was potentially at the point of death I wanted to be found perfectly together if I died in my sleep. I also wondered if part of me secretly felt dying was a way out of my misery so I didn’t seek help. Another form of denial.
My job wasn’t paying me enough to stay in the apartment so Jason, fresh out of high school, got a job and contributed to the expenses until I got a raise and could make it on my own. He did this for about two years, long after he was ready to go out on his own. What a blessing he was. After two years, when I was able to take care of myself and Heather, my son moved out. By this time Heather was mixed up with the wrong crowd of kids and was into drugs and promiscuity. I was so naïve. Having been so many years in my bubble of “it’s not going to happen to my kids”, I had no idea how bad it really was until I found a suicidal note in her drawer one day while doing laundry. Soon after that Jason called me at work to tell me that “a guy that looks like Charlie Manson with a guitar”, was seated in my living room and that I better come home. Heather had brought him home from a concert. I got home as fast as I could only to find a note addressed to me from her. In essence it said she ran away with this guy and would contact me at a later date. She was 16. If you are a Mom reading this you can identify with my absolute terror. I truly thought I was not going to live through it. Where was my God in all of this? What about all those years of service I put in for Him? Where was He now that I needed Him? I did call out to Him but felt like the heavens were boarded over when it came to my prayers. I did find her after about 3 days of threatening her girl friends of a brutal demise until they finally told me where she was. She was hundreds of miles away. I learned later from Heather that the guy who took her, and his family, thought they were aliens from another planet and had brought her in to join their cult. I had pictures in my mind of finding her alongside the road someplace. After threatening her captors for contributing to the delinquency of a minor they brought her home and I decided that it was time to do something drastic. I couldn’t keep her in school anyway. I would take her to school each day only to be called at work an hour later to report her absence. All her anger at her life was directed at me. She knew I was the only one who would not forsake her, no matter what. But I knew I had to do something to stop the cycle for her before sure destruction took over.
Heather had a friend whose husband was in the military and gone from home on an overseas assignment. She was looking for a room mate. She lived many hours from our city and was thrilled to have Heather move in with her. So, my little girl who was now only 17, dropped out of her school and was removed from her home, and taken far away from me to save her life. I knew this was right for her in my spirit. I also knew it was God directing me and I felt the urgency of it.
That is when Heather began to grow up and face her reality. Even though I felt abandoned by God I knew He was telling me if I didn’t send her away to live that I would lose her completely. (I didn’t put it together yet that if He really had abandoned me, why was he still there impressing Himself on me?) She was under the control of the people she had gotten herself mixed up with and into drugs and promiscuity and could not break free. The day I took her away we both cried all the way there and I cried all the way home. She will tell you today that my decision to be obedient to God saved her life, and because of that decision she began to realize just how much God really loved her. And it was a turning point in her life.
The Dixie that was so together in church and ministry was now pretty much undone. My perfect world of control I had gained from my many works was cracking and falling apart chunk by chunk. My life had now become about survival. My church family of 25 years was gone. Most of those that I thought were my friends, my surrogate family, had disappeared from my life. Where was my family? Only a few faithful friends who were beginning to see outside the church walls remained faithful to me and we are still life long friends. But I felt like I was still alone. I continued to facilitate the support groups for a few years and then finally had to stop even that due to my own stress and disillusionment with working for God. After all, where did any of my well-intentioned efforts get me?
It is amazing that I could live as long as I did believing smoke and mirrors are reality. If the church body that meets within walls would just be honest with themselves on Sundays when they look around at all their beloved friends and ask, “How many of these people would stand by me and continue to be my friend if I walked out of here” they may be surprised? The bible encourages us to be devoted and loyal to one another within the church body no matter where we gather. Jesus said that whenever two or three people gather together with their focus on Him they would experience the vitality of church life. Some of the body of Christ do grow in these organized settings but the danger lies in putting our security in that entity and not on Jesus.
Coming Next: The Transition