My elementary school years were hard. My parents fought a lot and my dad was running around on my mom. He moved into the basement of our home (that he had built) so he could come and go as he pleased. He told my brother and me that he hated us and wished we were never born. He was a train-wreck, our family was a mess.
God spoke to my mom and put a seed in her heart that her prayers would someday lead him to Christ and bring him home to our family. She prayed for YEARS that he would know Jesus and God made good on His word, He brought my dad home and my mom led him in the sinner’s prayer.
My life changed drastically after that. I had been an insecure little girl, protecting myself by presenting a hard shell to the world. And when my dad came to me and apologized for the way he had treated me and what he had said, I melted. It took a few years but when I went to high school my heart was tender toward my family and toward God. I had the most amazing high school and college experience as a result of that tenderness.
I was often accused of being fake because of the way I acted. I would shrug it off most of the time thinking, “These people have NO idea where I’ve come from. I’m just happy to finally be happy.” And the more I behaved that way, the more I developed a “glass half-full” mentality. Going into marriage and throughout my marriage (which was a very drastic contrast to my high school and college years), I really believed that if I smiled and pushed through, brighter days were inevitably ahead. I started to see a huge discrepancy between my true, honest feelings and the person I presented to the world. I was a broken, hurting woman who smiled, loved and encouraged the best that I could because I knew deep down that I had the potential of being happy again. But joy wasn’t something that came easy.
It was in counseling that I discovered the following:
- I had lost the ability to connect with and express my feelings. I was simply going through the motions.
- The smile I had once used to express who I was had turned into a mask to disguise the emptiness I was feeling inside.
- Most of the time I was in complete denial thinking that if I kept an optimistic outlook, I would one day open the shades to my soul and find sunshine.
After I identified these really harsh realities, I decided I wanted to learn and understand real authenticity. My counselor and I used to go rounds on the topic of forgiveness. We would talk about a character in my script and the subject of forgiveness would come up. Here is an example of a typical conversation between us. (M = me, C = my counselor)
C: “Would you be willing to say that you forgive them, even if you don’t yet believe it?”
M: “I can’t. I want to live authentically. I can’t say it until I mean it.”
C: “But posturing your heart really helps.”
M: “I know, but when I utter those words, I really want to mean them.”
I realized that for years I had been saying things were okay, believing they were going to get better. I had completely detached from my emotions which would explain why my FH (former husband) no longer felt loved or respected by me. We had drifted so far apart that there wasn’t even a slight resemblance of togetherness. And all the while I just smiled and gave myself a pep talk, believing that someday the joy would return to the person who wore the automated grin.
So I set out on a journey to reconnect with my feelings which was a slow but life-altering season of healing. The easiest feelings to identify at first were hurt and anger and fortunately those two words described the majority of my feelings at the time. Then, when it came to the subject of forgiveness, I got stuck. I told my counselor that I knew the day I forgave would be a BIG deal because God would take me to a sweet place of surrender. I was confident it would happen. But I wasn’t willing to utter the words until it did.
The more I dug in my heels (in a desperate search for authenticity), the longer it took to get me to a place where I was ready to forgive. I was essentially putting my foot down and making a statement, thinking I was becoming stronger and more capable of moving toward forgiveness. But God wasn’t interested in my strong will. He was interested in a tender and broken heart that was open and ready to let Him work in me.
One of the most beautiful things about God is that NOTHING is lost on Him. It took me almost two years to poise my heart for entry-level forgiveness and all the while I was fighting and striving and working toward a day where I saw myself walking through a door of forgiveness.
God did open a door for me one day, just as I had pictured. I actually walked into a room where God met me personally and sent the most amazing people to take my hand and walk me through the process of forgiveness. It was the beginning of a new chapter for me, one where my heart was finally ready to forgive. I’m going to share more on this next week.
And what about all the work I had done to get to that point, thinking I was helping God along? He used that in a powerful way, but not how you would expect. It turns out that all He needed from me was total surrender…zero control on my part so that He could work on a broken heart that was incapable of forgiving on its own. All of my striving and planning was just me striving and planning. God patiently waited for my heart to become tender and teachable and when it did, He showed up in a powerful way.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.