In the afternoon, on August 25th, I sat with Pastor Mike in his office. I was there because I needed help. I had been crying out to the Lord to change things in my life and it just didn’t seem like He was hearing me. Actually, I had been crying out for years. By the end of our meeting something would happen to me that I will never forget.
Now, before you jump to any assumptions, you should know that on one hand, I can’t imagine my life being any better. I adore my wife (and I think she kind of likes me too. J). All of our boys are doing great and I couldn’t ask for the relationship with them to be any better. My business is doing well and I absolutely love working part time at the church and being around these wonderful people. I am thrilled to be leading the Men’s Bible Study on Friday mornings, my health is great and, this may sound weird, but my relationship with the Lord has never been better.
So what’s the problem? Well, aside from the outgoing man that you see, there is also a scared little boy inside me that has other ideas about who I am. Worthless, filthy, inadequate, never good enough. These are just some of the things that fill this little boy’s head. I am going to share somethingsfrom my youth but I want you to understand that I was never deliberately abused in any way by my parents.
My parents were divorced when I was 4 and by the time I was 12, I had lived in five different houses, gone to five different schools and had three different step-fathers. I had already been involved in crime, experienced drugs and done a number of other things that, frankly, are too shameful to admit and certainly not appropriate to mention here. Most of the kids I hung around with were much older, so I ran the streets and got into trouble, more like an 18year old than a 12 year old. To put it mildly, I grew up fast!
My Mother, who loved me dearly, had her own set of problems. It’s probably no surprise that alcoholism was rampant and I took on the responsibility of dealing with that and taking care of her.
My Dad probably knew that I would never choose to leave my Mom when I turned 14, which was the age of decision in Ohio. I loved my Dad and I knew that life would be drastically better living with him. But who would take care of my Mom? That was my responsibility, right? Anyway, he got custody of me halfway through 6th grade and within a couple of hours of finding out, I was in a car leaving Toledo and heading to Columbus. What I felt was that I had failed and deserted my Mom. It was only five years ago, during a Transformation Prayer session with Pastor Mike, that I finally let go of that guilt. For 43 years, I believed all of that was my fault.
I could go on and on about the dysfunction in my life, not only then, but also later in my adult years, but the details really aren’t that important. You see, we all have our own stories. They are just different. And we all have lies that we believe and they seem to just get more and more distorted the older we get and the longer we don’t deal with them.
We all have parents. Some of those relationships are great. Many are not so great. But we have to realize that our parents had parents and maybe those relationships weren’t that great either. I have never blamed my parents or God for the things that happened to me when I was young. It’s what we do with those experiences and how we raise our own children that count. But we need to deal with the lies that affect how we react to things now.
Which brings me to what happened on August 25th. At the beginning of our meeting, I confessed to Pastor Mike that I had given up and lost all hope. I didn’t realize it, but I was letting things from the past affect my daily thoughts and I wasn’t feeling very good about myself. I began to hate myself and the thought that I was going to have to live the rest of my life like this. I began to believe that because of all my sins, this emotional pain was just some sort of thorn in my side and I would have to live with it forever. What I didn’t realize is that “giving up” was exactly what God had been waiting for.
After talking with Pastor Mike for almost two hours we started to unravel the ties between the events of my childhood and the emotional pain and ugly thought patterns that I was enduring. I was finally beginning to realize that much of what happened to me wasn’t my fault. In some respects, I was an abused child and was probably still suffering with some sort of post traumatic issues. The fact that much of this was explainable gave me hope.
Our meeting was coming to an end and as always, Pastor Mike invited the Lord in to reveal anything that He might want me to know. We got quiet and it was as if God took me to another place. I stood on a wide threshold, between two white columns, with a long arch connecting them. I was looking over a mountainous landscape and knew, immediately, it was the landscape of my past. I saw the Lord walking up a path towards me, with a smile on his face and felt no condemnation. When He reached me, He hugged me, like a Daddy would hug his scared little boy. He pointed back to the landscape and said, “We’re not going to look at that anymore.” He turned me around and said, “We’re going to go this way now. And I will never let go of you.”
In the Psalms, David often cries out for God to crush his enemies. I know that my enemies have often been myself and the lies that I have continued to believe for so many years. On August 25th, through His amazing love and grace, God crushed my enemies and I feel a freedom that I have never felt.
God has no intention of making us stronger. He isn’t going to just make a few changes and let us go on our way. He is waiting for us to completely give up; surrendering and yielding only to Him. He wants us so weak that we don’t have any choice but to depend on Him.
I’m sharing this with you, because I know so many are still hurting from things that aren’t their fault. I hear it in the Men’s Bible Study and I heard it on the Men’s Retreat. I can’t tell you why He allows things to happen, but I know that He wants to turn you around and go another way. Yield to Him and let Him crush the enemies in your life.
One final thought on what I have learned. You can’t truly experience the Christian life until you accept God’s total, unfailing and unconditional love for you. That may be the most difficult thing we all face. But remember, God doesn’t accept us because of what we have done, or what we will do in the future. He accepts us because of who we are. We are accepted because we are in Christ.
For he chose us, in him, before the creation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship, through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us, in the One he loves.