Welcome back! I’m so glad you’re still here, reading my story, thinking about the threads of faith that run through your own life. As always, get comfy and let’s share!
In the last post, I talked about marriage, divorce and addictions. Here’s a part of ‘the rest of the story’.
After 20 years of a miserable marriage, I’d filed for legal separation. A family member/church leader had been quite critical and hurtful. She had told me that she felt that my worship was just a show and my relationship with God was fake. She went on to say that our marriage was a horrible witness, I was a terrible wife, and that we were awful parents and she’d actually thought of trying to get custody of our kids. I was reeling from it all.
I’d never traveled anyplace alone. I had two kids. But I desperately needed to hear from God. So, the first week of July in 2000 I found sitters for the two kids (one stayed with her teacher, one stayed with friends in Omaha!) Then I got on an airplane and flew by myself from KC to Dallas, TX, to a week long worship conference. A line from a song ran over and over in my head: “I’m coming to worship, I’m coming to bow down, I’m coming to meet with You.” (from: “Can I Ascend” by Matt Redman, from the Album The Friendship and the Fear, copyright 1998 Kingsway/StarSong)
I dragged my Bible, my guitar, my journal and my shattered heart to Dallas, hoping against hope that God would meet me there. I was in a terrible place – going to court for a legal separation I didn’t even really believe was okay with God, but not knowing what else to do since the marriage and the accompanying pain was so bad. It was affecting the kids. (I need to make it clear here that there was absolutely no form of sexual or physical abuse going on in our home. It was all verbal, emotional, and spiritual. Back then, only a few leaders recognized these as abuse.) My only hope and recourse was that God would do a miracle.
I was broken, shattered. I purposed to be as humble before Him as I knew how, no matter who was watching or what they said or did. Have I mentioned that I was desperate??? In that, I was in a wonderful place – a place where I had absolutely nothing to offer Him, absolutely no bargaining power. I was completely at His mercy, and for once, I recognized it.
At the opening session, toward the back of the room filled with 2000 people, I lifted my hands as a sign of surrender; but I was filled with shame and guilt. Then Bishop Joseph Garlington from Pittsburgh spoke these words: “Some of you have come in here tonight, all torn up inside. You’re feeling condemned and satan is telling you that “You can’t worship” — OH YES YOU CAN!”
At that moment I was faced with several decisions – Did I believe that was from the Lord? Did it apply to me? And how would I respond? I decided quickly yes it was, yes it did, and fell on my knees. As I knelt there, He met me for the first of many encounters that week. He reassured me of His love. He reassured me that my relationship with Him was real and that my worship was genuine. He reassured me that His calling on my life hadn’t gone away due to my circumstances. He invited me to empty all the pain, the fear, the guilt, the betrayal and the uncertainty at His feet. It took the rest of the hour long worship session, in tears, to let it all out. It took the rest of the week to look it all over and let Him into all the wounded places in my heart and life.
As the week went on, I gave God several ‘shots at me’. Pastoral counsel was made available; I shared with absolute honesty about the situation and listened with a heart to obey. I was comforted that I was okay, that my daughters and I were, in fact, victims of emotional and spiritual abuse. I sought God in the Scriptures. In every session, I searched my own heart as worship leaders and pastors from all over the world challenged us to a complete repentance and total consecration.
I’d love to tell you that God saved my marriage that week. He didn’t. But He changed me forever. I learned so much about running to God and not away from Him when things get bad. Condemnation comes from the enemy; humility can bring great comfort from the Lord. And I learned all over again that when we open up and give God an honest shot at us, He can bring healing and restoration.