When Your Undoing Remakes You

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September 19, 2013 was my watershed moment, although I didn’t know it at the time; I even later got the date tattooed under a butterfly tattoo I already had on my back, which represented my hope for God’s renewal of me.  This day was not my only trauma in life, but it embodied the day my life switched tracks.

Some of you know my story because I either told you, or you read about it a couple of years ago in my post, “My Unexpected Life.” For those of you who don’t know my story, here is a summary of it. At the time of my watershed moment, I had been existing in my (then) marriage for many years, not allowing myself to grasp that I was living with a porn-addicted husband who preferred men. On the night of September 19, 2013, I had the opportunity for a non-negotiable confrontation when my (then) husband’s phone received a sext while laying face up on the kitchen counter as I was standing right next to it; he was out of the room. With an immediately racing heart and shaking hands, I nonchalantly picked up the phone, walked to where he was, and whispered in his ear that we needed to talk upstairs “Now.”

That moment sent me quickly into a dark hole that took me years from which to emerge. I was face-to-face with a pattern that, for about thirteen years, I couldn’t acknowledge existed, even with plenty of evidence. It was not my first confrontation I had with my (then) husband, but it was the only one, up to that point, where I held my ground and wouldn’t accept any legitimizing stories that were used to try to excuse his behavior. I didn’t know how to operate in this new way; I felt completely alone, afraid, and many times, despairing—even though every ounce of me wanted direction and intervention from God.

That was when I felt the most desperate in my life, and I think it was my sheer desperation that God used to begin to change me. I already had a relationship with God, but everything in my life was operating at my lowest common denominator. I desperately didn’t want to be alive, living in that nightmare (even though I didn’t want to actually kill myself). I desperately wanted to hear from God, to know what to do (Divorce was not an option I was even willing to consider for months and only after speaking with a counselor and a few others). I desperately wanted to protect my daughter from emotional damage resulting from divorce, or from living with parents who had an unhealthy and then bad marriage. I desperately wanted to be done confronting, but that was not to be the case. I desperately wanted help.  And then I desperately wanted to express how I felt, to be heard and known; I was exhausted from hiding what was inside of me.

It was all of this desperation that slowly drove me to begin to live differently, to start to become healthy.

I started finding more trusted and safe people to talk to. I never realized until my life fell apart that I lived in almost complete isolation. I wasn’t a hermit (My ex is an extrovert, so I didn’t have the opportunity); I never revealed my heart to people until the end of the marriage—I don’t even think I was aware I was doing that.

During the immediate aftermath of that evening in September, I quickly realized that I was an emotional wreck. I started reading books, we saw a marriage counselor four times before he recommended divorce, and a couple of months after I told my (then) husband to leave, I began a year-and-a-half of counseling.

In this time, I became closer to God than I had ever been in my life, and more importantly, He seemed even closer to me than He had ever been. I really started to recognize His “still, small voice” because I kept running into the same messages repeatedly without even trying; this lasted for about one-and-a-half years. For example, one repeated message was from Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” I would have to find my journal that documented all of the specific details, but I ran into it six times in about a week. Someone read it at a Bible study. A parent of one of my students gave me a card, and on the back was that verse. Another friend of mine invited me over for tea, and my tea “happened” to be served in a mug that had that verse on it (I documented that on Instagram).

Another, more attention-getting example of God interrupting my daily life with goodness happened a little over a year after that September confrontation. I shut my phone off and on, and when the screen reloaded, I had a different lock screen with a picture that was not saved in my pictures—“my phone” changed the lock screen by itself. It had the following verse in Isaiah 46:4, “I am He. I am He who made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” I’m pretty sure that if God can speak through an ass (It’s in the Bible), then He can change my lock screen to reassure me that He IS taking care of me in my (then) hellish life; I also documented that lock screen on Instagram.

Within a few months of stopping counseling, I was invited to learn more about Christian spiritual direction; it was an interest meeting for Sustainable Faith’s School of Spiritual Direction, and one of my friends had just completed her first year of their two-year program. It was a perfect fit for me. I witnessed the difference spiritual direction made in my friend’s life; she was calmer and no longer living the frantic life for God. So, instead of waiting a year (my initial thought), I signed up to begin that fall. I sensed that this was the next stage of my healing journey, and in retrospect, becoming a Spiritual Director was almost a side-note to my healing. As I healed more, I felt called to spiritual direction because God was using my pain to help others, and I had a greater capacity to listen without judging people because I now had a story that others could easily judge.

Today it’s been a few months since I completed my own two-year journey in Sustainable Faith’s School of Spiritual Direction. I learned about listening to God and others, instead of simply listening in order to have something with which to reply. I practiced vulnerability with my cohort; we each shared our own stories and ongoing struggles, something that I needed, but it terrified and embarrassed me to show what felt like filthy stains on my life.  I recognized some of my own emotional blind spots and compulsions when we delved into the Enneagram. I learned that conversations are the foundation on which relationships with God and others are built.  I also saw that there are predictable stages in our journey of faith with God; my stage was easily recognizable because it looked like a wall. But most of all, I realized (and am still realizing) just how loved I am.

I lost my life and the trajectory I was on since birth, but the life I gained in return had a substance and richness that was never there before. My life with God gained a depth that I only had glimpses of previously, and I saw that God really does work everything for good for those who love Him; I saw for myself what it meant to give thanks in all things and to rejoice in suffering. These aren’t part of my personal statement of faith; I lived these. I am far from perfect; if you heard me cuss, especially in prayer, you’d probably call me a hypocrite. I just know who I am and Whose I am.

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I’m Buying A House

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Right now I’m in the process of buying a home. It’s not the first time I’ve bought a home, but it’s the first time I’ve done this as a single woman, which has been exciting and unnerving. It makes me feel very adult in the I’m-18-and-I’m-freaking-out-because-this-high-school-gig-is-up kind of way. I didn’t freak out when I was eighteen, but as a high school teacher I’ve seen some high school kids who start to grasp the whole becoming an adult reality prior to graduation. The exciting aspect of buying this home is to be expected; it’s like a physical manifestation of my new phase in life.  I finally get to live in my own space: get a dog, paint, design my back yard, have a little garden, plant rose bushes, redo cabinets, etc. Most importantly, I want my daughter to feel a sense of permanence, instead of upheaval; her life has been chaotic enough in the last couple of years, and my heart breaks for her.

But the unnerving part of home buying has really revealed my deep insecurities. I desire certainty to an unnatural degree. Yes, I’m newly divorced, my former marriage was emotionally traumatizing, and I’ve moved six times in the last seven years (even when I was married). For those familiar with MBTI, I’m an extroverted feeler (No, that doesn’t make me an extrovert). I can read other people’s emotions (often without even realizing it), and I sometimes feel like a mind reader—but I’m not. Despite that, or because of that, I’m incredibly good at detaching from my own emotions; I can describe my personal experiences like a third person narrator without trying. It takes a lot of effort to connect with how I truly feel because I’ve had a lifetime of not allowing myself to go there. I usually don’t know my own feelings until I feel them in my body or talk them out with a friend, and right now my shoulders are stiff like steel. I’ve had daily headaches for over a week, but thankfully today has just been tension, rather than pain. My anxiety has also been my ever-present shadow. Thankfully, I haven’t had any anxiety attacks recently, but my anxiety has another physical side, dizziness. My counselor and naturopath have separately observed that I exhibit symptoms of mild PTSD, which is connected to this dizziness.

In all of this home buying, I desperately want to do the right thing. I want to provide the best environment for my daughter, and I want to make wise financial decisions.  I’ve prayed a lot before and during this process, I’ve had other people pray too, and I’ve seen some answers to prayer. I know that I’m doing the right thing, but as in every experience in my life, I’m scared. What do I do when I’m scared? I pray a lot, although never enough. I read my Bible, but not because I have to—I want to. One fear I have gotten over is the fear that God is ready to hit me or punish me if I screw up. I grasp His love so much more than I used to; I know He’s not ready to punish me because I’m His. He just wants me to know Him and to let Him know me. Talking with Him and remembering His character and promises calms me down. I still have a long way to go though.

~Christine