I used to think I didn’t really have a good story – a grand testimony of major proportion like many I’ve heard. I grew up in church so there wasn’t really much “life before God”. I felt like I had known about who he was my whole life and in some ways I did. I knew “about” Him, I tried to walk the walk, I read my bible, I had a relationship– but I did not know Him intimately – all the parts of Him –until I surrendered my whole heart to Him in the midst of my greatest pains and disappointments.
I realized this week as I traveled to a foreign country that God has not only used my life but that he has written a beautiful love story with it. I just didn’t see it as such – until now. As I prepared to speak to these beautiful Nicaraguan women about “my life” – I could see that God has taken every hurt, every thought, every abuse and used it to draw me unto Himself. This is what I shared with them. No matter where you are in your life God SEES you. In this moment. Whether you are far from him or so close you can feel his breath-you are not forgotten. You are not somehow disqualified. He knows YOUR name. He knows YOUR pain. He sees YOU!
There is nothing special about me except that I am special to God – and so are you.
We have to stop seeing ourselves as less than and invisible because of our circumstances. “My life didn’t turn out the way I planned”. “This happened to me.” “God could never use me”. I’ve said them all. And this was certainly not the plan I had for my life but I am convinced that God can do more with my broken and shattered and rebuilt heart – than he ever could with my untouched, hardened original heart of stone.
No matter what you are facing today He is in your midst and writing YOUR beautiful love story.
When I first found out that I was going to speak to these women I thought what could I possibly say to women who live in extreme poverty and the most dire of circumstances on a daily basis that would resonate with them at all. Turns out God knew exactly what needed to be said for this very moment. That while my particular circumstances were different – the pain and abuses that we suffered were the same. The dire need for our souls to be set free from the lies of the enemy that tells us we are nothing, we have nothing, we will never be anything. That while we lived in different places and different cultures – we are all the same – women who suffer pain-of all kinds. Women with a need to be seen and heard and loved-not judged and used and thrown to the side. Women who GOD sees and loves and has not forgotten. These things cross all boundaries. There is no language barrier to Gods love. There is no distance too great for him to send us to remind women that they are not invisible. Even if it was just for ONE. It is not waisted.
Standing in front of these women was a full circle moment for me with the Lord. A story I was living became vivid and beautiful and healing all at the same time. A reminder that Jesus was with me in every single moment-holding me, leading me, loving me. All for his purpose and glory. To share with others His beauty and grace and love for ALL!! A grand testimony of HIS faithfulness in my life and His love story to me.
This is what I shared with them….
God sees YOU.
In this very moment of your struggle. He knows your name. He knows your heart. He knows every hurt and need.
My story begins as a little girl full of hopes and dreams for my life. I accepted Christ at the age of 10 – maybe more because my friends were doing it than of an understanding of “who” I was accepting. I was raised to be a “follower”. So I began to follow rules. I believed growing up that if I did not do everything perfectly that God was mad at me. That I wasn’t loved or deserving. I tried to do everything right just to please people. The problem with having rules to follow is that I was completely unable to do it on my own. My will power, my strength, my desire to be good was not enough. But I tried really hard. And got really good at pretending. And while I called myself a Christ follower I couldn’t have been farther from God.
When I was 18 I left home to be “an adult” but I was still very much a child. I was sinful in so many ways. All the things that I had promised God I would never do – became who I was-or how I identified myself. I began to view myself as only valuable when I could turn a mans head. The enemy began to lie to me in ways I wholeheartedly believed. I became highly sexual, I used drugs, I drank and buried myself in the “party scene”. All mechanisms to cope with what I had done. But even during this time I tried to look on the outside like I had it all together when inside I was dying in my sinfulness, shame and regret.
My heart was broken repeatedly by men. I had been raped, devalued, objectified, as well as “willing” to participate in sinful acts. I believed that If I became a willing participant-the aggressor- that I would be in control and therefore unable to be hurt again. I became hardened, bitter, lonely and oh so afraid. Ten long years of destroying myself all for the fear of pleasing men. And an obvious inability to change. All the while God was holding me and guiding me in ways I wouldn’t discover until years later.
When I was 28 I moved away from my past, my sinful surroundings, my constant reminder of my failures. God was wooing me to come back and be set free – but I didn’t know how to find that freedom. Again I “tried” in my own strength to start over, to be “good”, to sin “less” – and I failed. Again and again and again I failed.
3 years later I met my husband and fell in love with a complete façade. I thought “finally” – its my turn to be happy – this is gonna be good. I wish I could say that it was good. I was with this man for 13 years. After the first 2-3 it became the hardest part of my life. What was supposed to be joy filled became more bitter heart break. In a relationship that God intended for both people to find joy and satisfaction in one another became some of the worst years that I would ever know. I was unrecognizable. Invisible. So I felt. I was not seen, I was not heard, my opinions did not matter, my dreams were stupid. My thoughts couldn’t possibly mean what I said or have any real value. My faith was a punching bag for his amusement and ridicule and for pointing out how colossally I failed at it on a daily basis. I was nothing. Noone. Even as a wife. For years I prayed that God would change his heart. I begged, pleaded, bargained – no change. I learned to keep my mouth shut and my head down just to keep the peace. During those years I learned to pray in a different way. I began to ask God to change ME. Help me. Love me. I was emptied of myself year after year. Still no change. At least not for good. My husband began a deeper descent into the darkness as I was steady grasping for any ray of light or hope. Until it became unmanageable and unsafe for my children. The hardest decision I ever had to make was to leave that life – even though it was an unstable and volatile one.
In the months and years to come I would finally discover my true identity.
During this time there had to be an “undoing” in me. Layers upon layers of lies that I had been told about myself that I had believed throughout my whole life.
I’m no one without someone.
Its my fault.
I deserve this.
I didn’t do enough.
I didn’t try hard enough.
I should have stayed.
I gave up too soon.
I’m not strong enough.
The list is endless……
All lies from the enemy that I had buried deep inside me.
In his infinite and merciful grace decided at THIS moment in time – face down on the floor, crying out to him, in the most painful days I could have ever imagined – to reveal himself to me in a way that I had never known . A beautiful image in the spirit that I will never forget of Him saying I love you Joy. I’ve got “this” and I’ve got you. You don’t have to be afraid.
And so began my freedom in Christ and my journey to healing. A moment that would forever mark me and change me. At 44 years old I finally met Jesus! Not just the bible school Jesus. Or the Jesus loves me this I know Jesus. But the lover of my soul – redeemer of every part of my life – real and tangible and present – Jesus!
Thankfully, I can look back on my life and see how he has used every part of it. Every hurt. Every abuse. Every single thing done to me and every single thing I willingly participated in. And He is using it to draw myself and others unto him.
So my words to you are:
I see you.
God sees you.
You are not invisible.
You are not disposable.
You are not forgotten.
You are seen by your heavenly father that loves you more than you may know in this very moment. And he is calling you unto himself. All you have to do is say “YES LORD”. Fully surrender it all to the only one – Jesus Christ – who has everything you need for this life. I pray that you will say yes and find your freedom too.
To grant to those who mourn in Zion-to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that HE may be glorified.
There is therefore now NO condemnation in Christ Jesus.
He has borne our guilt and shame.
His word says that I am:
Redeemed, forgiven, loved, whole, a new creation, righteous, beautiful, a daughter of the king
I AM FREE!