And So the Story Goes, Part 1
God convicted me several years ago that when He does something good for me, it is a part of my testimony and testimonies are meant to be shared. I’ve been sitting on this one for a while now and only those who are especially close to me are aware of what God did in my life between the ages of 28-31. I don’t know how to condense this story any more than I have, so it will be posted in several parts. We’ll see as we go along how many posts it takes…
When I was 11 years old, a special speaker came to our church and left a permanent mark on me. I wish I knew exactly who she was, but all I remember is that she spoke at a mother-daughter banquet. She talked to us young women about praying for our futures. She said our parents could pray, but we had a responsibility to pray as well. She pricked my heart as she challenged us to pray for our future husband and children. She gave us specifics – for healthy, godly children; for a godly husband – the right husband. I remember thinking that if I started praying that young for those things, I would have the BEST husband and the most healthy, whole, and godly children of anyone. And so I prayed and prayed and prayed.
Fast-forward 15 years to the summer of 2002 and you’ll find me at age 26, still single. I had been given several opportunities to get married and had declined them all because they were not what I had prayed for. I was holding out hope for the man who was sent directly by God to me with no question and no compromise. Then a series of unfortunate events occurred and exposed the weakness of my faith, causing me to lose even more faith in church leaders than I already had. I had what might be called a crisis of faith. It’s not that I lost my faith in God; it’s more that I began to seriously question my own standards and whether my faith was actually “faith” or if I was some kind of narcissist who believed she was special and should have the best of everything. I wondered if, in reality, God just expected me to use my common sense and instincts to find a good man and marry him – rather than wait for some “Divine appointment” to occur.
I ended up falling in love with a guy from church who was a good, solid, Christian man. He was financially responsible, funny, professional, intelligent, well-educated, and honest. We were friends for several years before we dated. I had never been romantically interested in him until one day a switch flipped inside me and I suddenly was. I couldn’t explain the switch and thought it must be from God. After a year of dating, we got engaged and began pre-marriage counseling. It was then that we realized that we weren’t actually a good match for each other. It was extremely painful, and we tried really hard to make it work. He thought it would be fine to keep dating indefinitely and continue working on our issues. I thought if we were going to keep working at it, we might as well do so married. At an impasse, we broke up. To say my heart was broken in a million pieces is not overstating things. I was devastated. I was now 28 years old and no closer to my goal of marriage and children.
During the time that we were trying to work things out, I got very sick. I ended up in the hospital with what they finally diagnosed as mono and severe tonsillitis. I was physically weak for about a year following that sickness. At the same time, nearly every one of my closest friends moved away. The cost of living went up dramatically and my salary did not, leaving me so financially strapped that I began selling my furniture and anything I didn’t absolutely need in order to pay bills. I sold my beloved VW Jetta and drove my parent’s old, beat up Chevy Corsica. On top of everything else, things at my job suddenly turned sour.
I had worked for the same company for six years and loved my time there. I had been in my department for three years when my boss retired. The woman who replaced her didn’t get much training and struggled to manage the department. I tried to help her, teaching her everything I knew about the job. I liked her and thought we had a good relationship, but somewhere along the way things changed. She suddenly turned on me and found something wrong with everything I did. For four months I was under a vicious attack, but nothing could be found against me so I maintained my job and had the support of her superiors. But a person can only take that for so long. It was extremely humbling. One of the most painful things about it was that my co-workers, who I had been very close to over the years, were forced to turn their backs on me to preserve their own jobs. Only one of them stood with me.
I had also been very active in my church for several years. We had a Sunday school class of 400-500 people (crazy, I know…) and I was the volunteer social activities coordinator. We did all kinds of fun things and I loved it. We were led by a dynamic preacher who was an assistant pastor at the church. He ended up leaving the church due to moral failure and that blew our group apart. Many stopped attending the church and our social network basically disintegrated.
I was at the end of my rope. This was the winter of 2003/2004 – one of the darkest times of my entire life.
But the good news is that something positive always seems to come out of those dark times. I had always kept journals, but during that especially difficult time, it seemed I couldn’t get through a day without writing. I wrote page after page, pouring out my feelings and discovering that I was able to figure things out on paper a lot better than in my head. As I wrote, it often felt like a Divine hand was guiding me and the words that came to the page were from some other place inside of me – a place I couldn’t find any other way.
It was during those times of journaling that I gained the courage to do what I knew God had called me to do.