This is what I wrote this morning:
I don’t know what to write as my last article before Christmas.
Should I be vulnerable by sharing the story of how I moved closer to you, thus opening myself up to attack? Or do I play it safe?
Then I remembered: I wouldn’t be where I am today if I was overly cautious, so here it goes…
BABY JESUS WOULD…
Because the world is celebrating this Holiday deeply divided over what this season’s all about, I am taking a risk in sharing my personal experience. (See A below.)
When I look upon a manger scene, I try not to get swept up in the beauty of a father and mother gazing upon their child. I can’t help but remember Baby Jesus would grow up intending to die for a world that’s free to hate him, despite his love.
This is my experience of getting to know God through that infant/man.
When I was very young, a single encounter of sexual abuse at the hands of a male babysitter caused me to grow up thinking “sex equals love.”
A few years later, a single encounter of spiritual & physical abuse at the hands of the person in charge that Sunday caused me to grow up terrified of God.
And while it was good to be wired to do the right thing–to turn the other cheek and defend those who couldn’t defend themselves–it also made me a doormat.
These abuses, along with many other betrayals, caused a deep, lingering depression by elementary school. But in high school, the emptiness and loneliness of life was temporarily banished in the arms of guys, and I had one long-term relationship after another.
When I began college and met a guy I’ll call Mr. 12-Step. He talked about God as if He wasn’t terrifying; as if He was kind and interested in our daily lives. This guy really wanted to live out God’s will each day. It was so beautiful I began living that way too.
I attended a group for Co-Dependents, and worked the 12-Steps. But deep inside I was still alone and empty and seeking.
After a short but intense relationship ended, I sank into a deep depression. I was lonely, but more than that, I was sick of wanting a relationship so much, yet fearing it at the same time. I was at rock bottom!
This was it. Two paths were before me: More of the same life or something new.
I wanted something new.
So I did the only thing I knew: I put myself in counseling, which helped a little, but then a friend invited me to a good old southern revival, where a woman said that asking God to be Lord meant asking Him to be my boss.
I told thought, “Well, I’ve doubled my efforts to do the right thing since meeting Mr. 12-Step a few years ago, so let’s do this,” and at age 20, I began knowing God much more personally.
But I still had more to learn about Jesus as Savior.
Weeks later someone explained that on the cross Jesus said something like,
punish me now
for every bad thing
this girl will ever do,
so she can be with us
Remember how I said I always aimed to do the right thing, to put others first, that sort of thing?
-These new words helped me see that getting to heaven was about HIS sacrifice.
-My doing the right thing wasn’t what earned my spot in heaven.
-Doing the right thing was just a way to thank Him for taking my spot in hell.
I became a new person that day, and I committed to remain celibate until marriage. (I was successful in that commitment, by the way.)
But even greater: Finally (finally!) I had something no one could take away from me.
This was my thinking:
“My future children can grow up to leave,
my future husband can cheat on me,
and others can take my freedom away,
But even then they can’t take God away from me.”
I wasn’t alone anymore.
I stopped dating for a while because a new fear developed: I didn’t know how much I could want a good relationship with a guy before it replaced God. Constantly second-guessing myself was exhausting, so I quit dating.
I believe this choice led to two beautiful years of drawing closer to God, and God only. I didn’t have a church home, so God became my home. I had no pastor, so the Spirit became my teacher.
I continued to work the 12-Steps, only now I focused more on forgiveness. It took over a year of intense focus, but I forgave many of the people in my past for the betrayals and abuse. As those heavy burdens fell off me, I found myself smiling a lot more.
I wish I could say life was nothing but smiles and butterflies from then on, but if you know other parts of my story, you know it’s not the case. I can say, however, I wouldn’t have made it through my husband’s addiction without the child many celebrate during Christmas.
And I can say the BEST part is this: Even if my husband returns to porn and lying, I don’t fear that possibility as much anymore. I trust God will be with me then too, because he’s proven his love for me, time and time again.
So it’s his love I’m celebrating this Holiday Season—his love shown through Baby Jesus who would grow up with a mission to offer this self-sacrificial love to all.
A) Am I a zealot? Hardly. I’m open to people from all belief systems, and I’ll never force my beliefs on them. I’m confident enough in God—and them—that they’re exactly where they want to be every day of their lives… even at the end.