I grew up in a home where my I assumed that we were “normal” and the way my family “did life” was nothing less than perfect. My father was a pastor and my mom was a labor and delivery nurse. They both claimed Christ for salvation and modeled their version of “Christianity”. What I didn’t realize then was that their model was pharisaical, duty-bound, and fear-filled. Perfection was expected. To impart this value even deeper was the fact that my father was a very angry man, which often displayed itself in verbal and emotional abuse at home and at church. Hence, the major source of my fear growing up. To compound matters even more, my mom (whom I had elevated to supreme example of Christian woman) backed my father, covered for him without fail, and thereby enabled him to continue on the path of anger and abuse from my childhood through today. Even to this day, my mom has continued to faithfully carry out her mantra that “we are a close knit family”. Her insistence on holding up an idealistic, but false picture frame of perfection led me to a deep confusion and inner battle that still haunts me at times today. I actually left for college believing that I had an ideal childhood experience. It was only years later, after our marriage was headed for divorce and we had 3 children, that I came face to face with the possibility that the “picture perfect family” was a phony cover for an ugly lifestyle of sinful anger, rebellion, and abuse.
At that time in my life, my husband and I were living on seminary campus (of all places). It was then that I turned my back on the God of my childhood, enraged at His seeming lack of love and protection. I hated church, hated God, hated seminary, and hated pastors. My hatred and confusion took a hard toll on my relationship with my husband, who was also struggling with anger. Each day, I would wake up wondering what we would fight about and wishing for the day to be over. I stumbled farther and farther into depression to the point where I was ready to take my own life. I remember literally dropping our 9-month-old daughter to the floor and running away to drown myself in the nearby pond. I was at my lowest point.
I had trusted Christ as my Savior back when I was only eight years old. I had been sincere. I gave Him my whole heart, but now, that meant nothing to me. All I saw was that God was a sham and I wanted nothing to do with Him or with trying to maintain some “picture perfect life” that had no depth.
I don’t know how long I wandered outside, barefoot, waiting for enough courage to put my “plan” in motion. But God stepped in even though I hated Him and He knew it. He loved me even then and would not let me go. My husband found me sitting alone, pulled me up, handed me our daughter and told me to come home because they needed me. I remember walking back to the 900 square foot apartment as numb as if I were dead, but I wasn’t dead, God had just rescued me. The climb back was difficult, excruciating, slow, and seemingly endless.
Chris sacrificially laid himself aside for the sake of our marriage and sought counseling to help him correctly deal with his own anger issues, which eventually led me to also seek counseling to help me deal with my abusive past and help me take responsibility for my own actions in our marriage. The journey was painstakingly slow and Chris and I still fought a lot, but gradually it became less frequent. Steadily, we both stopped wishing for divorce and we both stopped seeing darkness everywhere in our marriage. Chris took the lead and began learning how to love me as Christ loved the church, and for the first time, I was learning how to recognize and receive real love. Chris mirrored Christ’s love for me so beautifully, not perfectly, but obediently, so that eventually, I was able to really truly see God’s own love for me through the actions and selflessness of my husband.
I came to the realization that God didn’t hate me, He hadn’t abandoned me, and it wasn’t His perfect plan that I had grown up in an abusive home. He had plans for me and I could trust that He was GOOD and altogether without fear because He was perfect love. He was redeeming love.
As I have continued growing in His grace and learning more about His character, He has faithfully continued to redeem my life from the pit of my past. He has blessed my marriage in ways I never could have imagined. He has given me a beautiful family where His love reigns and fear has no place. He has humbled me by giving me places to serve, people to minister to and love on. I am abundantly blessed today because I have found what is real. I have traded in “fake” for “genuine” and “fear” for “love”….Redeeming Love.
Though I have no idea what the future holds, I know that my God is a good and loving God who is trustworthy and I will spend my days telling of His incredible goodness, not only to me, but also His redemptive love that He holds out to each of us. Blessed be the name of the Lord, for He is a strong shelter, mighty deliverer, and loving Abba Father!