(Trigger warning: mentions of childhood sexual abuse)
I have this friend. Ashley is a dreamer, a visionary. She created a ministry, a movement really, called Overcome the Lie. Its goal is “to raise up a company of women who will walk in wholeness and identity, declare the truth boldly and advance the Kingdom with passion and power.” Ashley has launched a 40 Day Challenge to women to seek a fuller understanding and experience of God’s love. Friends, she sends an email challenge every day for 40 days! She’s amazing like that. There is one challenge that won’t let me go: What is your history with God? What memories have you made together?
…I joined Your Table and received You for the first time? At eight years old, I stood at the altar, all in white, waiting for You. Over the years, You’ve revealed the significance of Your life in me. I cherish witnessing Anna and Clare celebrate their Communions too, and it warms my heart to see them stand in line to receive You each Sunday.
…Dr. Wolf, the parish Music Director, visited my third grade classroom to ask for volunteers to help with weekly all-school Masses? I was so excited to check the line next to “cantor”. For years, he gave me small parts to sing…until Holy Thursday one year. I got a whole hymn during Communion! I hope You liked it.
…I continued singing for you in high school? The Campus Ministry needed help with Holy Day Masses. How was I riddled with insecurity about everything but that? Well, I think I know…
…I dated my first real boyfriend for way too long and then finally got the courage to break it off? And You brought a certain Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome promptly into my life?
…You urged me to make the theme of my B.F.A. senior art exhibit about You? And I stood in front of the not-so-loving-of-Catholicism-even-though-it-was-a-Catholic-university faculty for my oral defense. My heart pounded hard inside me as I searched for words to explain that, with the gift of creativity comes great responsibility. That elephant dung-crusted paintings of Your mom are not respectful, responsible…or art. I hope someone learned more about You that day.
…I ended up standing in front of a room full of 5 year olds whose parents placed their education in my hands for a year and a half? I’m not convinced that competitive all-day kindergarten is inspired by You. Nor am I convinced that I should have been teaching those little souls. But, You laid a bedrock of catechesis there for me…and added a generous dollop of humility.
…I made a covenant before You, promising to love, honor, and cherish Mark for as long as we live?
…After a year of sticks with one lonely pink line, one month there were two? And Mark and I held out until our bundle popped out to hear, “It’s a girl!” And then I got a spinal headache, learned how to use a breast pump stat, left our baby after just 4 days to get a blood patch? You grew my heart to consider it as nothing but pure sacrificial mother’s love.
…You gifted me with Mary’s wise counsel? And she gave me the courage and support to cut ties with the unrepentant family member who abused me? I think that’s when I began feeling like a adult. Facing evil head on will do that. Thank you for carrying me.
…You prompted us to name our next bundle of joy Grace? Because You’ve had a lot to teach me about that.
…You heard the cry of my heart and planted a gem of a friend in my life? And she’s bloomed into an all-out sister? Thanks is not enough…
…You pulled the string to begin unraveling my wrong thinking about You and what this life is really about, through the Christ Renews His Parish retreat program? You began to teach me how to love better.
…You decided we needed a little more testosterone in the family? And I was miserable-sick for nine months and begged for the mercy of of birth just so I could drink a simple glass of water again? Truth? I still don’t know what to say about that experience. Thanks for the grace to endure.
…I couldn’t determine whether my fertility was returning after Anthony? Fear was no chihuahua then. More like an enormous grizzly, bearing its teeth, swiping at me with its claws, jeering: You’re doing this whole Natural Family Planning thing WHY?! You’ll never survive another pregnancy. What kind of witness are you? And yet. You pulled me through. A lesson in obedience…and more that I’m still trying to figure out.
…You gave me this blogging platform? And directed me to places like (in)courage, DaySpring and Allume. In this upside down world, I discovered the place where my voice is most authentic–in a permanent public forum.
…You surrounded me with unbelievable online friendships that transferred offline and into my heart?
…You prompted my incredible family to send me to Allume, where I learned the impact of true community and You gifted me with a heart sister who shattered my inchoate understanding of friendship?
…That other friendship of mine began to implode, and bleed and ooze, scar? And then, one by one, each family member faced a devastation in turn? And I remarked aloud that I couldn’t handle one more thing…You gently reminded me that they didn’t need me to be their savior…because they already have One. And Your grace was yet again sufficient.
…You flooded my heart with Truth that broke my chains of fear, anxiety, discouragement, depression, and insecurity? By gifting me with Andrea’s guidance, You set me on a path of healthy emotional living.
…Mark’s school district slashed their budget and told him good-bye? I had a giant ugly cry and developed temporary amnesia of my newfound emotional health. You held me in the unknown time, until You brought us a new budget.
…Pat died. And the world stopped. Grief, disbelief and denial stole the breath of thousands as we mourned the unthinkable tragedy that widowed my precious friend and robbed four babies of their daddy. This singular event and its aftermath, perhaps more than any other, simultaneously broke my heart and propelled me straight to the heart of Yours.
…You placed me on Holley’s God-sized Dream Team? And again surrounded me with tenderhearted, encouraging prayer warriors who weekly spur me on in my dream? This is my now. My now…when You strip away layer after layer of bondage from the effects of childhood sexual abuse. My now…when You gently reveal a love that moves me from debilitating to thriving. My now…when you convict my heart that Your agony on the cross conquered my anguish from abuse. My now…when Your love reveals that Your wounds heal mine. You continue to faithfully reveal Your love, patiently, gently teaching me.
We have quite a history, You and me.
We made some incredible memories together.
Have you thought about the memories that you and Jesus share?
What’s one of your favorites?
And if you write them out as I’ve done, would you consider sharing them with me?