What I offer you now is what I believe ; it is not a doctrinal discussion, a theological theory or a religious argument; it is simply from my heart, what Jesus, His death, burial and Resurrection means to me. It is how The Holy Spirit of God has moved in my life and changed me from the inside out. This is my testimony, it hasn’t changed since October 27, 1993, and this is what I base my life and death on, my here and my eternity on. I believe it with my whole heart and I am sharing my heart with you as one who loves and respects you. Do with it as you will, but know it is shared with love.
Finally- I can enjoy being a woman! Mama always said forty would be freeing, but at twenty, I thought that was her way of coping with the ever-increasing numbers. Now that I’m here, I have to say, I’m enjoying the view.
I learned at an early age that being a girl was a bad thing. We were the cooks, maids, caregivers and punching bags. We were the toys and the tissues to be used and then discarded. I learned that even though we filled so many roles, we had no value or worth. I learned at an early age that it was much safer for a girl to be invisible and silent, but if we had to be seen or heard we had better be charming, endearing, satisfying. Yeah, it was hard being a girl. I always thought, “When I get older, it will get better”.
Sadly, I “developed” early. Breasts were my nemesis; curves, the bane of my existence. It was a lot harder to be invisible with those things poking out for all the world to see. So I did what any girl in my position would do- I ate. I covered those curves the best I could in layers of chocolate bars and baggy clothes. Since girls weren’t worth the cost of food, weight gain was a challenge; but I rose to that challenge by being charming, endearing, and satisfying. Summer held no allure for me; it took away my safety zones: school and baggy sweatshirts. I was certain, when I got older, it would get better.
School, my once safe haven, turned to a microcosm of rules that didn’t fit any better than my clothes. Power seemed to change hands daily, but never into mine. Until that is I learned that if I gave “it” away first, then no one could take “it” away. Twisted logic I know, but I was groping for power wherever I could find it. I mean, you can only eat so many Snickers bars, right? And I hoped that when I got older, when I finished school it would get better.
Instead, I got married. That’s what girls were supposed to do right? Even smart ones; besides, I was in love with him, and so was he. I know he loved me too; he just always loved himself more. He loved my curves, as long as they were the right size and in the right places. He loved my creativity, and my imagination, and he loved my emotions, so long as they never inconvenienced him or cost him anything, especially time or money. And I realized I loved him more than I loved myself. For years I hoped if I could be what he wanted me to be, think, say and feel it would get better.
So I got a divorce. Exactly one week before our ninth wedding anniversary I became a divorcee. Suddenly, in addition to all the other labels I had allowed the world to affix to me, not to mention those I had added on my own, I had more repulsive labels: single mom, divorce’, college dropout, failure! But just about that time, I met someone. He told me things about myself I had never known. He touched me in ways no one ever had. His love was so big that it frightened me and I resisted it for a while. I didn’t understand it, and I was sure I didn’t deserve it; he was much too good for me. Suddenly, instead of hearing that I was worthless, I was hearing that I should be cherished. Instead of my body being used for someone else’s amusement, I was being told that it was mine, as was the choice to share it. No more pressure, no more expectations, no more hiding. I couldn’t’ believe it. I mean, I really couldn’t believe it- it was too good to be true.
Only it wasn’t.
Suddenly, or not so suddenly, it began to get better. Suddenly, or maybe not so suddenly, it began to feel safe to be a woman. Suddenly, or perhaps finally, I could feel comfortable in my skin and in my spirit. After all this time, I finally began to know that I’ve always had a purpose. I know this because God’s word says so. In the book of Psalms, chapter 139, verse 16 I found that “[God] saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in [His] book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” God knew all about me. He knew the mistakes I would make, the character flaws I would have, the lives I would touch, the pain I would endure. And He created me for such a time as this because my purpose however great or small is a part of His plan.
I have been raped, abused, molested, beaten, homeless, hungry, rich, poor, and abandoned. I have been a stepchild, a foster child, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I have been promiscuous, worldly, and vain. I have done things that I wish I had not done. I have not done things that I know should have. I have been a gossip, a liar, a cheat, a thief. I have been drunk, high, and I’ve been both very good and very bad. I share all of this now not because I’m proud of my past, but because what I have learned is that there is no forgiveness without repentance, we cannot change what we will not acknowledge, and that without a test there is no testimony.
On October 27, 1993, which was the day my divorce was final, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I believed again that things would get better.
And they have.
I had been reading a book called Search for Significance. I had hoped to learn how to be good enough for God to love only to find that I never could be, and He loved me already, just the way I was. I’d been contemplating getting closer to God, listening to Christian music and watching “Christian programming”. He had been wooing me for a while but I was too ashamed to consider that He might really love me. I do not remember a time that I didn’t know something about God, something about Jesus, but on this night in October, sitting on my front porch, feeling more alone than I ever had in my life, I met God. I cried out “Jesus, if you’re really there please come and save me. Change my heart and change my life because I can’t do this alone. I can’t go on like this.” I felt the most real love that I’d felt in my entire life. I didn’t expect that feeling because I’d always seen God as some great task master in the sky that was counting my mistakes, keeping a tally of them and punishing me for them. To call out to God and have him love me, completely, just the way I was; that was huge to me. It was more than I could fathom really. But, I felt love; clean, pure and real as it never had been before. And even though it may sound ridiculous, it was as if there was a physical presence right there with me on that cold front porch. I felt His warmth around me, His loving presence telling me I wasn’t alone, that He did love me and would never leave me. I didn’t understand it, but I accepted it finally because I needed it so badly. I needed to know His love. Looking back I realize I needed to know that love so that I could begin to know I mattered simply because I existed: not because of any event or circumstance in my life.
I needed things to get better.
And they have.
I did not suddenly become wise or even suddenly reconcile the hurt from my past to the promise of my future. However, I knew without any doubt that God loved me exactly as I was. Moreover, I came to know that God had a purpose for me, that all the days that came before, and that all the days to come were a part of that purpose. In acknowledging that, I finally became free from the chains that had kept me bound and ineffective. Some of them were placed on me by others but some, and the hardest ones to break are the ones that I placed on myself. It was a relief to know that the weight of the world was NOT on my shoulders, because it had already been on the shoulders of my savior, Jesus. He had already paid the price for my freedom, and He loved me from the beginning more than I loved myself, and more than I could fathom, and no matter what, I could not change His great love for me. His Holy Spirit reminds me often that I am loved in many ways, and that is why I know God The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit are real, and are One. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt because of all that I have survived, learned, and am experiencing still.
And things have continued to get better.
I have enjoyed watching my children grow up feeling safe and loved and valued. I enjoy those feelings myself these days too. I enjoy all of my curves at forty+, which is good because there are considerably more these days. I finally feel comfortable in my skin, and my spirit. I know the value of my words, and emotions, and even, dare I say it, my memories. Yes, mama was right: forty is freeing. I can finally enjoy being a woman, and I am sure enjoying the view. And all of it is thanks to God and His amazing grace.
God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them!