a story about the unexpected and the prayed for
I have a dear, unlikely friend. He’s known my family for years. He actually met my Dad through mutual work acquaintances a few months before my Mom was killed in a terrible car accident, and he and my Dad sort of just adopted one another. They remind me of the odd couple, in a way. My Dad is really opinionated, very rigid, and always matter of fact- while the other is more idealistic and fluid, but with a strangely innocent quality. He was cloistered by his parents as a child so he lacked a certain amount of life experience for his age, while my Dad was thrust into adult situations very early in life, which made him knowledgeable, but jaded. While the two couldn’t really be more different, they have been friends now for well over twenty years. I think it kinda surprises everyone at times.
I was never friends with him. I was one of the kids, and he was one of my Dad’s friends. Even so, we all got to know him really well and he became like an Uncle to us, attending all of our family functions, birthday parties, helping the family with love and support whenever we fell on hard times-which was often- and just being there. He was always there to help with a ready hand. He wasn’t perfect, but he was good.
When I had my son in November of 2009, I remember him coming to the house to see the new baby. I hadn’t really seen him in a few years, off and on, but not much. He looked different. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I felt like something was off. We kept sporadic phone contact, and then he just sort of fell off the radar. A few years later, I randomly got a call from him.
“Hey! How’s life been treating you?”
“Well, I’m actually packing my bags right now, I got a Protective Order yesterday against my husband, and I’m getting a divorce. I have three days to get everything into storage.”
Silence on the other end…
“Do you have a place to go? You can stay here. I won’t charge you anything. You can stay here until you get back on your feet.”
He never even hesitated.
Of course, I was apprehensive about it. I had found out that he had developed a drinking problem. I knew he lived really far away and that it would be isolating. I was scared of single motherhood and unsure of myself. But he was offering me something that I thought I hadn’t had in so long- help. And I really needed it.
Before getting married, my ex-husband and I had begun attending church at the request of his brother and I was horrified at the prospect, but I went anyway to shut him up. I ended up attending that church for about four years and YHVH spoke to me in the quiet of the sanctuary.
Then my life fell apart.
How do you know you’ve been saved? Because the Devil is on your back.
My ex-husband and I had been using drugs, we slept together before marriage, we talked badly about almost everyone, didn’t clean our house, stole from work, you name it. We were both just generally bad people. We partied way too hard and stayed up way too late. Life was a game for us. Nothing really mattered, except making sure that we had our little bag of goodies and tickets to the next drug-fueled party. However, everything changed when I stepped into that church building… When I went to church, YHVH ruined my life. He had to. I was on a collision course that would have ended in death. So the Father set about the task of tearing down every terrible thing that I had built, so He could rebuild something greater. I just didn’t know it at the time.
A week before my 24th birthday I was raped at work by my boss. I hid my clothes, and the rapist’s friends broke into our apartment and destroyed everything looking for the evidence. I filled out a police report. Nothing happened. No investigation. No help. I lost my job. Then my ex-husband (he was my boyfriend during this time) lost his job because we worked at the same place. Several months later my former boss raped another girl. No help. My boyfriend fell asleep while driving on a meth binge and crashed into an illegal gang member’s car. Men showed up at our apartment with guns demanding money for three months. No help. We lost our ability to pay our bills, so we stole water from the neighbor to bathe and used candles for light. We could barely eat because our gums would bleed from the drugs. We were pulled over several times for the car being in awful road condition. No help. We fought all the time. And it was bad. I was arrested for aggravated felony battery and when I tried to explain to the cops that I was trying to defend myself because my boyfriend was blacked out and tried to kill me, they just took me to the infirmary in the jail and treated my cuts and cracked ribs. But because my boyfriend was too drunk to give a statement, and they didn’t find the meth in the apartment, they dropped my charges. OK- maybe some help. And that’s how life continued for a while. When we eventually lost our apartment and had to move back in with my Dad, I quit doing meth. Cold Turkey. I couldn’t make myself put my Dad through the same thing my Mom had put him through. I slept and ate for what seemed like weeks, my frail 95-pound frame slowly coming back to life. I thought I started to feel hope. I thought we both got clean and recovered. We didn’t. Only I did.
Flash forward a few years. I’m clean- at least from meth now, and going to church. My life is in shambles. I still smoke grass and cigarettes, and I still get drunk a lot. I also have my SSRI medication for all the depression and suicidal thoughts. I cry myself to sleep most nights. I think I want to die. We still fight all the time. I have bruises and marks of domestic violence. I sometimes cut myself to manage the emotional pain. I am severely mentally ill and frequently non-functional. He is severely abusive and frequently drunk.
We get pregnant. We’re almost 12 weeks when we lose the baby. I am devastated. The fighting gets worse. I begin to lose any sense of desire for my life and I just want to give up. I want to plant yellow roses for my baby, and my boyfriend won’t let me. He wants to spend the money on drugs. I start to dig deep into the scriptures to try to get some sort of answer as to why I think YHVH wants me to lose my mind. I find something else instead.
I started to really read the Bible, and I found scriptures about having the ability in Christ to overcome sin. The ability to throw off the chains of bondage and live freely in Yeshua. I thought, “I can do that-YHVH will help me!” I had a precious responsibility to do it. The rules still applied to me, but they were actually called “Good Works” and they went hand in hand with my salvation by grace through faith. I would have to work hard, but I could lean on YHVH for strength! I could repent and YHVH was faithful to forgive!
Wait… That’s not what my church taught…
I was confused.
My boyfriend’s dad was a preacher- I’d ask him. He’d know…
I wish that I could tell you at this point in the story that I found support and loving guidance from a 35-year seasoned pastor, but I had misjudged his Father. I was told by the whole family that I had misunderstood the words in the scriptures. I didn’t read them right. Somehow the black and white, very clear print needed to be interpreted- and that could only be done by someone with far more spiritual experience and understanding than I had. I was an idiot. I just didn’t get it. Grace is all that matters. Those are rules that were given only to the Israelites in the old testament, and they didn’t apply to new believers. I was wrong. And now, because I pressed the issues and searched hard for the answers I wasn’t allowed to talk about it at home anymore. My boyfriend forbade it.
I found through careful research and a lot of questions that these were the views of my entire church leadership. People who, between them, had almost a hundred years of divinity school and preaching under their collective belts- but I just could not understand why everything felt wrong. What was YHVH doing to me? This didn’t add up… More confused than I have ever been, I clawed my way through page after page of scripture, new in my faith, and desperately trying to understand it, I flung myself into hours and hours of tear-soaked prayer. I prayed for YHVH to save my relationship, for Him to heal my broken body, my broken mind. I prayed for Him to open my eyes and give me wisdom, I prayed that someone at the church would be able to help me. I needed so badly to feel like there was something- some rope to hold on to. I prayed for YHVH to let me carry another child and give me a family. I prayed for my boyfriend’s family. I prayed for two years. I got lost in my prayer. I got lost in my confusion. Just lost.
Then My Father answered me out of the whirlwind.
I did get pregnant. I was almost five months along when the stress of my sin and fear forced me to marry the man I no longer loved because I wholeheartedly believed that YHVH would heal us. But by the time my son was two and a half, I knew that The LORD had no intention of saving a marriage that He didn’t sanction. The entire relationship had been sinful, and He couldn’t bless it. His aim was to remove me from my sin, but in order to do that, He had to remove me from my life. My husband had continued doing drugs, continued beating me and getting drunk, and continued not working. He took my money and bought drugs instead of paying bills. Our fights reached epic proportions, and now we had a toddler who feverishly tried to break them up- sometimes being hit by an angry drunk man in the process. Eventually, my husband gave me an STD from a woman we both knew.
Everything had reached critical mass. I remembered that someone in the church had told me after my salvation, that YHVH could take sin and awfulness and turn it into something amazing. What was that scripture? I remembered my own childhood, and everything clicked. In that moment, I didn’t know if YHVH was there, or if He had just stopped taking my requests- but I called my little brother and made a plan to escape. Somehow he was actually willing to help. I found out very quickly that everyone was. As I began making calls, it seemed that everyone and literally his brother wanted to help me. After so much time had passed with me feeling that there was simply no one who cared enough to help- I was being gifted with so much help I didn’t know how to respond! YHVH had sent me help…”Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.”
I heard from my friend the afternoon I was packing and I never looked back.
When I got to my friend’s house and we had made coffee, we sat on the back porch and talked for hours. I cried. He cried with me. For months we talked and talked, and we found out that we had both felt alone and betrayed- for different reasons but the feelings were the same. We discovered a lot about each other, and a lot about ourselves. We became fast friends, and our faith grew. After a few months, I got back on my feet and started over. I continued to read the Bible and we would have pretty in-depth discussions about it. We went to church, read scripture, prayed, and did the occasional good deed, but something was still absent. The church I had asked to help me when things got so bad in my life just told me to pray harder. They said I didn’t have enough faith. Church for me was a place where I went to be judged by others who assumed themselves more knowledgeable in the scriptures but didn’t read their Bibles. The church had turned it’s back on me, so after more tears and much prayer, I left them too.
It would be a handful of years, an obscurity in the wilderness, and a long season of storms before YHVH would completely call me out of the church as well as my life of sin and repentance, and turn my faith into something tangible, and I continue to walk a little further with my LORD each day.
My Christian husband had abused me, cheated on me for years, and hurt our son. In the thick of it, I didn’t have time to second guess. I just went. At the time, I was petrified. I was sure I had heard His voice- even though all the “God-fearing” people in my life told me how wrong I was. But you see, that’s the amazing thing about the Father. He was working on things way before I was able to see! He is the one who made my friend call me that day. He is the one who gave me a beautiful, perfect son because He knew that I was so broken that otherwise, I’d have nothing to fight for. He was the one who gave me the courage to teach myself to drive so I could leave. He was there the entire time- helping me breakthrough the dim light of the little scripture I understood and helping me understand more. He was the one who had plans for me that I never had for myself.
I had planned to kill myself in the dingy bathroom of a house that carried the scars of too many awful memories. A house that was called a Christian Home. A house that I never want to see again. He was the one who orchestrated my safety. He took so many awful things and made something so beautiful that I don’t understand it. And He did it using people that had almost no faith. He did it using my Atheist brother, and a dear friend who still greatly struggles with the tiny faith he began to grow with me on the back porch of his welcoming house.
He gave me a foundation. The house built on the rock. And He did it using some of the most unlikely friends, with unlikely situations, in my unlikely heart.