This is my submission to a redemption story contest.
I accepted Christ as a teenager. It was my mountain top experience. It was real and I was saved. The problem was, I didn’t give everything over to Christ. I thought that the vile little lump-of-grossness I never discussed with anyone was just too embarrassing to bring before the Lord. I hid the violations that I had experienced as a child in a far corner of my heart and pretended that they didn’t exist.
I excelled in school, I actively participated in my church’s youth group, and I developed a self-image that dipped with every error I made. I was so far from the perfection I was seeking that I was miserable in my pursuit of the unobtainable. Covering the grossness with goodness didn’t work.
When I finished high school, I decided to take a different avenue to repressing the awful. I saw a lot of people that appeared to be a lot happier than me and didn’t seem to worry about anything. Once, again the answer was obvious, I needed to start to partying. I pursued drinking with all the enthusiasm I had when I sought out perfection. I was the best drunk I knew, until I wasn’t. After a while, even my stoner friends didn’t want to hang with me, I was too much to handle.
I still believed in God and knew I wasn’t pursuing Him at this time, but I was so lost. I had successfully alienated all of my friends from high school with my drunk and disorderly conduct in college, and I was so out of control, my drug buddies didn’t want to hang. I was alone. Of course I deserved to go through life apart from close friends, bad things happen to bad people. If I had been a better kid, my innocence wouldn’t have been taken away at such a young age; if I had tried harder in school, I would have gotten into a better school; if I wasn’t such a stupid idiot, I wouldn’t get drunk and lose myself to terrifying black-outs (or worse – the nights I did remember).
I prayed that God would give me more faith so the bad times wouldn’t be so overwhelming, I prayed that he would help me when I was drinking so I wouldn’t behave in such an embarrassing manner. I prayed that he would make me a “normal” person.
Part of the “Get right with God” plan I implemented was marrying a man I thought would help me remain sober and straight. If I was married, I wouldn’t have those thoughts anymore, I was wrong. I married a loving, yet angry man. He needed a caregiver and I needed control. We loved each other and, at times, it was truly fabulous. He didn’t like the few friends that I had that had stuck with me when I was in my really dark days. I reasoned that he must be right, God wouldn’t have sent me a man without a plan so I quietly shut the door to all my past relationships. I allowed myself to be completely isolated.
After my second child was born, I quit my job, my husband sold the T.V., and our long distance was cutoff. The withdrawal was total.
After my third child was born, I attempted suicide. A bottle of whiskey and a bottle of pills caused me to be temporarily hospitalized. The looks that you get from people after that kind of incident are horrible. I felt like an even bigger freak that before.
We moved to a better area, the kids started school, and I developed loose friendships. No depth, nothing more than the superficial, but it was enough. I sought God and tried to reconcile my life to him. I attended church, read the bible, and still cried a lot. The lump of hidden grossness had hardened into a major roadblock that kept causing me to trip when I least expected it. My three prayers still went unanswered, but I still prayed them.
After years of trying, I developed two fairly close friendships. I also started drinking again, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. We would have our girl’s-nights once or twice a year and I remained in control.
I had a job that I thought was what God was calling to be, I took care of an elderly lady who needed help. Her life became my life. I was with her eight or more hours a day. Even on her bad days, I was there. At times, she made me absolutely miserable, but I would pray and God would tell me to have patience and stay. Sometimes when she napped, I would break down. I loved her, but she was mean when she was sick. I was miserable. I was tired of always being miserable, but didn’t really think I deserved anything better. At least I had friends that I could text when I got home and complain about my day.
The year of reckoning came when my oldest son left to go to college. Our finances took hit after hit, and then for good measure, another hit. We were broke.
After the barrage of financial challenges hit us, people started dying. First a man I thought of as a second father passed then a cousin. Then the loss that really rocked my world. The lady that I had devoted so much of my time and energy to keeping alive, died. I lost a friend, a boss, a job, and my calling all at once. I couldn’t stop to grieve because her family needed me. I made myself available to her family at all times so that they wouldn’t suffer needlessly after she was gone.
Her husband admired my work ethic and felt obligated to me so he brought me on at his office. I was excited at the prospect of doing something new. I had finally arrived. I would be a great success in the business world and wow all the people in his office with my intelligence and wit. This was God’s plan, I just knew it!
Reality hit in the middle of October when I discovered that an email about how bad I was at my job had been circulating around the office. I had been thrust upon these people and they thought of me as the big boss' ugly booty call. They hadn’t been consulted, and I wasn’t wanted or needed at the job. I was a joke.
My friends and I had stepped up our nights out to once a month by this time. The September GNO had been costly though. My husband was convinced that I was having an affair, even though I wasn’t. We hadn’t had a conversation since that evening except for him telling me that I felt different and that is how he knew that I was messing around. I had a stank he couldn’t get past and I needed to get rid of all my friends again before he would hold me. History was repeating itself.
I was spiraling down quickly, I came home from the office after the email incidence to talk with my husband. I needed the security of our relationship. I needed him to hold me and tell me I wasn’t stupid and worthless and trash. Instead, I was screamed at in front of the kids, not just for who I am, but for being a woman. The world was circling the drain and it was all the fault of women! Women shouldn’t be allowed to vote, drive, function, etc. The vile and hurtful things that he said to me during that time cut me so deep, I couldn’t breathe. My mind shut down completely, this couldn’t be real. What had I married? My daughter immediately jumped to my defense and the defense of our gender. The f-bombs and I hate yous flew across our house causing more harm in one night than years of dysfunction had.
Five days later, I set up an online account to finance my divorce. I would leave him as soon as our youngest finished high school.
I was a wreck. I had always had very strict rules about crying: “never cry in front of my husband” “never cry at work” “never cry in front of the kids”. I couldn’t make any of those rules work for me anymore. I shut down at work. Everything I did was wrong, the harder I tried the more I screwed up. I stopped caring about the job. Everything I said was wrong at home so I shut down there as well. I made sure wherever my husband was in the house, I was two rooms away. We were doing even worse financially because of tuition increases and a pay cut. Everyone was dying. I was drinking again. Just a beer or two after work to take the edge off, not a major bender so it was okay. My weight blossomed as my self-esteem plummeted.
November. My best friend and I planned a GNO for a night when our third wheel would be out of town. The wicked thoughts were resurfacing, but I would never act on those desires again, I knew the cost. We decided on a nice restaurant with a great bartender and proceeded to roast our husbands and mutual friend with our witty remarks. I don’t remember much of what happened after we left the restaurant other than throwing up in her trashcan and her fifteen year old son having to help drive me home. Being a black-out drunk does have some good features, I can’t remember that night and after the text I received from her the following Monday, I don’t think I ever want to.
I was sitting at my desk at work trying not to do something stupid, when my friend texted me. “I do not feel comfortable around you anymore.” Wow, how do you respond to something like that?! I texted back begging forgiveness for something I didn’t even remember. What had I done? Why was I so wrong?
I had nothing left. My marriage was in shambles, everyone I loved was dying, I couldn’t afford a turkey for Thanksgiving much less pay for Christmas, and now I had done something unspeakable to my best friend. What a loser! God seemed to be so silent when I screamed his name. What could I do? I couldn’t go on, I couldn’t stay here. My old friend depression enveloped me in a cloak of bleakness. I found the answer to my questions in my boss’s drawer when I was looking for a file. He kept a loaded .38 in the back of the drawer for protection. It was a sign from God.
The first Friday in December, I left work with a plan. I would put my affairs in order, organize all bills, and write my goodbye notes. The following Monday would be my day of reckoning. After scouts, I would drive to the closest emergency room, park, and find an out-of-the-way spot to pull the trigger. A small caliber bullet directly into my heart would do the trick. I simply couldn’t take anymore.
I left my church for the last time. The whole time my mind was crying out to God. I was joyous, subdued, angry, and a million other emotions all at the same time.
When I got home, my phone buzzed, a text from an old friend I hadn’t really talked to in a while. She wanted to get together for coffee and catch up. I politely told her no. She insisted! How often do we feel God nudging us in a particular direction, but when we sense resistance, we veer off His path? She didn’t give up, she persisted. It had to be God! I went to coffee and we talked about everything and nothing. We didn’t get deep and weepy, we simply shared our lives with each other. It was exactly what I needed. Jesus with skin on to be there and be present. I realized that she had ruined my plans. I couldn’t commit suicide now. It might hurt her feelings. I would have to postpone for another week.
I bumped into the third wheel friend and almost had a panic attack. She and my former best friend had shared the story of my night grab-assery with each other and I still didn’t know what I had done. After running into her, I got angry. I didn’t want to die now because it would be like they had won. I had to come up with a different plan. I was desperate, I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live, and it was too expensive to move to Costa Rica.
I went to Wal-Mart under the guise of Christmas shopping and bawled in the parking lot. As I sat there in my car with tears streaming down my cheeks, I finally, completely, surrendered everything to God. I simply couldn’t handle it any more. I was saved years ago, but was still suckling milk and not growing in the spirit. My efforts in the past to get to know the Lord more fully were half-assed. I gave him everything that night. Every Sinful desire, every longing to belong, my all. I whispered the words that turned everything around, “Not my will, but yours”.
The most amazing thing happened. I felt washed and warmed by a bright light that I could see through my closed eyes. I was comforted and completed. I had an overwhelming sense of peace and joy that rested on my shoulders that night. It was almost tangible. The heavy burden of guilt and self-loathing I carried around for years was lifted from me. I thought I could fly. The weight of the Holy Spirit pulled me up, it didn’t weigh me down.
God answered the three prayers I been praying for most of my adult life that evening. My desire to drink was gone, my faith was super-charged, and I felt okay being me (normal or not). Magically, I was transformed. Not magic, just the Holy Spirit cleaning house. The lump-of-grossness was scooped out and thrown away.
Oddly, everything in my life got better after that even though nothing changed. The only thing that had changed was me! And I actually loved the new me. I saw value in what I had to bring to others. We had the best Christmas that year.
My coffeehouse friend was a tangible reminder that Jesus is with us today. She obeyed His calling and saved my life. I want the real healing offered by Christ for everyone I meet. I want to be that friend for as many as I can reach while I am still on this side of eternity.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, and a part-time basket case who wants to be a full time writer.