Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Light in the Darkness

I’ve really been struggling the past few days. I mean, really struggling. I am looking for my voice—my purpose.

I’ve shared my “mountain-top” experience with a few of you, and I’ll share it again now. For the skeptics out there, let me say—I understand! But, it happened to me.

It was ten or eleven years ago. I was at a women’s retreat at Hume Lake Christian Camps in the Sequoia National Forest. I was really struggling that weekend. Two people who I thought were dear friends had waged a slanderous campaign against me (see previous post) for reasons I could not understand. The minister who oversaw our team had relieved me of my ministry duties. I was so sad, lonely, and broken.

About a month before the retreat I had been asked to put together a drama presentation that was to be performed at one of the weekend meetings. Every time I’m asked to do something like this for a church event, I meet with major opposition. A friend told me, “Satan must be really afraid of you, because he sure puts a lot of stumbling blocks in your path.” As I prepared for the retreat, I felt so alone and the darkness was frightening and oppressive. I spent a week praying and reading and crying. I wrote a sketch called, “A Light in the Darkness”.

A few hours before I was to perform the sketch, I went for a long walk around the lake. I was praying and crying. I stopped and sat down on a rock and I said, “God, please talk to me. I’m scared.” I heard an audible voice. I HEARD the voice say, “Pray for D and K”. D and K were the couple who were back home saying cruel things about me. I did NOT want to pray for them. But I did, and I felt peace and love wash over me. I heard the voice say, “You’re dealing with jealous people.” I said, “Okay, but I want you to tell me about me. What do I need to do? What do I need to change?” The voice said, “Tell your story.” “Okay. Which part?”

I felt like I’d lived through a lot in a relatively short life. I was raised in a broken home, and then I’d survived an abusive marriage to a cocaine addict, an unplanned pregnancy, and single mother-hood. After marrying Tom, we experienced job loss, a failed business, and bankruptcy. And now, finally, life seemed to be settling down a bit. But these judgmental attacks started coming from the most unexpected of places—my friends and ministry partners.

So, after asking which part of my story should be told I heard the voice say, “Your story is just beginning.” I was pissed! Just beginning? The voice said, “Your story is for the church.”

In the years since that day by the side of the lake, I’ve come to understand. I’ve been hurt, attacked, gossiped about, and shattered by the behavior of Christians. The church has let my family down again and again and again, but I’ve kept my eyes on God. I have NOT always been faithful to what I believed. The pain has led me down dark paths. My children have rebelled because of the in-your-face hypocrisy of the spiritual leaders and the personal criticisms of so-called friends. I have never, however, stopped believing.

I have a family member who has accused me of “blaming” others for my woes. Listen…let’s imagine I lost a leg in a car accident. If people asked me how I lost my leg I would say, “in a car accident”. Would their response be, “Oh Liz, stop blaming the car accident for your loss”? Um…no! It’s not about blame. None of us are islands unto ourselves. Our actions affect those closest to us, and their actions affect us. That’s just the truth.

My whole life I have taken personal responsibility for everything I’ve ever done. Further, I’ve accepted that the ills of others are also my fault! Global warming? My fault. Financial meltdown? My fault. Ozone depletion? You guess it—I’m to blame for that too!

I remember once when I was trying to rectify a broken relationship with a Christian friend. The woman sitting across the table from me was pointing her finger at me. She was telling me how weak I was and called into question the condition of my heart. I said, “If you were so sure that I was such a bad person, why didn’t you say something to me? Don’t friends do that for one another?” She said, “Let’s get something straight, you were never that good a friend.” I said, “I’m more…I’m your sister in Christ.” She said, “I won’t yield to your victim mentality.”

So, I’ve kept my mouth shut for many years about many things because I didn’t want people to think I was “blaming” anyone, or that I was playing the “victim” card. But I’ve been remiss. That day on the mountain sitting on the water’s edge of Hume Lake, God told me to tell my story. He told me the story was for the church. A few weeks ago I heard God’s voice say, “Don’t let them hush you”. Within minutes that message was confirmed!

I know this blog entry is long, but I can’t sit silently anymore. We are not islands! We are pebbles whose actions create ripples that touch everyone around us. Your ripples have changed my life, and mine have changed yours.

My story is about pain and recovery, sadness and joy, brokenness and miraculous healings. Above all, my story is about hope! After the hurricane, restoration comes. It may take years, but it does come.

The church isn’t perfect because it’s full of imperfect people. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. God just wants us to bring our weaknesses and failures to him so He can restore us and reconcile His kids. Let’s shine a light on the darkness and talk truth. Let’s be a light in the darkness.

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