A very broad stroke of the brush would reveal that I spent my teen years running and numbing. Running from…everything, I guess. Reality. Pain. Fear. All of which I numbed with drugs. Way too many drugs at way too young an age.
My 20’s were lived for the moment. I left one marriage and entered into a live-in relationship with very little time in between. People who are desperate to be loved do that sort of thing. Drugs and alcohol flowed abundantly in that decade, because I still wasn’t quite numb enough. That live-in relationship morphed into a marriage with two kids, and on the edge of 30, Jesus rescued me. I didn’t ‘find’ Jesus. He was never lost. He didn’t ‘find’ me. He had been in pursuit of me the whole time. He knew right where I was at all times. And at what I can only assume was exactly the right moment, He reached down and pulled me out of the darkness.
I wasn’t living in that darkness. No one really does. But I was very busy dying in it.
In my 30’s I was raising two kids, fighting with my husband, and trying to learn to love God. Raising children with no idea of what I was doing. Like most things in my life, there was no planning, no real intentions concerning motherhood. I desperately loved my children, but it wasn’t enough to keep them from the effects of a broken marriage between two very broken people.
In my mid-40’s, things turned. I was on the brink of divorce when God offered me another way. His plan was for restoration. His method was to put me into a refining furnace. From a distance, it looked like a very unreasonable, unfair plan. But up close, in that fire with my own heart, I (eventually) knew God was doing it right. In that fire my selfishness rose to the top, along with my judgmental nature and my conditional love. In the fire, my exhausting need for love came to an end, as God asked me a question. “I love you. Can that be enough for you?”. I was painfully aware that it was a yes or no question. In the fire, I discovered how easy it is to believe you are following Jesus, only to find out you were just following your own ways.
I’ll save more “fire stories” for future posts.
And then I turned around and here I am, in my early 50’s, wondering how life went by so fast. The past year itself has seen God’s shaking in our lives, uprooting us from 28 years in Illinois and moving us to Texas, complete with numerous stories of His provision throughout that process. I have told the story to many people, and have heard on more than one occasion, “I don’t know that I could have done that”. Oh, I don’t know about that.
You could, if on your 50th birthday you realized how much time you had wasted on you and your own life. You could, if on that same birthday you had asked God for just one thing – to make the second half of your life be about His Kingdom and His glory and not about you.
You could, if you knew God had heard you and you suddenly found yourself in the middle of His “yes” to your prayer.
I try not to spend a lot of time dwelling in the past, but every now and then I need to look back. I need to see the beautiful spectacle God created. The story of His persistent pursuit, of His rescue and His loving push into His refining furnace. His faithfulness to grow me up from a petulant, rebellious child into a woman who is…less so. His goodness still takes me by surprise, and I have yet to figure out if that is a good thing or not.
So what would I go back and change, if I could? I’ve thought about that question a lot and at first, a long list of things goes through my head. But in the end, I wouldn’t change any of it. I’d keep every painful minute of my past. Because my past is full of God’s glory.
The glory of a God who isn’t afraid of the dark but will pursue you right through it until you fall panting into the light. The glory of a God who ignores your refusals, because He knows that you don’t know why you are so afraid to say yes to Him.
The glory of a God who loves your children way more than you do, and who has plans for them that you cannot destroy. I can describe the glory of a God who goes after your prodigal child and brings her back to Him, and teaches you of His unstoppable faithfulness in the process.
I can tell you that while God may permission you to divorce, He does not command it, and He just may show up and ask you to reconsider, because He is planning glory.
I can tell you that a broken marriage can be healed, no matter who or what broke it.
I can tell you that a dead marriage simply means a resurrection instead of a healing.
I can tell you that God knows what will bring Him glory. We mostly do not.
I can tell you that God is more sovereign than you think, more powerful than you imagined, and far more loving than you believe Him to be.
I would not change one thing about the life that puts that glory on display.
And I can’t help but ask for more.