Prior to our wedding night on December 16th, 2012 I had never made love.
It was THE BEST night of my life! I had always thought that “making love” meant going slow, but that term was redefined for me that night. I was so…very, very wrong! One might assume that with a sexual past like mine I would have a solid understanding of what “making love” consisted of, however this path was one I had never walked before…I had nothing to compare this to. For the first time I was genuinely loved for the real me, not just my body or how I performed. It was the fruition of our real love for each other.
We drove to our hotel after the reception was over, strolled into the hotel lobby with our luggage rolling behind us when I started cracking up. My laugh must have been contagious, because he looked over at me and started laughing too. “What are you laughing about?” He chuckled. I giggled and nervously replied “we’re married, we’re in the lobby of OUR hotel, and we’re about to go up to OUR room?!”
A few days before the wedding, he asked me “Michelle, what would you think about waiting until we arrive in Hawaii to consummate our marriage?” “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I have WAITED 6 YEARS, 9 MONTHS and 9 DAYS to make love to you!” Actually that’s not what I said, but it was what I thought! I reluctantly agreed after he shared his reasons with me.
Actually, it was kind of nice to have the pressure of the “wedding night” expectations relieved. However, the idea of being unclothed in front of each other for the first time brought anxiety on us both.
Meanwhile, back at the honeymoon suite…I took a deep breath and thought to myself…I AM SO NERVOUS!!! We were standing face to face, well more like face to chest (he’s a foot taller than me) when the time had come to drop my dress, so I mustered up the courage and just did it. As my dress and his jaw dropped simultaneously to the floor, I instinctively rushed to cover my eyes. I laughed uncontrollably-my hands absolutely glued to my face! My brand new husband, recovering from shock, said “WOW, Michelle you are so beautiful” as he nervously checked out his new bride. His gentle way eventually gave me the courage to uncover my face.
That was the night I had looked forward to, yet greatly feared, for many years! “What if I get triggered and my addiction returns?” Here’s the crazy part…I felt like an innocent bride, one that had never been touched by a man. I actually felt more pure that night than I did when I was thirteen. That was the moment I KNEW, without a doubt, that God had truly healed me!
Fast forward: we didn’t wait till Hawaii!!! 😉
So how does a woman who has “crossed the line of no return” have her virginity restored? Continue to “follow me” as I blog the details of how this miracle happened for me and can happen for you or someone you love.
I shared my story last week with 100 inmates and several workers at Coffee Creek Women’s Correctional Institute. It was an absolute blast and I can’t wait to do it again. Speaking at a prison is different than sharing my story at a church, because it has the potential to be a bit more dangerous. For instance: I wanted to wear a scarf with my attire but thought, “Um…not smart. A scarf can easily be turned into a weapon I could be strangled with. Better not.” Sometimes I do crazy things and then realize afterward the magnitude of what I just did, but it doesn’t dissuade me from getting my hands dirty for the kingdom’s cause. It’s actually quite the adrenaline rush, you should try it.
My husband, two girls and our puppy joined me for the drive there. It was really neat for them all to feel involved in what the Lord is doing through this ministry. It took us almost 5 hours to get there and I needed to find a place along the way to get ready, so I did my makeup in the car and performed a wardrobe change in a Denny’s restroom along the way. I also felt the need to make a change of heart, because this audience I would soon be speaking with was important to me and I wanted to be used mightily to give them hope. I wanted something fresh for them, not a recited testimony. I wanted to tell them everything the Lord wanted me to say, so I asked my friends to pray over this event, and I surrendered my words, fears and hopes to Him.
About an hour before our arrival, The Lord gave me the song “Freedom Reigns” by Jesus Culture. It’s based off the scripture, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. Using my smartphone, I found the song on YouTube, put in my ear buds, cranked the volume and proceeded to lose it (don’t worry, my husband was driving). My emotions overtook me as I pictured these women behind bars, some having lost their kids or grand kids to foster care or adoption. Many lost their homes, jobs, marriages, kids and even their teeth. From the outside looking in, they appear to have nothing…they are the shame of society…marked for life. BUT Jesus is in that place and therefore they are able to experience the freedom only He offers. He loves them so dearly, so deeply and He imparted that same compassionate love for them into my heart as I listened to that song.
The closest personal experience I could relate to imprisonment was the year and a half I spent in rehab nearly a decade ago. Normally when I talk about my rehab experience I gloss over it and only share some of what the Lord taught me there. I don’t often share about the hard times in rehab because of the painful memories of being without my two young boys for so long, but I felt compelled to be vulnerable with these women.
The realization of what I was about to do hit hard when we pulled into the parking lot and saw the looped barbed wire atop the fence which encircled the compound. My daughters were very nervous for me, one of them said “please don’t die in there,” as her eyes filled up with tears. My family prayed over me before I walked through the gates and out of their sight, into the cold-looking, steel-doored, concrete fortress. Nervousness set in as I awaited my turn through the metal detector. Through thick, shatter-proof glass I saw for the first time some of the women I would be speaking to.
“Okay, Lord here we go. Have your way through me.” My heart felt like it was about to pound out of my chest as the adrenaline started to pump through my veins.
Listen to this song, so you can hear what I heard and picture these same women. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M753W0JeANk
TO BE CONTINUED on Wednesday……….
“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Hebrews 13:3
Most of my friends grew up in a two parent home, their moms drove a minivan, wore their hair in a bun, overweight, no makeup and plain-looking. My mom on the other hand, would pick me up from school in a Camaro with the T-tops off, 80’s rock blaring out of it, wearing a string bikini, Daisy Duke shorts and smoking a cigarette. It was a little embarrassing at first but my friends thought she was cool and pretty, so she became the ideal picture of beauty for me.
We didn’t have much money, so my mom used to cut our hair and she was NOT a hairdresser and that’s putting it mildly. My clothes were not brand name or the latest in fashion, so I made due with what I had. When I was able to start making my own money, I spent most of it on my looks. I wasn’t a cute kid, but once I hit 14 the boys really started to notice me. My mom used to say, “If you got it-flaunt it,” so I did. The more skin I showed-the more they looked. On sunny days, she would say “You’re too white, take this tanning oil and go get some sun.” Obviously, that was before all the skin Cancer education we have these days.
I was 15 when I viewed porn for the first time and became fascinated with the effect it had on the guys that were watching it. I wanted to possess the same power those women had, so I began to copy them. I would spend two hours getting ready every day, because it took that long to achieve such a look. I wanted to be flawless just like them. I would change my nail polish several times a week to match my outfit and even the drink I held in my hand. Every head turned when I walked past and often times I would receive the high compliment of “So…where do you dance at?” They weren’t talking about a ballet class either.
When I decided to leave that life behind, I felt like I went from a “Sexy Diva” to “Plain Jane.” Blending into a crowd really brought my perceived worth to an all-time low because I had grown so accustomed to the constant attention. I didn’t compare myself to other women’s looks, rather I compared myself to my old self, because THAT was pretty. I had once used my beauty to seduce men, however I knew I couldn’t dress like that anymore because I was a new creation, a holy one. I must admit, such a drastic change made me feel like an empty shell. I felt lost and insignificant because my former sexy appearance had been my identity for so long.
Sadly, I realized that I didn’t like anything about the way that I looked, so I decided to take a journey of re-defining my beauty. I stopped dying my hair, quit tanning, toned my makeup down, in fact there were some days I even skipped putting it on. Part of this journey was driven by curiosity and the other part was because I didn’t want others to think I was going backwards, so I began making myself look plain. I would shy away from wearing eyeliner, high heels, big earrings or anything toopretty, because of what I thought other people might think of me. I darn near spent two hours purposely trying NOT to look too good. As you can see, the pendulum had swung from one extreme to the other.
A couple of years into my healing, I figured it was time to ask the One who created me what He thought, so with tears in my eyes I asked, “Lord, do you even think I’m pretty?” He told me to look down at my hand, so I did and then I pushed my sleeve up to see more of my arm. For the first time in my entire life I accepted my true skin color, which was more white than usual because it was in the midst of winter. Learning to like my skin pigment was the first step in learning to like the rest of my natural appearance. That may sound nuts to you, but it was a big deal to me because I always thought “I should be darker complected.”
A few months later, my hair had grown out enough to cut off the dyed ends, leaving only my natural color, which was a rich dark brown with faint red streaks through it. I hadn’t seen it in its natural state for over 15 years and had forgotten what color it actually was. To my surprise I really liked it. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not against women dying their hair, wearing fake nails or tanning. To each his own. This was my personal journey of self-acceptance and I have dyed my hair and even went tanning since gaining a healthy perspective of my true beauty.
It took me several years, but I finally accepted how God made me with my perceived imperfections and all. I figured if He’s cool with me, than I should be too. The statement “Beauty is a curse” is a crock. Beauty is a blessing from God. Let’s do ourselves and our God a favor and not be afraid of our beauty, but instead learn to embrace it. We are ALL beautiful in His sight, so let’s choose to see ourselves through His eyes. It’s time for His opinion to supersede all others and become our opinion as well.
DoI love every detail of my hair and body? No…but I have accepted that I have been uniquely made by my Creator who carefully planned every detail of my being. I’m not a carbon copy of anyone else nor was I made in someone else’s mold and I now know that my beauty is of far greater value that what I simply see in the mirror and so is yours.
I’d been dating Matt for a couple months when I felt compelled to share with him the last “Big One” about my past, before a serious commitment was made between us. I wanted him to know everything up front, so that he could make an educated decision about spending his life with me, plus I wanted to be loved forall the right reasons (not ones I made up or left out). I knew all too well what being “loved” for the wrong reasons felt like, so in order to avoid that mistake again I chose to be completely honest, even at the risk of losing him. Besides, I had worked too hard and waited way too long to settle for anything less than God’s best for me. I knew that He had an awesome plan and wouldn’t want me settling for a guy who couldn’t accept where I had come from, but more importantly who I was now.
I picked up the phone to call; my heart was about to pound out of my chest as I took a deep breath…“I’m really scared to tell you this, but this is where the ‘rubber meets the road’ with my faith. I’m going to trust the Lord with your response, but more importantly with my heart.” I braced myself and spit it out.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I tend to get “buyer’s remorse” right after sharing something big like that, especially if I really want their approval or they can’t personally relate to my past. In this case, Matt qualified for both categories. After I was done sharing he asked me a few clarifying questions and then he got a little quiet. He likes to take his time and quietly contemplate and I like to talk through it, so his quietness made me even more nervous than I already was. We awkwardly said goodbye and expressed that we were excited to see each other the following day as I had planned to drive down and see him.
Early the next morning, the boys and I packed up the car and made our way down South. I was so nervous every time my phone made a noise, as I envisioned the dreaded call “I’m sorry Michelle, we get along so good and I really like you, BUT your past is just TOO MUCH for me.” But THAT call never came…it was the longest 4 ½ hours.
It was hard to share my past with him, because he grew up in a two parent Christian home, had worked for the same company for almost twenty years, never been drunk, never done any drugs or even smoked a cigarette. He spent his high school years in youth group and going on Mexican mission trips. He could count the number of women he’d kissed in his life on one hand and I’m one of them. So when I compared our pasts-I got really freaked out. Comparison is a killer and it stokes the fire of fear. I was comparing our pasts and coming to my own realistic outcome and it wasn’t good. I thought “There’s no way a guy like him is going to fall for a girl like me.”
We had a great time visiting that weekend (like always) and on the last evening he invited me on a walk, just after it had gotten dark. He grabbed a flashlight and his Bible and off we went. I felt like he was up to something, but I wasn’t sure what it was. We were walking around his neighborhood holding hands, as he showered me with compliments and expressed his gratefulness for what we had.
We found a semi secluded spot near an open field under a street light and sat down on the curb. We snuggled up together as he opened his Bible. He said “I’m sure you have heard this chapter a million times before, however I would like to share how it reminds me of you, but if you don’t mind I would like to skip verse 10 and start with 11 instead.” So he began reading out of his NIV Bible, stopping after each verse to explain how it related to me.
Proverbs 31: 11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value. “Now Michelle, I know I’m not your husband, but I totally trust you and in my line of work that’s not easy for me, but your genuine and sometimes brutal honesty makes it easy.”
12 She brings him good not harm,
all the days of her life. “You are so good to me and you make me so happy. I trust that you have my best interest at heart.”
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands. “You are a very hard and thorough worker and I appreciate that about you.”
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar. “I don’t want to compare you to a ship, but you’re a good cook.”
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants. “You like to get up early and you’re always looking out for others needs, especially your sons and the Girls you mentor.”
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. “You’re frugal with money and you like to garden too.”
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks. “You are really strong and you don’t give up.”
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night. “You accomplish quite a bit during the day and are still busy at night.” 19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers. “Not sure what that means, but you probably do that too?” 20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy. “You are such a servant Michelle. You are always helping others, even with money you don’t have. I wish I had that kind of faith.”
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet. “You always put your kid’s needs above your own, making sure their bills are paid for, they have a nice clean home to live in and you go to most of their sport events to support them.”
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. “I am honored and proud to have you by my side, because you are, who you say you are, and Jesus radiates from inside of you.” 24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come. “You are so funny…you always make me laugh.”
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue. “Your wisdom amazes me. You’re always giving sound Godly advice.”
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness. “I like the way you run your household, especially your relationships your sons.”
28 Her children arise and call her blessed; “You’re a really good mom to the boys and I believe that my girls are blessed to have your influence in their life too. I know that you would be a great step-mom to them, if God blessed us with you.”
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.” “I have never met a woman like you…ever. You truly do surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. “You are gorgeous on the outside, but more importantly your relationship with Jesus shines through and makes you even more beautiful. I can see that you have a very healthy fear of the Lord and you deserve so much praise for that.”
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. “I say all of this to give you the honor you truly deserve. Now I want to go back to verse 10 and read it.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small square box, my heart leapt with fear and anticipation…he gave me a smirk and said “don’t worry, I’m not about to propose to you.”Followed by a bit of a sinking feeling, cause I would have said “YES!!!” Ha…ha…I know that’s quick, but anyways…
10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth FAR more than rubies. “I am so proud of the woman that you have allowed God to make you into, you are a miracle. My hope is that God will continue to give me the privilege of dating you and someday I will get to be your husband, but until then I want you to know that I am all in. There is no one else. You have my full attention and my commitment to you. You are worth FAR MORE than rubies,” and then he opened the little black box and presented me with a ruby and diamond ring to wear as a promise ring.
I accepted of course with tears in my eyes and said “I thought you were going to break up with me not give me a ring.” He said “WHAT?? Why in the world would I let you get away that easy?” I sheepishly replied, “I thought you would think that I was too much for you after my last confession that I made.” He replied, like only he can “You are the perfect amount for me, not too much-not too little.” Oh my…that was better than any marriage proposal I had ever heard of, which made me wonder how he was going to propose to me later on. Stay tuned for that story…
What Matt didn’t know is that over the last several years I had been praying for God to make me into a Proverbs 31 woman, you see the Proverbs 7 woman (I suggest you look it up when you have a chance) was the perfect description of who I used to be, but I desperately desired to be a Proverbs 31 woman, however six years prior to that night there was nothing on that 31 list that described me. So although I was extremely excited about Matt and very relieved that we were still together, I was even more excited and relieved that the Lord had answered my fervent prayers and transformed me into “THAT kind of Girl” from a 7 to a 31. The thought (fear) of “a guy like him never falling for a girl like me” was so ridiculous, because he was falling for the Girl I was now, not then. THAT Girl was gone forever along with her addictions, false motives and cunning ways.
If you are in a position of trying to go from a 7 to a 31, just know that it IS possible, very possible, BUT only by the grace of God. He CAN change you into the woman that you have always dreamed of being-the woman you were created to be. I love how the Lord has taken new experiences to cover up the old experiences and used them to remind me that I am a different person now…thanks to Him.
I can’t say they didn’t warn me, but I can say I didn’t believe them. “Of course my family is going to know I’ve changed. I don’t look the same, talk the same and I’m clean and sober.” Complete strangers would shake their head in disbelief when I shared pieces of my past, saying “I can’t even imagine you in that other life. You are nothing like that now.” I was ministering to women left and right who would seek me out for Godly advice, however, my families’ reaction to the “The New Me” was much different.
Their actions and words would imply, “Don’t forget where you came from. We know you Michelle. We know what you’ve done and who you are. This little Christian thing is just a phase, so we’re not buying it.” Their look of disgust, unbelief and judgment caused me to doubt my growth, besides they DID know me better than the people who just met me. “Maybe they’re right?”
If no one has shared this with you yet…take it from me, don’t expect your family to welcome the “New You” back with open un-skeptical arms, especially if you went away to make the changes, like prison or rehab. You know you’ve changed, the staff knows you’ve changed, but more importantly God knows. Complete strangers will accept your word and the changes you’ve made a lot quicker than those closes to you and that is totally normal.
I believe that some of the possible reasons for their unbelief is that the “Old You” hurt them and now they’re guarded against the possibility of getting hurt again. Some aren’t comfortable with the “New You” so they want the “Old You” back, even though they didn’t like the “Old You” either. They might think you’re just “running game” on them by trying to “act” like you’ve changed. Or maybe your new life convicts them to change their life like you did? Whatever the case may be, the changes you made are real, so don’t let others make you doubt yourself.
Something that comforted me while going through this was that Jesus could relate to the rejection and frustration I was experiencing, expect that He never sinned against anyone like I did. In Matthew 13:54-58 it says, He returned to Nazareth, His hometown. When He taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in Him. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in His own hometown and among His own family.” And so He did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.
Once I realized that Jesus understood the discouragement and rejection I felt, it made things a little easier. He encouraged me to minister to those He put in my path, while continuing to grow so my family could witness the change over time. I think my family, at least most of them have come to trust that this whole “Christian Thing” isn’t just a phase I’m going through. Hopefully, my changed life ministers to them, but it took years for them to stop looking at me like I was still that drug addict slut, who chose men over her children and lived for her own pleasure.
As you are changing and growing in the Lord, remember that your family may not believe that you’re sincere for quite some time. They may think it’s a phase or that you’re trying to pull a fast one on them…again. Don’t expect them to accept the “New You” right away because trust that’s been broken, takes time to heal. Take heart though because God seesthe changes and Jesus knows exactly how you feel. Your family will eventually come around, because a transformed life cannot be denied. It’s not about where you come from and what others think of you, rather it matters who you belong to and what He thinks of you, so keep living for His approval not theirs.
Grasping the illusive concept of grace has always been difficult for me, mostly due to not seeing it demonstrated growing up. However, the Lord blessed me with a life changing moment in my own life to reflect on when I need a reminder of what grace looks like. In 2006 I met a guy online who wanted to meet me at a bar on my way to a women’s retreat. I reluctantly said “Sorry, I’m going to be a ‘good girl’ this weekend, maybe next week?” He pleaded “Come on…I’ll meet you anywhere…let’s just hook up for one quick beer. Where is this retreat?” Flattered I said “Down at the beach. Why?” He replied “That’s awesome, I just so happen to know this great little bar on the way to where you’re going. One drink is NOT going to affect you.”
I agreed to meet him for one beer and I actually thought I could do it. WRONG. One beer turned into two and two turned into three. We were already buzzed when he invited me to dinner. “Sure, why not?” Two bottles of wine accompanied our dinner and then I accompanied him to a motel room for the night. Who was I kidding trying to play the “good girl” role anyways?
The next morning we got up after hardly sleeping, still pretty drunk, we decided to go eat breakfast at a little restaurant in town. Just after we finished our pancakes I noticed I had a voice mail on my phone. It was a frantic message from my step mom. “Michelle…where are you? The pastor’s wife from that church called and said you didn’t show up yesterday. Oh my goodness, please call us right away. I hope nothing happened to you!” My heart raced as I thought of all the possibilities, “They have my kids and I don’t want them to take them. I’ve been so close to losing them already. I better do something to cover my butt.” I thought. So I quickly put on my coat, grabbed my purse and said, “Hey man, I have to get to that retreat. I got to go.” I left abruptly, got in my truck, lit a cigarette and started driving towards the retreat.
“Oh man, what am I thinking…I’m going to show up to this Christian thing smelling like sex and alcohol? This is crazy, I can’t do this. Forget it, I’m going to Portland to party it up with my sister. They know how I am, so who cares?” I whipped a U-turn on the Hwy and headed the other direction. “What am I thinking? Lord help me to go to this retreat. I don’t want to lose my kids. I know I messed up again.” So I made another U-turn and headed towards the retreat again. “Oh man, I can’t believe I’m about to do this, but then again I don’t even know these women. I’ll just lie and say my truck broke how on the mountain and I didn’t have cell service.” I ended up turning around on that Hwy six or seven times when I finally decided to attend the retreat a day late.
I pulled into the driveway, put my cigarette out and took a deep breath trying to calm down as I made my way to the door. “Oh God I can’t believe I’m doing this.” I knocked on the door and a lady answered. There were several ladies behind her that lined the hallway with what appeared to be tears in their eyes. “Oh Michelle….thank God you’re here. We were all just knelt around the bed you were supposed to sleep in last night, praying that He would bring you here no matter what and here you are!”
“Ya, I’m so sorry…my truck broke down on the mountain and I didn’t have any cell service. Several people stopped to help me, but no one knew how to fix it. Thank God someone FINALLY came by this morning who knew how. What a night.”
“Oh Michelle that’s terrible…but we’re so glad you’re here now. We are just headed out for lunch. Come with us, you must be starving?” Relieved that they bought my story I said “Oh I am.” Several of us crammed into a minivan and made our way to a quaint little cafe. We were looking over the menu when one of the ladies walked up beside me and with a suspicious smirk on her face said “Since you had such a hard night on the mountain, why don’t you let me buy you lunch?”
“Oh no…that’s ok. I have money” I said calmly on the outside, but on the inside I was yelling “She knows I lied, just tell her!” She repeated herself, “Since you had such a hard night on the mountain, let me buy you lunch.” Reluctantly I accepted her offer. I was so embarrassed because I knew that she was onto me. I only ordered a half of a sandwich, because I was still full from the pancake breakfast I had finished an hour prior. I pretended to be hungry and not intoxicated as I choked down the sandwich. I felt so sick and my anxiety increased by the minute, because I felt so out of place with those women.
After we finished lunch all the ladies stood up and cheerfully requested “Let’s all walk down to the Christian bookstore together.”“Yay!!” they replied as they skipped out of the café all dressed in white, hands swinging side to side like little Smurfs “la, la, la, la, la, la…la, la, la, la, la.” Okay maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but that’s how it looked to me at the time.
I eagerly declined and said I’d just wait in the van for them. “I’ll wait with you,” said the lady who paid for my lunch. “Okay” on the outside “Oh this is just great” I thought on the inside. We walked out to the van and I climbed into the backseat wondering how I was going to make small talk with this lady. I can still hear the door of the minivan slide shut and then “a moment of silence,” as she climbed into the backseat right next to me. She turned my direction and asked “So…what triggered you to use again?” I swallowed and said “Pardon me,” trying to buy myself time to think about my reply. She raised her eyebrow and gave me another knowing smirk “I am a recovery mentor at the women’s prison. What triggered you to use again?”
Tears unexpectedly poured from my eyes as I told her everything that had happened over the last few months, “I moved out to the country two months ago to live with my dad and step mom, because I was strung out and needed get away from my abusive husband. I was doing really good, going to church, Bible studies, praying and reading my Bible every day. I’ve been working really hard trying to get right with God and then I found out I was pregnant AGAIN. I didn’t want to have another abortion, but I did twelve days ago, because the guy talked me into it. I can’t do anything right. I am such a screw up. I already know that you figured out I was lying about breaking down on the mountain and I’m sorry about that. I met a stupid guy on My Space and spent the night with him. Story of my life.”
Without missing a beat she passionately said, “I want to challenge you to be transparent with these women and give them the opportunity to love you.” My quick reply was “Women like that, don’t love women like me.” She sternly repeated herself “I want to challenge you to be transparent and give these women the opportunity to love you.” Since I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge, I decided to prove her wrong.
That evening there was a designated time for sharing and prayer where all thirty women gathered to be “transparent.” I almost backed out when it was my turn, but she shot me a look from across the room to remind me of “the challenge.” I took a deep breath, leaned forward in my chair and said “Well…what I’m about to share is going to sound quite different than what you’ve heard tonight, but someone challenged me to do this, so I’m going to keep it real and tell you what my life looks like right now.” Staring at the floor, my body trembled in fear as I told them everything I had shared earlier. I believed they were going to hate me, judge me and want me to leave.
On the contrary, when I was done sharing I looked up to see each of those women get out of their chairs, walk over to me and proceed to lay their hands on me. They began to pray fervently and passionately. I began to weep as they prayed for the baby I had just killed, for my boys at home and my future with the Lord. The part that impacted me the most is that they touched me when I felt untouchable. They knew what kind of women I was, dirty and sinful, but they still chose to touch me anyways. They believed in me when no one else did, including myself. Never underestimate the power of love that is communicated through touch.
That was my moment. The moment that God reached down and pulled me out of that horrible life to give me a new life. He used those women to be His hands and feet to love me in a way that can’t be described as anything other than GRACE. Seven days later I had the courage and support to check into drug rehab where the Lord continued His healing work in me.
I am still in contact with those women and several have become dear friends of mine. Patti is the one who God used mightily to call me out and now we are very close friends and even working alongside each other in ministry as she is one of the board members for Purely His. God in His grace brought my story full circle, giving me a job at the same church that put on the women’s retreat five years previous. I became the ministry and event coordinator, one of the youth leaders and had the privilege of mentoring several women and girls on a regular basis. I was also given the opportunity to share this story at that same women’s retreat many years later and there was not a dry eye in the place, including mine.
Here’s what I want you to see…I wasn’t all cleaned up when God ordained that my life would change that weekend. You heard what I was doing when He called me. It is the perfect picture of what GRACE looks like. Those women loved me when I wasn’t lovable and extended goodness, when I was anything but. I could feel God’s love through them and I made the choice to respond to it. So right now I want to challenge you to “be transparent and allow them to love you.” Find someone today and tell them that you are struggling and need help. I bet their reaction will be much different than you think it will be. “It is God’s kindness that leads people to repentance.” Romans 2:4
This song says it perfectly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zOzpTgGZ2M
I’ve heard it said many times before “us women have to wear so many hats!” Why don’t we change the word, hats to masks? Isn’t that what it really means anyways? I know that’s not how it’s taught, but isn’t that what we as women tend to do? Generally when this term is used, we change our personality based on the “hat” we’re wearing at the time. We act one way at church, another way at home, at the office, out with the girls and when no one is looking. I used to call myself a chameleon, because I changed my “mask” to suit whatever situation I was in, so that I would be accepted. I used to believe it was a good trait…I was a people person who could fit in anywhere, taking the verse “becoming all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:22) way too far AND out of context!
Fast forward: After six years of being single, I felt I was finally ready to re-enter the “dating scene!” I had completely put my trust in the Lord to protect my heart and to choose the right guy for me. I vowed to be the real me-right from the start, genuine. It was important that I portrayed the new me accurately, because I didn’t want to fall into the trap of “taking it up a notch or down a notch” to get a man’s attention, as was the habit in my old lifestyle. My desire was to be loved for me, not some mask I created to be accepted. Thanks be to God, I was a whole person…not a “half looking for another half, trying to make a whole” – I was a whole person looking for another whole person to share my life with, not willing to settle for half of God’s will for my life or even three quarters of it – I wanted His PERFECT WILL!
Not long after mustering up the courage to join an on-line dating site, the Lord brought my attention to the man He had chosen to answer my prayers with. Matt lived nearly five hours away, which forced us to get to know each other long distance. Early on, we exchanged several emails and texts in which I shared pieces of my background, a basic summary. It wasn’t long before Matt starting asking for details. Despite having told my story on countless stages with hundreds of people in the crowd, I found myself afraid to tell this audience of one. I feared that the specific details of my past would be “deal breakers” for this promising new relationship. One night, over the phone, I answered Matt’s questions. I told him… “Matt, I gotta keep it real with you- I know that being vulnerable with you means risking you rejecting the real me, but this is where my trust in the Lord will win over my fear.”
In anticipation of his response, my fear rose, my heart dang near pounded out of my chest and I braced myself for the worst possible outcome. In my mind, I could already hear him say: “Whoa…Michelle, uh…ya…we get along really well and you’re really cool and all, but ya…that’s just too much for me to handle. I don’t think this is going to work out between us.”
He never answered that way, in fact, he responded with, “Wow, you have been through a lot. I can’t even picture you in that lifestyle. I am so proud of the woman you have allowed God to make you into. Thank you for doing the hard work to get healthy. I am so blessed, because of it.” You see, Matt and I have very different pasts. There were SO many details from my past I was obligated to share with him, and he had only about three to tell me! I wanted him to like me so much, but I wondered if a guy “like him” could fall for a girl “like me?”The answer: YES, most definitely YES! You see, despite the choices I made in life, I remained God’s creation and He approved of me and so did the man He had prepared for me!
My faith in the Lord grew to a deeper level when I decided to be the real me and put away the masks I would wear to impress people. A true woman of integrity where my insides matched my outsides, deciding to wear the same “hat” no matter where I was at or what I was doing. Hiding behind the masks to “protect myself” did feel safer, but it wasn’t real. It wasn’t me. What helped me the most was to remind myself that God hand crafted me and loved me for me, right from the beginning, so if God approved of me, then why shouldn’t I?
“If God is for me, who can be against me?” Romans 8:31