This is my INDEPENDENCE story. July 2nd, 2016, I left NY and headed for an uncertain future in NC. Here is my story….
“They are letting him out. He will be here in an hour, an hour and a half tops.”
It felt like I was punched in the stomach. I couldn’t move. I just stood there frozen, paralyzed with fear.
“Get your stuff and go, you don’t have much time.”
I ran down the stairs and started throwing anything I thought I might need into two large Rubbermaid containers. I grabbed my safe box and all my files and threw everything into my car. I went back inside and tried my best to appear like everything was normal as I hugged my grandson goodbye not knowing for sure when or if I would get to see him, or any one else in my family ever again.
Then I drove off. Tears flooded my eyes making it nearly impossible to see. My heart was racing with terror. Where could I go where I wouldn’t be found? Where would I be safe? Who could I trust? I was alone, completely helpless, and scared to death.
I had not planned for things to go like this. This was not at all how I saw my life going when I got married. At 19 I was starry eyed and hopeful. I either ignored or was ignorant of any red flags. At that time the most important thing was that someone wanted me and they were willing to spend the rest of their life with me. I was convinced that anything else could be worked out in time or ultimately wouldn’t matter that much. We already had a child together so getting married seemed like the right thing to do. Oh, how wrong I was! Twenty five years of marriage revealed how misguided I was. How low my self esteem was. How much of myself I was willing to sacrifice on the alter of being accepted and approved of at any cost.
I drove off to a desolate area where I was certain I would not be found. As I sat in my car my mind raced with recent events. I remembered times I cried, begged, and prayed for things to be different. I remembered the hurtful things that he said when he was angry, the accusations, the names he called me, the threats he would make. I had spent 25 years studying him and had learned how to watch every little facial expression and hand gesture as a warning so that I would know when to shut up and shut down before things became too dangerous. I could picture the tilt of his head, the redness of his face, the clenching of his fists, and the tightening of his jaw. I feared for my life as I thought about the potential consequences I would face from leaving him.
I had seen a divorce lawyer two years prior to this day. On that occasion we were traveling home from a doctors appointment that he had for his back. He began screaming at me in the car, doing 100 mph, and threatening to kill us both. He had a loaded pistol in the glove box and I knew he was more then willing to grab it at any minute. I remember texting a friend and asking them to be ready to call 911. I thought for sure we would he would kill us. Now here I sat in my car and scheduled yet another appointment to meet with the lawyer. When it came time to go to his office I sat there sobbing trying my best to clearly and fairly explain my current situation. He asked questions about our marriage, our finances, and our family. I shared intimate details that I had never divulged to anyone. I felt humiliated as he probed for answers and began to draw conclusions about the toxic cruelty and abuse that was characteristic of our marriage. I shared with him that my husband was being released from the hospital after his most recent suicide attempt and that I felt certain that he was going to kill me if he were to find me. He insisted that I get myself to safety and settled before we proceed further. I left the lawyers office no better then when I walked in. My whole world fell apart. My husband knew where I worked so it was no longer safe for me to go to my office. My friends were afraid to be seen with me because of what might happen if he were to find us. I had to be careful whenever I was in public because at any time he could find me. I was constantly on edge, terrified by anything that might indicate he was in the area. I had no where to go, no money, no job, no home, and no immediate plan for my future.
I was at one of the lowest points in my life. Here I was, a well-educated, respected, successful person, with literally nothing left except what I could carry in my car. I had spent my life creating an illusion of happiness and fulfillment on the outside while on the inside I was crumbling. Eventually the whole illusion crumbled and all that was left was my God and the very few relationships I had been faithful to cultivate. I was humiliated, ashamed, living in constant terror of what might happen next.
It was in these moments that God slowly and painstakingly began to rebuild my life. I had previously accepted Jesus as my Savior at the age of 16. But even though I was a Christian I had lived a double life in many ways. Just like in my marriage, I had repeatedly allowed the approval and acceptance of others to rule in my heart and in all other areas of my life. Over the course of time I sacrificed my values and all that I had, in order to avoid arguments, to feel loved, and to be accepted. As my heart hardened and bitterness about my circumstances took root, I engaged in relationships I should have never been in and I did things that I should have never done. My heart was over run with guilt, shame, fear, bitterness, and jealousy every single day. My marriage and my life were a complete mess.
It was in the middle of this life threatening mess that God decided to rebuild my life on a firm foundation of bold truth, extravagant grace and relentless love. I confessed all that I had held within me to God. I poured out my heart to Him, all my sinful thoughts and behaviors were out in the open.
As He worked in my life I changed my ways and was intentional about living a life of integrity, transparency, and vulnerability. I broke off relationships that needed to stop; including the toxic abusive relationship with my husband. I mended relationships that needed healing by asking forgiveness from the the people I hurt, especially from my family and friends. Every tiny step of faith I took God jumped in and provided immeasurably more than I could ever imagine.
God gave me opportunities to be brave and courageous, to face my biggest fears. I hated being rejected by people. Yet, He allowed me to be rejected, falsely accused, and despised. As I leaned into Him, He showed me that my real value and worth is only found in Him, it is unshakable and is not dependent on others or myself.
God gave me opportunities to be real and genuine. I couldn’t even fake having it all together in these moments. So, He allowed me to be vulnerable, hurt, scared, guilty, needy and ashamed. I couldn’t stand that I didn’t have all the answers, that I wasn’t always right, that I didn’t always behave or react appropriately. I hated needing to ask for anything from anyone. Yet, He allowed me to be in a position where I had nothing and needed to depend on Him and others for everything from the roof over my head to the food that I would eat. I had to trust Him and risk being vulnerable. As I allowed myself to honestly express my needs and shortcomings to others, God ALWAYS provided far more than what I thought I needed. Through the compassion and forgiveness of others my physical needs were met, my shame lightened and my love and gratitude grew. I learned how to allow others to love me, and grew in my love for others.
God gave me opportunities to build my faith. He put risks in front of me with unknown outcomes. He allowed me to wonder IF……. If I would be able to make it financially and emotionally. If I could ever have a healthy relationship. If my family could ever be restored. If I could build a career. If I could ever feel like I wasn’t an outcast or a looser. If I could be free from fear, free from guilt and shame, free from condemnation. He answered with a resounding YES! For the past three years, as I have imperfectly surrendered my life to God, He has been faithful to restore things that I thought were lost forever including my identity, my hope, some relationships.
I share this story because I want you to know that you are not alone! God sees you and cares about everything you are going through. What He has done for me, He will do for you. If you want God to act on your behalf here is what you need to do.
1.) Talk to God. (Pray) Tell Him everything that is going on, express your hurts, fears, addictions, struggles, anger, doubts, convictions…..everything that is on your heart. Don’t worry about your words, don’t worry about what God will think about your situation, He already knows everything, you will not surprise him by sharing honestly all that is going on. The point here is to begin a conversation with God.
2.) Admit your faults. The truth is we all do wrong. We all sin. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US. When we tell God that we have sinned we do not surprise him. When we admit our sins we bring ourselves into alignment with Him. Basically it means we both (God and us) agree that some of the things we have done, some of the choices we have made, are wrong. And because of our choices and behaviors we have hurt people, we have hurt ourselves, and we have damaged the relationship between us and God. We also acknowledge that left to our own devices we often choose sin, and that we need help. We need Jesus to save us, to clean us up inside and out. Not just so that we do the right things, but also on the inside so that we want to do the right things…..and in some cases so that we even know what the right things are.
3.) Trust God. Next we trust God, we choose to believe in Him to save us. We believe that many years ago Jesus, who was perfect, was killed for our sins. Through his death he paid the penalty that we deserved. We believe that when he raised he overcame death and through that he brings power to overcome our sins. You can ask Him to save you (or restore you if you are already saved). This means that you will believe what He says about Jesus dying for your sins and raising from the dead. You accept Him as your savior. You also choose to accept Him as your lord. You acknowledge that He knows better than you what needs to be done. You surrender yourself and your circumstances to Him and allow him to teach you how to live. This is done through the Holy Spirit which you receive as a gift from God the moment you accept Jesus as your savior. As you continue to pray, read your bible and interact with other believers the Holy Spirit will guide you in your decisions and behaviors.
4.) Tell others about your decision. It is important that you share with others what you have done. They can come along side and encourage you and pray for you. It brings great glory to God when we tell people of our “stories” and how he is faithfully working in our lives. It also brings hope to others who may also be struggling.
Now, be prepared….this life of surrender isn’t easy. Things don’t always go perfectly. In fact often times there are trials that you will have to face. But here is the difference…as a child of God you do not need to live in fear, you can have the confident assurance that He will go with you through each trial and one day you will be with him forever in heaven.