This is a story about how God moves in our lives. He has certainly made his glorious presence known in mine, and my heart sings his praises. It amazes me how visible Jesus can be, if you keep your eyes and heart wide open. My story is one of hope and heartache, and if anyone knows his amazing grace and bounding love, it is this girl who sits here today, alive when I should have been buried ten feet under; and in love with the Prince of Peace I remain.
So many of us get it wrong. Raised in the Catholic church, I was brutalized by the image of God that portrayed an angry and vengeful deity. I remember in kindergarten, my OCD already ruling my life, I was terrified to do anything. If I stepped on a crack, well, I knew that was going to “break my mother’s back.” As a teen, when the boys came a knocking, my mother told me the story of the birds and the bumbles….
“I think you should know a thing or two about boys and sex, Michele. Kissing is a form of rape, and if you get close to a boy’s private area, you are going to get pregnant, and I don’t want my daughter to be shunned by God. I mean, Jesus, Christ, Mary and Joseph……WHAT WILL THE NEIGHBORS THINK??????”
That little conversation affected me so strongly, that after 25 years of marriage? I am still closing my knees to the point that my husband has to pry them apart. I wish I was kidding. I once saw a nun slap my brother, hard, after he waved to me in line for a movie. That evening I went home and spoke with my father. Needless to say, we didn’t go back to CCD. And I left the church, forlorn and out of my mind anxious.
Years and years later, my mother in law sent her church elders to pray for me. I was accosted the moment I opened the door: no warning, just a gaggle of church ladies pouncing on me…….and I was angry. I was polite, but this did nothing for my faith, let alone my relationship with the monster in law. (She has narcissistic tendencies-combine that with 15 years of my drunken antics and well, let’s just say we coexist. She and her husband live across the street. One day, after going on a scavenger hunt which involved having a drink at each bar we visited, my friends dropped my drunken behind off at home. My husband was hunting with his son, and I soon passed out on the bed. After waking, I saw the clock, which read (in my stupor) 7 o’clock a.m. I thought my husband hadn’t come home from the “night before.” Not only did I chase him around the maple tree in our front yard (broad daylight), for reasons unknown to me to this very day, I stripped off my clothes and proceeded to sit on the roof top, screaming “I DON’T GIVE A FUCK WHAT THE NEIGHBORS THINK!!!!!!!” My in-laws had company that day, church company….I shudder at the memory. (I laugh too, but not in front of my husband.)
Ten years ago I was given the strength (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!) to quit drinking after an attempted suicide. I came out of it in the hospital to the sound of my husband saying, “She held a knife” at my throat over a bottle of wine.”
“Why? Why would you lie like that?” I stammered. He then put his weary head in his hands and wept like a child. That frightened me so badly, I quit drinking that very day. It hurt me to see him so defeated. I truly thought there was no hope for me, between depression, suicidal ideation and addiction? I never for a moment thought that God still loved me, I was full of shame, remorse and self hatred.
I was working as a private duty nurse across the street from a Methodist Church. One day I walked out to get the mail and saw the pastor across the street working on the marquis. He invited me to join the congregation the following Sunday. He spoke these words, and he will never know how they changed my life:
“Come as you are.”