As we walk through life and journey in between seasons and constantly fight for a real and honest relationship with the Lord, we find a need for healing. Every one of us has been broken in one way or another. Angel shares the story of her brokenness and the healing she began to find. This devotional, while intensely personal to Angel, also stirred up questions in my heart: “In what ways do I need healing? What are the hurting areas in me that God desires to heal and turn into beauty?”
I met Angel when I was 15 years old. We were in China on a mission trip, and in the evenings we would sing together at a rickety old piano. She’d sing gorgeous harmonies to whatever song I played; those are some of my favorite memories from that trip. Since our 2002 China venturings, we’ve kept in touch. She married a wonderful man who also has a heart for China, and they are currently in the process of moving there. This devotional is a piece of her heart that she shared with me over a year ago for this blog.
College you graduated from/are in and your major: Wheaton College ’07, English Literature
Your job: Marketing Assistant at a publishing company
Favorite color: Blue
Favorite food: Homemade cheesecake
Describe yourself/life in 3 words: passionate, enigmatic, honest
What you want to do with your life: The only thing I know I want to do is to share God’s love with people. I feel called to live in China long term. I visited China in high school (which is actually how I met Tiffany!) and fell in love with the country and the people. My husband and I started dating on a school trip to China in college, and we both want to go back long-term. Other than those two things, I’m very flexible about life. English teaching, business, stay-at-home mom, whatever!
One interesting fact about you: I was the foosball champion of my high school youth group.
Most dangerous thing you’ve ever done: In college, I went to Jordan for a summer with other college-aged students. During our last week there, three of us decided we wanted to go back to a tourist location that was a few hours drive from where we lived. We had gone to this tourist location earlier in the summer and made some friends that we wanted to see again before we left. We ended up not being able to leave our city until close to dark, so we were driving across Jordan until about midnight in a van with this cab driver we had never met before. At one point along the way, we were stopped by the police, who wanted to check and make sure there was no funny business going on. Everything went okay, but we realized then how potentially stupid the whole situation could have been for us. People knew where we were going, but most of Jordan is desert. Anything could have happened to us, and that late at night, it would have been hard to get help if anything bad had happened. There were a couple of other similar scenarios that summer that I would also rank as potentially most dangerous things I’ve done. But then a lot of things you do in the Middle East as a woman can be dangerous 🙂 Still, God protected us, and it was a wonderful, eye-opening summer.
Favorite quote: This is a tough one because the publishing company I work for primarily prints books with lots of inspirational quotes in them. Part of my job is to post quotes on our Twitter page, so I’ve come across a bunch that I like! One of the quotes I’ve seen recently that struck me was this: “There are things to see in the Word of God that our eyes can only see through the lens of tears.” -John Piper
Favorite Bible verse: Again, a tough one! I love Psalm 73 and Psalm 46. I love the book of Job, especially chapter 36. I love 1 Corinthians. There are just too many to choose!
What is one secret to living life as a woman of God in today’s world? For me, it has been getting to know God as a lover. That may sound weird, but honestly, at my lowest times as a woman, when I have felt ugly and undesired, God has played that role in my life. When I turn to Him in those moments, He is so gentle and passionate toward me. He speaks to my heart and lets me know that I’m desired. I know those feelings aren’t just things I’m imagining, because, in those times, I don’t feel anything good toward myself. I just feel sorry for myself, and I think if it were up to me, I would stay in that place of feeling sad and hopeless. But whenever I consciously turn those feelings over to God, He is so faithful to speak words of acceptance and love over me. It completely changes my perspective and makes me feel beautiful, no matter what outside circumstances may be saying.
I didn’t exactly grow up in a Christian home. I say exactly, because in a way, I did grow up in a Christian home. I’ve gone to church pretty much every week since I was five years old. My family did Bible studies together on occasion. We sat in the front row every Sunday morning. My dad drove the church bus. My mom taught Sunday school. My sister and I were leaders in our youth group. If you didn’t examine us too closely, things were pretty great.
I was a kind, quiet girl who got along with everyone I knew at school and at church. I was called a “daddy’s girl” by kids in junior high, not because anyone knew my dad, but because that was how I acted. I was “good.” I never rebelled. I just wanted to fit in and go unnoticed. I never made waves in any area of my life.
The truth was I was terrified of turning out like my parents.
My mom did become a Christian when I was five. But she was already married to my step-dad, who was an avid drug user and drinker. My mom never left him for a variety of reasons – her belief that my sister and I needed our dad around, her fear of not getting a good job to support us, her belief that God wanted her to stay in the marriage, and her obsessive love/neediness for love. My mom and step-dad remained in a negative, destructive relationship throughout my childhood. She would nag and yell; he would leave and get drunk. Screaming matches were common. Name calling was expected. The kids were often dragged in the middle of fights or were blamed as the cause of fights.
As I entered junior high, I hated myself. I hated my life, I hated my family. I hated that my mom wouldn’t leave my step-dad. I hated that I couldn’t trust my parents. I wished that they were dead. And if that couldn’t happen, I wished that I could die. These were the things I never talked about to anyone. And so, everyone thought my life was great. I went to youth group every week because my mom forced me to go, but no one knew the real me. With all of the deception, the self-hatred, the fear in my life, God was far from my heart and mind.
Near the end of junior high, my step-dad became a Christian. Things improved a bit at home, but the root causes of my parents’ fighting remained. Drugs and alcohol were no longer an issue, but selfishness, intimidation, and fear still often carried the day in our home. I remember one family Bible study we attempted to have that ended with my parents screaming at each other because my mom was trying to take the lead too much.
In the midst of this confusion and pain, God turned my heart toward Him the week before I started high school. At a youth group meeting one night, God revealed His presence to me definitively for the first time. It’s hard to put words to it. If you’ve had that experience, the experience of the Holy Spirit illuminating your heart and mind to the knowledge of God’s existence, you know what I mean. All the words in the world can’t add up to the fullness of that moment when you just know that He is.
After I first believed in God and began to follow Jesus in my daily life, I had a utopic couple of years. I still felt some pain from the conflict that continued to go on at home, but I had this invigorating new sense of purpose that I had never felt before. I cared about my classmates and fellow students in youth group. I wanted everyone around me to know God like I did. I spent as much time as I could investing in ministry, studying scripture, and pouring out my heart to God.
Toward the end of high school, I began to lose some of the urgency I felt those first two years as a Christian. I believed in God and I wanted to live for Him, but watching some close Christian friends walk away from the Lord and having an increasing workload from tougher classes at school made me far less passionate about Christ than I had been. I coasted through the next couple of years, just trying to get through high school.
The summer before I left home for college, unresolved issues from my past began to crop up. At this point, my family was still attending church and things weren’t quite as nasty at home as they had been at earlier points. But our relationships were still on shaky ground, especially as I, the oldest child, prepared to leave. My younger sister began to distance herself from me as she felt the pain of my approaching departure and feared being left at home without me to deal with our parents’ conflict. My mom and step-dad tried to tighten the reins as much as possible in reaction to realizing they would soon lose control over me.
Meanwhile, my fear of my parents was increasing. The more pressure they put on me, the more I felt suffocated and criticized. Throughout my high school years, I felt like I could never be good enough for my parents. Even though I was still “the good child,” and even more so with my newfound roles in church, I never seemed to do enough to please my parents. They would still yell and scream when something wasn’t done well enough. They would criticize in the same breath as they would praise my siblings and me. As I prepared to leave for college, the negative emotions I had built up over the years because of my parents’ criticism came to a head.
My first week of college, God told me that He was about to begin a healing process in my life that would properly deal with the hurt I had harbored for years. He showed me that when I first became a Christian, I had rushed forward with zeal and devotion. I had quickly bandaged up a broken arm without setting it properly. I thought it had been healed, but now I was seeing that the healing was only superficial. He was going to re-break the arm and set it properly this time, so that true healing would take place.
The next chapter in my life could actually take a book to relate, so I’ll just sum it up by saying that college was a difficult time for me. There were many ups and downs, but the Lord was true to His word. I experienced so much pain as He opened up old wounds and forced me to look at my true identity and the family I had come from. Before college, I never told my story to anyone. I was ashamed of the brokenness in my past. I was ashamed of the anger in my house, the suicidal thoughts, the lack of relationships in my “Christian” family. I didn’t know how to relate with other Christians who had come from great family backgrounds. It took several years, but in my time at college, I learned how to talk about my past. I learned how to remember painful memories without thinking suicidal thoughts. I learned a little more of what it means to cast my cares on the Lord because He cares.
I don’t know where you’re at in your life today. Maybe you’re on a mountaintop right now. But if you’re in a valley, if you’re discouraged because of your past, your present, or your future, I know God is faithful to reach you where you’re at. He is long-suffering with us. He is willing to join us in our suffering, however long it takes, to bring us to a place of healing and restoration. His will for us is to be fruitful in His Kingdom. Sometimes that means going through pain and letting Him scour out the bad things we’re holding on to, even when we don’t realize we’re holding them. Sometimes it even means we have to stop doing things for Him, while we make sure we’re being honest before Him. He doesn’t want us to keep limping along with our half-healed limbs, trying to do the best we can, ignoring His hand reached out to us.
You may feel like you can’t relate to my story of a broken family past. But my guess is you can relate to feeling hurt and broken by something in your life. Maybe it was a negative word spoken about your appearance when you were young – a word that has stuck with you and defined you subconsciously all along. Maybe it’s a feeling you have that you’re not quite as desirable as the girls you see in magazines. Maybe you struggle with competition, wanting to gain attention so you can feel good about yourself. These are all things I’ve struggled with from time to time, and I think it’s nearly impossible for girls not to struggle with these things in our image-driven culture. Even in these areas, God is able and willing to heal us, to set us free from the burdens we’ve been carrying.
Examine your heart now. What burdens have been loaded on you, by family, by culture, by friends, by yourself? What scars do you carry from those heavy loads? Are you willing to name your burdens? Are you willing to ask God to name the burdens you don’t even realize you’re carrying? Are you willing to let Him heal you deeply, the way only He can?
Father God, I pray that You would remind us of Your healing power and of Your willingness to cleanse us from our sin and heal us from all of our diseases. We recognize that emotional and mental baggage can be diseases that are as painful as physical diseases, and we give You full authority in our lives over those areas. Bring to mind everything that You know we need to be healed from, in Your perfect timing. Help us to be sensitive to Your voice and to trust You with our hearts. We thank You and praise You for calling us, Your creation, good. We thank You that by Your grace and mercy, we are beautiful. We’re excited to spend eternity with You, sharing in the glory of Your coming Kingdom. Amen.
To read more essays from Angel, check out her work blog at http://blog.inspiredfaith.com.
Check back next time for a blog by Sierra Minnott, who shares her own journey into healing through winning the Miss Florida 2008 pageant, and how she learned to become comfortable in her own skin.