Saturday, November 6, 2010
Journey through Destruction
When we want to build muscle and tone up our bodies, the first step is to actually tear the muscle down. As the muscle generates new cells, it becomes stronger than it was before. It seems counter-intuitive, that the process of becoming better first includes destruction.
This is the process that Jesus went through. In His own words, the temple will be destroyed but in three days it will be rebuilt. The punishment he sustained before the actual crucifixion was barbaric, followed by his death on the cross. Three days later, He emerged victorious, conquering the grave, in a body that will never again taste illness or death. It is interesting to note that when He appeared in His resurrected form, He kept the scars in His hands and in His side. He did not try to hide what He had endured, but used it to confirm His identity. He allowed, even encouraged, His followers to touch His scars and see for themselves that it was really Him.
Following the example that God set through Jesus' journey, as He builds us up into stronger people, there usually comes a tearing down first, a period of destruction. I sat at my first women's retreat in 2007 and sobbed almost the entire time. I couldn't explain why; I just knew that there was something going on inside of me. It felt like a dam had burst. For years I had carried the shame of the adultery I had committed in my first marriage. The fullness of what I had done and the families I had affected was like a millstone around my neck. It was all I could think about, but I spoke of it to no one. I was too ashamed. Truthfully, I allowed my past of being abused to carry the weight for me. It gave me a legitimate outlet for the feelings of guilt and shame that I had. It wasn't until 2007 that I began to tell a few trusted people about the woman I used to be. I also began to tell the story of my abuse…the walls were beginning to crumble. The destruction of all that bound me was underway.
In 2008 I once again attended our church's women's retreat. The speaker taught about the woman at the well, and though Jesus knew all about her, still invited her into conversation. He promised that if she sought what He offered, she would never be thirsty again. I could feel the parched places in my soul beginning to come alive. He didn't need me to be perfect. As I listened to her message of hope, I sobbed once again, this time in wonder. I was beginning to understand that it isn't about me at all, that it is only Jesus that gives us new life. I knew that I was being rebuilt from the inside out, washed clean by Him.
It wasn't until 2010 at the women's retreat that I shared the work that had been going on in my soul. I still hid behind the cloak of safety being abused gave me. Only a few friends knew about the adulterous portion of my past. It is much easier to be seen as a strong survivor, which I was, than a woman who committed adultery. Both badges are mine, though, and to give more weight to one than the other does not give credit to Jesus and the redemptive work He has done in my life. It was as I shared my testimony of the pit I had willingly jumped into that my chains were finally broken. The chains that my abuser put on me had been broken long ago, but the shackles that I clamped on were still holding fast. As long as I didn't feel free to share my whole story, the enemy of my soul was still holding the key; I would be a captive until I spoke the words of truth.
When I stepped forward and announced to 250 women the things I had done, I truly thought I would pass out. But, as I began to speak of the forgiveness and the healing that is available only through Jesus Christ, I gained a boldness that I never knew I had. I heard myself speak the message that the Lord has given me to share for the first time. I had known for a few years that Jesus will transform your life when you invite Him in, but I was just beginning to see why that matters. It is so that we can be a voice of hope for those who believe they will never be welcomed by their Savior with open arms. It is so that as we help another see the Light, maybe for the first time, we can be known by the love that Jesus has shown us. And, it is so that as we begin to live by faith, we can lead others closer to Him.
Like the destruction of muscle and the destruction of the physical body of Jesus, I have undergone a change that has only made me stronger. It was only once I stopped hiding the scars, all of them, that I was able to truly see what the face of redemption looks like. It is being able to live out loud for Jesus, telling others of His grace and mercy, sharing your story…all of it, and leading others to the One who alone can heal them.