“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are Mine.”
How many times fear has ruled my life! I can’t begin to tell you. I never realized until recently that all the feelings that I was having as I grew up, and as I went through public school and then college was anxiety. I never realized that the knot in my stomach, the shaking, the pounding heart, and inability to concentrate, the overwhelming need to run away, was a panic attack. I never realized that the bouts I had with sadness and the feelings of tears that I stuffed down, the thoughts that no one would miss me if I just disappeared for a while, was depression. I didn’t have a name for it. I never had. Until recently.
When I married my husband, we searched until we found a church that we both liked, where we were comfortable, where we were welcomed and encouraged in our walks with God. Through a series of “coincidences,” God brought us together with a couple who formed a small group that met in our house. Our group swelled and ebbed as we went through life, and as people came and went, but the core group stayed the same. And we got close. Very close. We became a family in every sense of the word. We loved each other, started to learn what it meant to bear each other’s burdens and lift each other up and encourage one another. We also had fun together, laughed and played together, and worshipped our God together.
Through the first 3 years that we knew the founding couple of our group, our family, I was afraid. I was afraid that as they came into my home for a meal, I would be found lacking. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be a good hostess. I was particularly nervous because my husband does shift work at the hospital in town, and is unable to be with us some weeks, and so there were times I had to host alone.
Slowly, as I grew to know the group, I began to trust them. It took me a long time to trust them enough to start sharing prayer requests and things going on in my life that were more than surface. I was afraid of what they would think of me. For me the real breakthrough started to happen when we had been together as a group for about a year, maybe a bit more. I was able to start sharing a little bit about my past with my family, and some of the pain that I was carrying, some of the bitterness there.
When my son was about 18 months old, I started longing for another baby. Nothing we did seemed to work, and I was afraid that it would never happen. One night we were meeting at another couples house, and as it came time for prayer requests, I started to cry. I finally was able to express to them my desire, and some of the depression and mood swings I was going through, and how much I was hurting and longing inside.
With that, they prayed for me. They poured out their hearts before God, truly bringing me before the throne of grace. They prayed expectantly, hopefully, expecting God to answer them. I never knew of any one, or any group of people so willing to pour themselves into me, and into prayer for me. I had never experienced such family, such love.
Slowly through that group, God started to thaw my heart. He started to work on me, and show me how much I meant to him, by using those people. And the negative thoughts increased. The lies I had believed for so long seemed to become more entrenched in me. Maybe it was because the enemy saw that God was using these people to start to break the chains that bound me. Maybe it was because my fear took over. Maybe it was a combination of the two. I was afraid that this family would be taken away. I was afraid that I would be abandoned by these friends, this family, as I had been by others.
Now our family group is working on our 5th year together as I write this. We have been through many ups and downs. They have weathered some major storms with me. We are preparing to weather some major storms with another couple in our group. We have rejoiced to see someone in our family come to Christ. I have finally come to trust them. I find myself many times struggling against those other voices. I still hear the negative thoughts. I still see the bad things that have happened to me, or the bad things that I did, or the ways I backed out of some things, and pressed on in others, and I hear those names over and over.
And I find myself afraid. Even though I have a close family group, sometimes I go there feeling afraid to let them know how I am really doing, good or bad.
Other times, I am able to start seeing God’s light at the end of the tunnel. God is healing me. God is working in my life. Slowly he is building a testimony into my life of redemption, of calling, of hope, of joy. Such joy as I have never known. It isn’t always felt and known deeply in my heart, but it is there bubbling out of a small spring planted in me a long time ago. Sometimes it is faint and just barely a trickle. Other times it is an overwhelming flood, to the point where all I can do is get on my knees and cry before God with such immense thankfulness.