It was as if my heavenly Father commandeered the meeting – a tactical move to push the enemy back from trespassing on my freedom, from invading territory where he was not welcome.
As my husband and I prayed with our Pastor that day, a new question was posed – to enquire of the Lord if there was a particular verse or passage of Scripture that He wished for us to read together.
2 Corinthians, Chapter 4 immediately came to mind. The Pastor was familiar with the passage. It speaks of our treasure being held in jars of clay, and promises that, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair…” (vs 8). He could see why the Lord would lead us to these verses.
Or so he thought.
The Pastor asked me to close my eyes and focus on the words as he slowly read aloud. He was sure that I would find encouragement and hope in Paul’s words about the reality of suffering, but the promise of being renewed day by day.
One phrase stood out clearly, as if it were shouted while the rest was whispered, “…we have renounced secret and shameful ways…” (vs. 2).
When the Pastor finished reading, he asked me if the Holy Spirit had drawn my attention to anything in particular. I was evasive in my answer. I said that there were a couple of things – that I just wasn’t sure.
Evasive is not a strong enough word, really. I was being dishonest. I knew the phrase that had been impressed on my heart, but did not want to go down that path.
The Pastor began unpacking the passage with great enthusiasm – sharing the many wonderful promises found throughout the Chapter.
I couldn’t focus.
That one phrase played repeatedly through my mind.
My spirit was unsettled. I knew that the Lord had business He intended to pursue with me that day. Although I could certainly choose to resist, I knew that I would not have peace if I did.
I interrupted the Pastor and asked for his bible. I explained that I could not focus on what he had to say, because God was clearly drawing my attention to one phrase. My heart raced and I felt the heaviness of shame as I read the verse aloud.
The Pastor could see that I was struggling. That this was purely a step of obedience, and not something I wanted to discuss. My face was flushed. I could not look him in the eye. I was afraid of what my husband might be thinking. I did not want to embarrass him.
They were both so gentle, reassuring me that it was okay. That there was nothing I could say that would make either of them think any less of me. That they were proud of me for my willingness to be obedient despite how difficult it was for me.
Through my tears, I shared how I had been slipping back into old patterns of coping – things that I knew were dysfunctional, even harmful, but somehow felt comfortable and reassuring during times of stress.
I had given into the temptation to harm myself on a couple of occasions, and although it was mild in comparison to where I have been in the past, I knew it was a slippery slope.
An idol, really. Turning to something other than God to find release from the pain.
Even more difficult was admitting that I had been intentionally putting myself in the position of feeling abused by my husband, believing that I deserved to be punished.
To be clear, my husband is the sweetest and most gentle person. He would never hurt anyone. We have a wonderful relationship and I love him dearly, but some parts of our marriage have been a challenge.
Physical intimacy is an ongoing struggle because of the trauma that I experienced as a little girl. Things are fine one minute, but often something will trigger memories of abuse and I will dissociate – losing touch with reality. In these times, I am my five-year-old self, feeling scared and confused.
Thankfully, this has been happening less and less. We are learning to recognize times when it is just not a good idea – when I’m tired or stressed. My husband is so patient and understanding. He would rather wait for me to be in a good frame of mind, than do anything to cause me pain.
But I had been intentionally coming to him when I knew the outcome would not be good. I felt like I deserved to be punished, and manipulated circumstances to fill this unhealthy desire.
My Pastor led me in a prayer to renounce these “secret and shameful ways”. There was an amazing peace that settled in my spirit as the footholds of the evil one were broken and the burden was lifted. That which was intended to keep me imprisoned in the darkness of shame, was totally obliterated by the glorious light of Christ.
Freedom was tangible. Joy flooded my spirit. I smiled through happy tears and commented, “If this is the abundant life, sign me up! So very worth the struggle!”
How kind of our loving, heavenly Father to relentlessly pursue me with His plans for freedom, despite my resistance. He knows the strongholds that I have struggled with in the past, things that I have found freedom from through his grace. He allowed the evil one only so much latitude – not because He wants to harm me, but because He knew the healing that would occur as I walked in obedience to His prompting.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)
May you, sweet one, be blessed with a renewed understanding of His goodness and love,