I walked away from the straight and narrow.
I. Walked. Away. No one led me, no one tempted me, and no one forced me. I. Walked. Away.
In an event that had more mental and spiritual hardship than I was expecting, I was ill equipped to handle it. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I was unequipped and my only answer is that I thought it could never happen to me. I thought I was spiritually invincible; I was much too steady to be shipwrecked. I read my bible every day. I prayed regularly. And last but not least, I was a missionary. My pride gave me a false sense of successful living without the healing hand of Christ.
I spent 3 years of my life giving up everything to serve the God that I came to know and love. I gave up relationships, comfort, decent internet, and smooth skin without any bites for the sake of knowing Him better and serving those that He loves, and I came to find out that I’m not sure I knew Him much at all. I knew the idea of Him. I knew the characteristics of Him. But as far as truly knowing Him, I was ignorant because I hadn’t shared in His sufferings, and when I did, I didn’t handle it well.
All those great guys of the Bible that went through hard things; that was because they did bad things, right? David’s son died because he sinned. Samson had his eyes gauged out and he was imprisoned because he broke his Nazarene vow. Those were the ones I latched on to… As long as I wasn’t “like them” I’d be fine… But here’s the thing… There are those who suffered blamelessly. God gave me an opportunity to be like Job and Joseph; the innocent sufferers of the faith. And. I. Blew. It.
When I returned I was HURTING. Maybe it was the fact that I lost my identity as a missionary. Maybe it was the fact that I lost a family I came to love as my own. Maybe it was the fact that I was reintroduced to a world that was so vastly different from what I came to know. All I know for sure is this: I had the opportunity to walk with God through these things; I had the chance to suffer well; to be a Joseph of the faith. But as time drug on, and as the process got deeper, darker, and more difficult, I chose to walk away. I chose to find things in the world that were bringing a reprieve that this God I forfeited my life for wouldn’t give me, no matter how much I begged and pleaded.
As I sit here looking at the last six months through my hindsight 20/20 I’m not ashamed. I’m not condemned. I’m in awe of a loving God. I’m in awe of the God that loved David after he slept with Bathsheba. I’m in awe of Samson’s God who restored his strength and allowed him redemption. I’m in awe of the God of Peter who had 2,000 years of church structure built on his comeback after the denial of His relationship with the Lord. I’m in awe.
God is gracious, guys. He’s so gracious. In the midst of my worst decisions He was there. He protected me from things I didn’t deserve protection from. He allowed things that made me look at myself and ask “who even is this girl?” and when the day came that I didn’t like the answer He was gracious and took me back. He never took away my seat at the table. He only heaped up portions as He patiently awaited my return.
You can’t have a comeback without a fall. You can’t get up eight times until you’ve fallen seven. You can’t experience a loving return until you’ve ran away. I would never suggest anyone run from God; it’s a lot of pain and consequence, but if you’re in a season of running; if you’re questioning everything, I know from experience He will be there. He’s there now, and He’ll be there for your return. His love is steadfast. He’ll rebuild bridges you’ve burned. He’ll restore relationships you’ve forfeited. He truly does restore the years the locusts have eaten.
One of my favorite quotes I’ve read through this entire process is, “second and third repentances are not met with half-ass parties in the Father’s house”. I’m sure there will continue to be struggle, sin, doubt, frustration, etc… but every time I take a thought captive, every time I choose to repent I’ll be met with loving arms that throws a party for my decision to trust in His truth instead of my fear of God. A fear that is tarnished by wounds that were inflicted by the sin of the world.
So where do I go from here? Well. I’ve gone the David, Prodigal & Samson route. I’ve messed up and tried to clean it up. I took advantage of the grace and gifts of our God. And I’ve done most of the things I swore I’d never do. So now I get to know experientially that those ways don’t work. Masking my pain, my hurts, and my sorrows with worldly remedies doesn’t work. I need supernatural healing. I need the only one who’s able to clean up my heart one prayer at a time. I need this healer to strip away my fears of rejection and betrayal, and replace it with the value I once believed I had in Him. I. Need. Faith.
Faith is the root of healing.
Faith in His word: His word stands the test of time. When the lies that He can’t be trusted because He hasn’t felt trustworthy come to my mind I need to stand firm in His truth that, “for those who know Your name put their trust in You, for you, O Lord have not forsaken those who seek you” (psalm 9:10). I can’t quit seeking Him. That’s where the battle is won.
Faith in His hope: He gives us a hope, and a promise that is so farfetched that in times of darkness it seems unbelievable. I get to go to heaven? A place without sin. A place where my tears will be wiped away. A place where I will be able to lie down in peace…? Me? This sinner? This prodigal? This rebellious daughter? Don’t get me wrong… I know all of this is TRUE. But after the fall, it seems too much for my brain and heart to handle. I don’t deserve this hope, but I get to put my faith in it. And every time I’m reminded of the fall, or every time I stumble I get to be reminded of a gracious God whose arms are stretched out still.
Maybe next time suffering comes, or more so as it continues I’ll be a Joseph. I’ll be able to stand firm in the truth. I’ll be able to suffer well. Maybe I’ll be able use my prison to prepare for the larger picture. Maybe I’ll be a Job who stays steadfast through the trial. Next time I’m called to share in the Lord’s suffering I truly hope I’ll let Him shoulder the burden while I walk in faith & hope. But for now, I’m just thankful that God still loved David, and Samson, and Peter… And He still loves a rebellious, fallen missionary like me.
Hosea 6:1//Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up