Hands and house

Hands and house

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Beauty From Ashes

I have felt for a few days that I was supposed to re-post this...maybe for my sake, maybe for that of another...blessings on you today.

I spent my first year in college pretty lost, really tumbling around and trying to figure out who I was in the big adult world of academia and the greek system. It was not a pretty time for me. My friends and I spent almost every night drinking at fraternities and most mornings I did not remember how I had gotten home the night before. It was an empty, shallow time where my main friendships consisted mainly of joking about the stupid things we had done the night before and usually who had thrown up in the most embarassing place (just being real about it here). During that time I made a lot of decisions that reaped consequences later. One of the biggest was going to a dance with a guy who literally was nicknamed "Satan"...yeah, I was searching and not in good places. Well...what happened that night was something that would change everything....you can guess, it involved a bed and me saying "no" and him not at all respecting that. It is something that I then hid for the next 5 years, telling only one person ever. After that first year of college I hit a place where I realized this was considered the "best" the world had to offer and re-dedicated my life to the Lord...but I still told no one what had happened.

Even though I told no one and did everything that I could to hide and ignore what had happened, it had changed everything. As I forced myself not to deal with "it", I numbed myself not only to the negative feelings but depth of really any feeling. I became incredibly insecure and filled with shame. The people that I knew, got only the veneer of me. I was sure if they really knew me they would not want anything to do with me. I learned to cope and this way of living became a new reality for me, to the point where I didn't even realize anything was wrong except that I always had this big void and was disappointed when others could not fill it. I blamed everyone else for it, they were the ones who were the problem not me. If only they could love me like I thought they should then this knawing would be satisfied. I was crushed and terrified whenever I did even the smallest thing wrong.

I was a Christian during these years and was "doing" everything right. I was working in full time ministry, praying, reading Scripture and all of those "things". What I did not realize is that I was also only allowing God entry into that thin veneer as well, that is as far as I thought God would go...He was God after all and my job was to follow Him to do the "Christian" things, to act right for Him.

I entered Seminary in that 5th year not having any idea how broken I was. I moved in knowing no one. In the silence and the loneliness, the stuff that I had been hiding began to burn like a hot coal in my heart. Part of the program that I was studying required that every student go through a quarter of counseling (brilliant on the school's part) because so many people stepped into ministry with un-dealt with "stuff" (hmmm...who could do that???). I was terrified.

I remember pulling over to the side of the road on my way to my first counseling session. My heart was pounding and I felt like I could not breathe. I literally felt like I would break into a milllion pieces if I told this woman about my past. What had happened and the ways that I had learned to "cope" had become so much a part of me that I really felt like I would die without it. So I gripped the steering wheel and prayed. The only thing that got me to that session was that hot burning coal of pain and some sort of sense that God wanted me to do something with it.

The session surprised me. I waited until the very end to tell the counselor what had happened. I could hardly breathe as I did. Once it was out there I felt a bit empty and very shaken, but also a bit lighter. She talked with me and cared for me (as I used up almost her whole box of tissue!) gave me some things to work on. We prayed and I left and you know what? I was still alive! Not only that, it was like a huge spotlight had been shined on something that had been festering in the dark for so long. I could actually breathe a bit better and felt a tiny bit of hope for the first time.

We every week for that quarter and each week a bit more of that darkness got chipped away. I learned how to feel again, how to see the ways that my "hiding" as well as what had happened had stunted me emotionally. I learned how to step back into life in a healthy way. More than those skills though, something began to happen between the Lord and I. Slowly, I began to hear Him calling to me. Gently, He would ask me to show Him my pain. I pictured myself (in prayer) holding up a nasty, oozing, cancerous mass of pain. What happened next? He looked at it with me and reminded me of His promises:

"A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out..".

Matthew 12:20

His desire was to:

"to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness

instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

instead of a spirit of despair..."

Isaiah 61:2-3

And that He whispered:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Matthew 11:28-30

And that His desires were:

"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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. "

Jeremiah 29:11-14

You see...God was so different than I had made Him out to be. I was overwhelmed by His tenderness, His compassion was so incredibly deep (limitless really)! He wanted more than anything to know my heart, to tend my wounds and He healed them. His promises were and still are true. When we let Him, He brings beauty where there were only ashes, gladness where there was mourning. He longs to hold us close to His heart, to carry us and to heal us. His plans are beautiful, life-giving and filled with hope. Even though looking at the wound was and is painful...truly experiencing His compassion and healing brings hope and life like I never dreamed possible.

During this time, we were reading a lot of Henri Nouwen for some of my classes. In Nouwen's book 'Life of the Beloved', I came across this:

" As I write to you now about our brokenness, I recall a scene from Leonard Bernstein's 'Mass' (a musical work written in memory of John F. Kennedy) that embodied for me the thought of brokenness put under the blessing. Toward the end of this work,the priest, richly dressed in splendid liturgical vestments, is lifted up by his people. He towers high above the adoring crowd, carrying in his hands a glass chalice. Suddenly, the human pyramid collapses, and the priest comes tumbling down. His vestments are ripped off, and his glass chalice falls to the ground and is shattered. As he walks slowly through the debris of his former glory - barefoot, wearing only blue jeans, and a T-shirt - children's voices are heard singing, "Laude, laude, laude" - "Praise, praise, praise." Suddenly the priest notcies the broken chalice. He looks at it for a long time and then, haltingly, he says, "I never realized that broken glass could shine so brightly."

This has been my journey with my tender, loving, compassionate, beautfiul Lord. He takes my hand and guides me. Sometimes all that I can see is ugly shattered glass around me. Gently, He leads me to a piece and says, "My love, pick it up." I pick it up and it hurts me, I bleed and I want to look away. He asks me to let Him hold it with me and as He tends to my wounds, the glass begins to shine...and you know what? The thing that I wanted so badly to hide, slowly begins to shine and finally over time becomes beautiful! The Lord promises that He will! And then, He beckons to another...and another. Until amidst the shards there is also brilliant beauty.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Romans 8:28

Somehow, as I bring to Him my weakness...it becomes His strength. That "thing" that I hid for so long? EVERY time that I have the honor to share it , girls (and some women) come up to me afterwards saying that they have had something like this happen . Each time I am so humbled and overcome with thankfulness and tears flow as I get to talk & pray with them. It is the beginning of the Lord turning their ashes into beauty and I cannot imagine more Holy Ground.

Re-reading this today is SUCH a reminder that God can take even the hardest situations, my darkest days and turn them to good...this morning I am taking all three sick kids to the doctor, trying to hopefully video one of Georgia's episodes so that we can determine if they are seizures and getting ready for Doug to head to Seattle again...and this morning God has used this to remind me of where to fix my eyes and where my true strength comes from

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

Ephesians 3:17-19


Arnold family said...

Wow, thanks for the honesty and wisdom.

Rachel said...

Awesome post! Our pastor preached on Is.61 this past Sunday and sooo many people responded to the message...He indeed gives us beautiful exchanges - beauty for ashes, joy for mourning...

You can listen to the message at http://www.oasiswired.org if you're interested.

Blessings to you and continuing to pray for Georgia and your family!

Renee said...

This is a very powerful story of how God has healed you from something terrible that happened to you. How He heals all of us in our most broken places. Praying for you today and giving thanks for your willingness to share your most private hurts in order to glorify God.

TanyaLea said...

Wow Shannon. I have tears here. What a POWERFUL testimony you have. I am so glad that you allowed God back in, to tend to and heal your wounds, and to make TRUE BEAUTY out of ashes. You have one of the most beautiful hearts I know, and just knowing where you came from and what God has done in your life, makes that beauty shine even BRIGHTER for Him!

Loved EVERY SINGLE scripture you listed. Thank you for sharing!

And YES...do keep your eyes focused on Him. I know He holds the answers and He will see you through. Isn't it wonderful to know that when we serve Him, He will NEVER leave us nor forsake us... He is right there with you, and will be as you head back to the dr with Georgia again, too.

love you, dear friend!!

BIG Hugs,

Tami and Bobby Sisemore Family said...

tears flowing...part of what you shared i have been through and is one more bond you and i share


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