If you are reading this blog I want to caution you. It’s not going to be for everyone. If you have not cried yourself to sleep multiple nights in a row, it might not be for you. If you haven’t thrown up because of holding in anxiety regularly, it might not be for you. It is not for the tearless or the fearless. It is very much for someone who doesn’t have it all together – and knows it. Frankly, the whole world probably knows it. Perhaps on the outside you may look cool, calm, and collected; knowledgeable to the world and able to juggle many different things with work, a family, and other outside commitments. To the outside world, it may look like you are doing just fine; but on the inside, it is taking everything you have just to open your eyes in the morning and truthfully not drive your car into oncoming traffic on the way to work. Or perhaps, you can’t even keep it together in public. You cry in the grocery story because even trying to buy a gallon of milk to bring home is too much at that moment. If this sounds like you right now, this blog is for you.
Five and a half years ago I suffered a very public and humiliating fall. It wasn’t anything that I did, but rather something someone else did that reflected on me. My husband made a mistake, and was going to be serving time in prison. During these past five years, I have been abandoned by numerous friends and family. As soon as they found out what happened; they never called, never texted, just slowly and quietly drifted away. Numerous people who we were extremely close with, even in our bridal party, cut off communication with us. I don’t harbor any ill will towards them, after all, they have to make their own choices and I still have so much love and respect for them; but, still – I felt abandoned.
Maybe they didn’t know what to say, so saying nothing at all was easier. The worst thing in my mind, was that they had something to say, but weren’t saying it. Other people in my life, made their opinions all too well known. I recently went back to the town I used to live in for a shower and one of the people there sitting at my table who knew what was going on in my life said that everyone in prison was the scum of the earth and that they should be put to death and rot in hell. I’ll never forget the look on her face. She was so disgusted. My heart sunk into my chest. My cheeks turned fiery red and I could hardly breathe. This was my husband she was talking about.
What? How could people think that? How could they believe that every person in prison deserved to die and rot? How could they make that kind of generalization? Did they even know anyone in prison? Did they know their stories- I mean really know their stories? How could their heart be so hard? I wanted to scream. I wanted to run away. I wanted to throat punch her so hard…but that’s not what a lady does at another friend’s shower. A lady puts on a happy face and continues on with the games and laughter and never shows that inside she wants to vomit from all the tension.
And so I began to feel an astronomical amount of guilt and shame. I couldn’t go to church. Many of my closest friends, who I considered family, had abandoned me in the hardest time of my life. If they had abandoned me, God definitely had to have. I was too broken though, and I had nowhere else to go. I was raised in church and the only thing I knew how to do was to go to church. So I went to church after church, after church showing up, sitting in the back, crying in the back through all the music, and was ignored.
No one prayed with me.
No one hugged me.
No one asked if they could help or listen.
They kept their heads forward and ignored. I mean come on, you can miss a grown woman on her knees in the back of a church ugly crying- and I do mean ugly crying. Abandoned- in every sense of the word. These were supposed to be God’s people!
One night I was pulled to read a passage in the bible about Joseph. Now I had never actually read the bible before but I did know the story about Joseph. My parents took me to see a play about it since I loved musicals growing up. I had sung along with the cassette tape growing up, curly unruly blonde hair flailing around creating all new choreography to the songs I had memorized. But this is the first time that I actually sat down and read the story of Joseph from the source. Joseph was the favorite in his family and everyone knew it. (Genesis 37:3) and because of his dream that he shared about the greatness in his future his brothers got mad and I mean MAD! So they did what many humans do in their anger or fear, they abandoned him. Genesis 37:23 says that “when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern.” And they left him there. They abandoned him just like I had been.
But here’s the thing I was missing. Humans had abandoned me-but humans suck. Those people who abandoned me were broken just like me or like the hypocritical pharoses that abandoned Jesus. But God didn’t abandoned Jesus at Calvary, God didn’t abandon me, and he’s sure as heck not abandoning you.
You see, this whole time I was focusing on the wrong part of my story. I was focusing on only one part-the crappy part. You see, we as humans don’t get to skip to the last chapter of our books and see how it all turns out. I’m sure some pretty terrible things were going through Joseph’s head in the bottom of that well. “Are you kidding me? How could you leave me here? I thought you were my best friends! I need you most right now!” Things I was thinking- things you may be thinking. Joseph may have even doubted God for a second or two. But he didn’t stay there. Joseph had a lot of turmoil that was yet to come in his life- but it was these bad areas that were preparing him for the amazing things that God had in store for him. If they hadn’t thrown him into the well, Judah wouldn’t have decided to sell him to some merchants, which means he wouldn’t have been accused of rape, and if he wasn’t accused of rape he wouldn’t have gone to jail. Without that he wouldn’t have been able to interpret all the dreams and speak of the future. If he was never abandoned, he never would have become Pharos’s number 2. He wouldn’t have been able to see the incoming famine and save Israel. Sometimes I think that’s where we get hooked up on. We get hooked up on the terrible feelings were feeling right now and think that they aren’t ever going to end. We don’t get to flip to the back of the book to the happy ending- we have to wait through the turmoil. We have to stew in the crap for a while before the greatness that is in our future that God has in store for us. But isn’t that were the best stories are made? No one wants to read a story where the guy gets the girl on the first try and lives happily ever after. You want the trial. You want the hardship. That’s what makes life interesting. That’s where God is shaping you towards your future and the amazing things that he has in store for YOU. Have faith that he has a plan for you and it is GOOD.
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.)
You don’t have to get his plan. Heck- I’m still not sure I understand his plan for me. After all, Isaiah 55:8-9 says:
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still figuring it out. And my feelings of human abandonment and brokenness are not gone- not even close. But I do know now that I have a God who loves more than I can even imagine, furiously and unconditionally.
If your stuck in a well- don’t get hooked up on that. He’s got you. He’s taking care of you. He knows the end of your story- and it’s good. Trust him. After all, God isn’t like people I know. He doesn’t love us on the condition that we are always doing the right thing. He doesn’t love us on the condition that we hold a good place in society, have a big bank roll or know the ‘right people’. There is NO CONDITION.
Outcast? No problem.
Friendless? That works.
You are perfectly qualified through him for something great. You are perfectly qualified to accept his love. He loves us so deeply because he made us. He created us- in his image. Isn’t that nuts?! Jesus isn’t like other false gods that are keeping a tally of your rights and wrongs. There is no scale weighing our good deeds. He doesn’t despise us and he’s not distant. He wants to have a deep and committed relationship to us. But he wants us to choose him. To love him back. Isn’t that what everyone wants? To truly love and be loved in return without any conditions? And that’s where I got hooked up at for a long time. How could he love me? I was an outcast- heck I couldn’t even get someone to pray with me in church let alone to get a friend to call me up and hang out, because after all – they all knew what happened and I saw their Facebook posts-I knew how they felt; and if there was one thing that I knew about God, it’s that he knew what happened too. Every graphic terrible detail of what I had done and what he had done.
That’s why I think people have a hard time swallowing this gospel of wonderful news. We suck so much and have royally messed up and God doesn’t care. All he wants is for us to say, “I’m sorry. I blew it. Please take me and Love me.” And is by his wonderful grace and mercy that he does, not because of anything we have done or could ever do. Now that- is good news.