I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you. Ephesians 1:18
There was a time when the very word hope made me angry. I was afraid to hope. But as I tell you my story, my hope was restored and now it brings me great comfort.
I was the perfect kid, or so everyone thought. I had been voted most likely to succeed in my high school in a small town in Missouri, was very involved in church, and during college I felt a call upon my life for ministry. I applied to and was accepted to a seminary in Dallas, Texas.
Everything was set. Then two weeks before I was supposed to go, I decided I needed to stay and save money for the costs. That following year my income doubled. It doubled again the next year. Unfortunately, my desires for seminary had been replaced with desires for things and status.
Several people I knew from church and my family asked me when I was going to go to seminary, and I told them I was waiting on God to let me know. I was lying. I was spending everything I made and living it up. In fact, I was going into debt using credit cards as well. I bought two houses and had a new car almost every six months. I was falling and I couldn’t seem to stop.
I ended up hooking up with the wrong people and went “clubbing” with them. At first, I was the designated driver, but soon became the designated drunk. I wasn’t sleeping much. I was going out almost every night of the week. I fell further. I soon left those “friends” behind and got involved with some new “friends” and began using drugs. I fell even further. I was going non-stop, and eventually I lost everything and fell into total despair and depression. I was on a crash course to self destruction, and I made it there no problem.
In June 2000 I took what should have been a lethal dose of Tylenol PM. The doctor told my family when they found me and rushed me to the ER that I wouldn’t last a couple of hours. But, I did. For four days the doctor said I wouldn’t make it. Then after one last blood test, he announced that he didn’t believe in miracles, but here I was. I had no evidence of the overdose in my body. He had never heard or read of a single case of someone with half the toxins in my blood, much less without permanent liver problems. God had miraculously saved my life.
Oh, I could tell you all these reasons I learned in therapy why I did some of those things. There’s some sexual abuse in my past and a divorce, both of which created shame after which I patterned most of my life. There is some truth to that. But, I made those choices. I had set a path in my mind against the Lord, just as King David had warned against in Psalm 4:4 and 36:4. I was angry with God for some unknown reason, and I chose to “have a good time” instead of doing what He wanted me to do. I didn’t plan on wrecking my life, but I did.
After being released from the hospital, I saw a Christian counselor, and for the next year I sort of wandered aimlessly, spiritually and emotionally. Then suddenly it seemed once again that I felt God’s grace, love, and hope. Hope was a word that when someone said it before then, I’d leave the room. It angered me. I didn’t believe in it. Hope was a dangerous word because it could hurt. But God softened my heart and hope grew. I began studying for a master’s in ministry degree a few months later. Every so often I’d experience a mild depressive episode, and then I’d come out of it. I thought I was ok, though doomed to these episodes every three months which made it hard to have a life of any consistency.
Later in 2003, I sank into a deep depression once again. I entered into Meier Clinics, a Christian counseling day hospital in Dallas, in late February. I eventually transferred with my job to Dallas in June, which was good since I ended up returning to the clinic two more times for severe and constant suicidal ideations. Once again, by September, hope was a dirty word. I angrily wondered once again why I was plagued with this depression.
I spent many weeks questioning why God would have me come to Dallas just to be so miserable. No answer came for many weeks. I continued weekly therapy visits and started attending Celebrate Recovery (CR), a Christian version of the popular Twelve Steps which covers everything from addictions to shame and any other destructive life patterns.
Through Celebrate Recovery’s sponsoring church, Watermark Community Church in Dallas, I gained some new friends, both at CR and at a church Bible study for single guys. These were guys who accepted me as I was. Even though my attendance was hit and miss at times, they checked up on me just to make sure I was ok. Just knowing they cared kept me going. I also continued weekly therapy sessions at the clinic.
And slowly, but surely, God began to open my eyes to the work He already was doing in my heart. My church back home, my family, and friends were praying for healing. My mom prayed with me on the phone every night. Now healing was taking place. Hope once again lived in my heart.
And we’re not talking about any every day change here. Originally, the clinic told me I would face up to four years of intensive therapy. By the end of 2003, God had performed another miracle in my life. Once again, He supernaturally healed me. I may still battle with some issues like any other person would, but not like I did before. Just like the overdose, God had healed me.
Those wounds of shame that had kept me feeling as if I had to prove my worth were fading away. Feelings of shame can drive us to the edge and the enemy would like nothing more than to keep us shackled to shame. But, Jesus paid our debt of sin with His precious blood, and there’s no longer any reason we should be gripped by shame.
I am truly sorry for the things I did, for the people I hurt, especially my family. I experienced emotional wounds that resulted from my poor choices. There will always be scars, just as there would be physical scars for physical wounds. A dear friend of mine encouraged me not to be ashamed of my emotional scars. She reminded me that Jesus chose to keep His scars on His glorified Body and show then them to others to tell His story.
I want to tell my story, and that’s why I choose not to hide my scars. There are times I wish I were better or had led a better life, but then I remember my favorite Bible verse which is my life verse. It is 2 Corinthians 12:6 which says that His grace is sufficient and that His power is made perfect in my scars, my weaknesses, and my shortcomings. And that is why my hope is restored. It’s because my hope is not in me; it’s in Him.