Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fear and Faith: When the path is unclear

My story, which takes days to tell, includes a horrific divorce, being cast aside and rejected by a church, family & friends and an excruciating custody battle.  However, my journey led me on a discovery of deeper faith and trust in God.  It was a roller coaster of events in which Jesus got a hold of me and changed me from the inside out. He took a broken hearted, faith doubting girl and totally transformed her into one who has become desperate for Him and it changed my world and who I am in every way.

The part of my story that has become the most significant in my walk with Jesus started back in 2008.  It began when I prayed a prayer that led me on a journey I was unprepared for when I began reading the story of Abraham and Isaac.  The enormous faith of Abraham when asked by God to sacrifice his only son overwhelmed me.  I remember that morning very clearly.  I wanted to trust God for all things.  I wanted to know Him the way in which Abraham knew Him.  I yearned for that kind of faith.  In fact, this was the prayer in my journal that day,

"Father, help me to relinquish the hold I have over my own life, the lives of my children and the things that I do. Let me not doubt when you speak or move in my life.  Make me Your servant, righteous and faithful, ready to say “Here I am” when You call."

Never would I have imagined the course my life would take over the next four years. In 2009, the battle began.  The nastiness of divorce entered my life, but that situation alone was only the beginning. The ugliness of divorce cannot compare to the devastation created by a custody battle.  It was a battle full of fear and destruction. But God had a purpose and a plan for it all and because I trusted His word completely I was able to tread water without drowning.

In January of 2011, my pastor preached a sermon that changed the course of the path I was traveling. In his sermon, he used the verse “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.”  (Romans 12:17) My heart was heavy.  As I sat listening, God was tugging and asking me to trust Him.  After several years of lawyers and multiple court appearances, I knew it had to end and I had to walk away.  God was leading me to depend solely on Him and nothing else.   
As I read and reread Romans 12:17, I could not ignore the words, “do not repay evil for evil” but even more so the words that followed; “Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.”  

There is NOTHING honorable in the throes of a custody battle.  Nothing.  It is one parent doing everything in their power to destroy the other parent.  No attorney if doing their job correctly can help you win without you doing something that is not honorable.  I could not escape that truth.  I had prayed a prayer in 2008 for a faith like Abraham and God was now asking me to trust Him completely to fight on my behalf.  This was a scary step to take and those around me did not understand my choice but I knew God was a big God. I knew He loved me.  I knew that He not only cared about me, but even more so for my innocent children.  I knew I had to trust Him.

I was scared.  The fear often crippling.  These were my children.  There was no one standing by me with the ability to communicate physically or verbally with another attorney.  The opposing side had no concern for the well-being of my children.  For this attorney it was the sheer thrill of victory.  

The day court began became one of the most terrifying days in my life.  I walked in with only my mom and a young girl who had spent years babysitting my children.   It was the three of us against at least a dozen people.  As I walked to the front of the courtroom, I sat down at the table alone and found a Bible before me and quickly found chapter 14 verse 14 in Exodus. “The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”  I claimed it.  It was mine.  I just needed to be still.  

For the next few hours I sat and listened as each person placed their hand upon the Bible, swearing to tell the truth, but chose to lie.  I remember the flabbergasted feelings and confusion that overwhelmed me as I looked at people I once knew. The dishonesty taking place was heartbreaking. I wanted justice but more importantly, I wanted truth to be heard.  But I remember thinking…nothing that is happening is honorable.  I will not repay evil for evil.  I knew God would handle it.  

Those two days in that courtroom are two days of my life I will never forget.  They were scary, but at the same time, I felt the presence of God in such a way that to this day, I shake in awe of His incredible faithfulness.  I never felt alone.  It was as if He was sitting next to me throughout the entire process.  I left not thinking I had won the battle but instead knowing I had glorified my God with my words and actions…or lack thereof.

However, as the next month ended, my world was shattered. On October 31, 2011, I received the document that stated that my children were no longer mine.  In a matter of seconds, the time it took to open a document, my world ended.   I remember the phone calls with my mom and now husband as they both sat in disbelief at what was happening.  It did not make sense. None of it made sense. I had left a courtroom the month before where the last words from the judge were, “I feel joint custody is best in this situation.  An every other week schedule.”  What had now happened was out of my control and I was left powerless.  

That same evening, through the darkness, God placed a myriad of people in my path to love and minister to both my children and me.  He continually made Himself known.  He was there.  He was in control.  In the midst of the darkest storm I had ever known, there was a glimmer of hope.

So remember the prayer I mentioned earlier that I prayed in 2008?  Surprisingly enough, it was the furthest thing from my mind.  I was not thinking in that direction.  Instead, I was on my tiptoes searching for any sight of God I could find.  Then the moment came.  I received a phone call in which I was told a family member had stated that “she had to have done something wrong in order for a judge to take away her children” and it began. The crushing wave of hurt and rejection was the motivation I needed in that moment.  I no longer had to stand on my tiptoes looking for God because He walked into the room and revealed Himself in the most majestic way.  Suddenly my prayer from 2008 resurfaced.  

I had asked for this moment.  I had prayed for this moment.  I wanted the faith of Abraham and God was going to answer my prayer.  One of the hardest things a mother can endure is being separated from her children and that is what had to happen.  I came to realize throughout the course of my divorce and custody battle I had trusted God for many things.  I had relied on Him and listened to Him but still held back a piece of myself.  Part of my heart was His but the rest belonged to my children.  The fear of losing my children kept Christ from sitting completely on the throne of my life.  My children had become my idol.  Much like Isaac had become for Abraham when God asked Him to sacrifice his only son.  God was in control.  He knew my prayer and He knew my heart.  God knew what I needed.  I needed Him.  I was desperate for Him.  I had been holding back, but the time had come to turn it all over.  He had to take my children. Peace finally came to rest in my heart.

In 2012, things in my life began to take a turn. On a Sunday in January, I felt God clearly calling me to become part of a church plant. There was a moment of hesitation as it meant leaving the church that had brought healing to my life, but I knew I had to follow.

A couple weeks later, God placed an incredible young couple in my life who were also part of this church plant.  The husband was a young attorney who had just passed the bar and after sharing some of my story he took on my case pro-bono.  This was the second time God sent someone to be a physical reminder that He was there and fighting for me.  

You might be asking why the attorney now but the circumstances had changed. The situation was different and this attorney followed Jesus.  He sought direction through prayer from a God who controls all things.  For him, it was not about winning.  We were fighting for the safety and welfare of my children.  This attorney became my “guardian” and my brother.  His purpose was to deflect the abuse that came my way, to pray with me and to help strengthen me in weak moments with the truth of God’s word.

Throughout our times in court, my case was never heard.  It was continued repeatedly as behind the scenes, God worked out the details.  As He continued to shape my character, heal my heart and grow my faith, I became stronger.  Wonderful things started happening in my life.  

In August of 2012, my now husband proposed to me on a beach in South Carolina.  It was magical! The tide began shifting and four months later, we were married in the sweetest of ceremonies.  On that same day, as we celebrated our marriage with family, I learned that I would be an aunt for the first time.  By Christmas, I was greeted with the exciting news that I would be an Aunt of twins.  But the greatest of all events occurred less than two months later, when my children were back home…for good.

You see sometimes in the darkness of our storm we cannot see God or feel His presence. His plan is unclear.  We doubt and worry with fear, forgetting He has everything under control.  His plan is perfect.  I never thought the pain would end.   But it did.  God allowed those wounds that cut so deep into my heart to break me into a million pieces for a reason.  His purpose; for me to become so desperate for Him that He alone could make me whole and heal my every hurt. And He did.  He took all the broken pieces and turned them into an amazing tapestry of His love and grace.   It is amazing. But not only did He heal me, He restored to me not just the things that had been taken through the pain but He gave me back even more.  More love, more grace, more knowledge and understanding of who He is, a longing to be more like Him and a desire to share more of Him with others.

My life is now more than I dreamed possible.  It is not perfect, but it is a life full of blessings.   It only took thirty-eight years and a lot of heartache, but God has given me more than I could have ever asked.  I am a living example that no matter how many wrong turns your life may take or bad decisions you make, there is a "happy ending."  All you have to do is choose to surrender your broken pieces and your life, to the only One who can turn it into a beautiful masterpiece of His amazing grace used His glory!